“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Scripture reminds us to have a wise and humble view of time. We are encouraged to make the most of the time we have, and — as the Proverb above instructs — to humbly recognize the future is not guaranteed.
Here is what the NT book of James says on this topic: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4.13-15)
James is confronting an arrogant spirit he was observing among the churches. People were setting goals and making plans without taking into account God’s sovereignty and their own limitations. They had an attitude of entitlement and presumption.
Like the prosperous man in Jesus’ parable, these people were saying, “I’ll build bigger barns to store my goods,” and “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’” (Luke 12:19-20).
Proverbs does not say we shouldn’t plan, and neither does James. We must set goals, develop plans, and work hard every day to execute those plans. However, as ambassadors for Christ, we must do so with a kingdom mindset — with a heart of humility — with the recognition that God is sovereign and we are finite — with a clear understanding of who God is and who we are in relationship to God.
Here is the mindset we should bring to our plans and daily work:
- Acknowledge that God is sovereign.
Proverbs calls this “the fear of the Lord.” Everything that happens is under God’s sovereignty and subject to his will. Whatever goals we set and plans we make, we must give priority to God’s sovereignty. God has given us the ability to choose, and our choices have consequences. At the same time, God is sovereign. To think otherwise is to deny God’s existence, or to disregard his authority, and thereby elevate ourselves above God.
- Do your daily work with God’s purposes in mind.
Whatever goals you set and plans you make, give priority to God’s purposes and principles. Align your life and your work with God’s standards. Do your work for the Audience of One. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3.23-24)
- Keep in mind the brevity of life.
James says that our life is “like a mist.” You see a mist at one moment, and a few moments later it’s gone. You see the steam coming from your cup of coffee, and a few minutes later it disappears into the air. Life is like that. We saw this same message in Psalm 39.4: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”
- Since life is short, seek wisdom from God in order to invest your time wisely and make your life count.
This is the message in Psalm 90, where Moses laments the brevity of life. He compares life to the grass of the field that sprouts in the morning and by evening has faded under the hot sun. Therefore he prays “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” You have a fixed number of days to live and work on earth, and only God can give you the wisdom you need to invest those days profitably for kingdom impact.
- Remember that nothing is guaranteed; you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
The only thing guaranteed is right now, and that is a gift from God. Our task is to make the most of today as ambassadors for Christ. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, redeeming the time …” (Ephesians 5.15)
Look carefully at when you are in life. Your days are numbered… you will go through stages and seasons of life with your family, with your job, in your community. What stage/season of life are you in today and what are the needs and priorities? What stage/season is coming up and what do you need to do to prepare?
The Lord is calling.