“Let me remind you that this is God’s universe, and He is doing things His way. You may think you have a better way, but you don’t have a universe to rule.” J. Vernon McGee
“It does not matter what happens,” I spoke to one of the elders at my church. It was in regards to the school I am teaching at. “I will not be there next Fall.” I said resolutely.
“Tory, you can’t give God a time table,” my wise elder advised.
“I am not,” I countered, not trying to listen. “All I am saying is I am going to learn my lesson of trusting God in this terrible situation now, so I don’t have to learn it later. I want to get it out of the way.” I explained.
Immediately, the Holy Spirit convicted me for having a prideful, impatient spirit. And my elder looked at me dead in my eyes, the same way my father did five years ago when I moved back to Detroit from East Lansing.
I knew I was wrong. I knew I sinned.
Here I go again. Pretending I was not trying to force God’s hand to be transfer me out of this dry and challenging season in my life. But my denial was an obvious firework flashing against the night sky. Once again I was trying to mandate God’s ordained seasons in my life. I was presenting to the Lord God Almighty a timetable, I found pleasurable. I stated without hesitation what I wanted and what I was going to do without any insight or word from the Lord who breathes air into my lungs.
Even as I tried to clean up my speech in front of my elder and in my heart say, “Lord willing,” it was too late. The words were already in the atmosphere:
“I will be…” “I shall…” “I won’t…”
I groaned inwardly. I thought I knew better. I thought I went over this lesson before, so why does my pride keep creeping up on me? Why does my need to control always show up in the worst situations? Why am I still fighting against the Sovereign power of God?
The Word of God admonishes arrogance and pride. But this particular type of arrogance, has an additional layer of wickedness to it (and a few verses and small section dedicated to it). The kind of arrogance which dictates to the Creator of the Universe at what age you shall get married or have kids, where you shall live, and why you deserve this specific job or career path. James, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, reprimands this line of thinking.
James 4:13-14 says, ”13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James tells believers to take a seat. To calm down from all our busy planning, all of our detailed itineraries, vision manifestation and service work for the Lord and instead learn to be attuned to the Lord and what His heart says. We carry on each day without worshipping and thanking the One who made it. We live life recklessly, often disregarding God’s existence and will, by cause of some of life’s plans going our way or being told at birth to “make and shape our own destinies.”
As the most intelligent, complex and self aware creatures on the planet, humans have been the dominant species, making decisions that has helped to positively and negatively shape the world. With this top dog mentality, it is foreign behavior for us, humans to slow down and recognize, we have to answer for our actions. We live not independent of ourselves but we’re completely dependent on the grace and mercy of God to permit our continual awake from day to night to day.
If we do not acknowledge or express gratitude or seek God’s counsel in all our situations, then we live a life of sheer godlessness. Godlessness is behaving in a manner or prescribing to an atheistic lifestyle where God does not exist.
First and foremost, God’s existence is not premeditated on our belief in Him. God exists period. He reigns and He is eternal. God never needed us to do anything, let alone exist. What godlessness does is give the believer the false assumption that our lives are separate from the One who rescued us. Our lives are separate from God and we can live successful, happy lives apart from Him. Apart from His wisdom. Apart from His grace. Apart from His love.
What foolhardy thinking! But we all have entertained and followed this manner of thinking?
I know in my heart why at times godless language flowed from my mouth and godless behavior exerted from my body.
Sometimes, I admit, I grow I tired and frustrated of being obedient to God, and at times like other people, I want(ed) to do my own thing.
In response to my frustrations, I foolishly think running away from God and telling Him His time with me is coming to a close is or was my solution.
“Well before you go Jonah,” my wise elder spoke, “you need to be careful in what you say.”
Once again, my elder was right. He saw through my cloaked Christianese response and called out my impatience and lack of trust right on the spot.
I mean hindsight is twenty-twenty right?! It is easy from a bird’s eye to see how foolish Jonah behaved when God commanded him to go to Ninevh and speak the message of judgment God had for them. It is easy to see how idiotic Jonah’s thinking was to outrun or hide from the all seeing, ever present, and almighty God. But are we any different?
We make plans to visit relatives. We make plans to fly out of the country. We make plans to get married. We make plans to get this job. Did God authorize any of our plans?
But how much of our life was ever in our control? Too many of us know people we see one day, then next week we’re standing above their caskets. James is right. We do not know what will happen tomorrow. Here today, gone tomorrow. Adversities like cancer diagnosis, car accidents, unplanned pregnancies, financial constraints and many other troubles strike without warning. People can have a dozen plans but are powerless to stop trouble from entering their lives; the same way we cannot pick who our birth parents are, or how tall we are, or what we look like, or our natural abilities. We must also take into consideration these choices God predetermines before we’re born and before He set the foundations of heaven and earth.
Our lives are a mist. They have a fixed beginning and a set end. We’re linear creatures not working vertically but from left to right. As soon as we die; we’re not reincarnated but move to the next phase of eternity (heaven or hell) as God has orchestrated. So what does James suggest?
James advises, “15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
Now, speaking, “If it is the Lord’s will…” is not just words, but believing and living this truth out as well. Positioning ourselves physically and surrendering our wills to God’s authority and His divine timing is the proper response to any step forward. We should not say “If it is the Lord’s will,” if we do not mean it. It is not the cherry on top of a cake or our way to persuade the Lord to change His mind. We say and live by the “…the Lord’s will” because we believe God’s way is the best way and if He chooses a separate path then we respond out of faith and trust.
This is the true freedom of choice. Choosing our response to life’s aversions and blessings.
The Lord God respects our freedom of choice; He did not create robots. He created living beings made in His uniqueness and image. As the Lord does as He pleases, we too, have the ability to as we please.
But should we do as we please in an atheistic or godless manner? It is never hard for any of us to figure out what we want or our desires. Nevertheless, living out the Lord’s plans, especially if they contain hardship and obstacles is hard. This is why James says, “16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” Many people have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but very few people have committed their lives to the call. Bragging about “schemes” or our plans outside of God’s good and perfect will is like boasting about winning a game when you’re not even playing by the rules. Our tiny plans pale in comparison to God’s grand masterpiece; His big picture for humans and the whole universe. While our plans are torn asunder by a sudden car crash or illness, the Lord’s plans are firm and never loses its course.
Our unwillingness to submit to God’s will is disobedience and boasting about meeting our desires, accomplishing our plans is evil and self centered.
- It says to God, “I can live a fulfilling life without you.”
- It says to God, “Although you saved me, I am not compelled to serve you.”
- It says to God, “Although You are the Creator and I am the creation. I know how to use myself as a tool and reach my maximum potential.”
Who are we but finite, fragile beings? Do we not die without air?
This kind of thinking completely eliminates God from the entire equation, believing we’re more than enough to handle all of what life throws at me.
Arrogance to the fullest isn’t it?
Anyone can fall prey to this thinking, so we need to realize our mortality, our fragility, and our dependency. The last line James includes is James 4:17, it reads:
“17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
Yes, I know it can be disheartening to learn how little control and power you have or how your current situation is unfavorable. But be of good cheer, Beloved. Although we’re not the shapers and masters of our universe, our lack of control should never prevent us from doing good and enjoying the blessings. We do not need to be extra cautious and worried over the deeds that bring pleasure and glory to the Lord’s name. Volunteering at a shelter? Check. Do it! Starting a men or women’s bible study at your job? Get to it. We do not always need permission to start a business, blog, mentorship or create causes outside of ourselves, which will meet and supply the needs of people. Jesus seeks to work in and through people desiring to do good work in His name.
If we have gifts, abilities, and plans giving God glory and refuse to do it, it is sin. As for me, I have gifts it is blogging and writing and teaching and reading and drawing, if any of these can be used to glorify God, then let me be used Lord in accordance to your perfect plans.
At the end of the day, my friends, God wants children who pursue His purpose first, at the same time, He does not want children who are too fearful to move under the authority of His name. As you live your life, remember God is in control and the master planner. Ask God for wisdom to know when to plan and move and do good and other times to be still and wait until you hear a Word from the Lord.
Copyright © 2020 by A Meeting at the Well