Our Obsession With the Future

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I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in 4th grade and my teacher had just taught us about paleontology. Now if you are unfamiliar with that term or branch of science it is concerned with the fossils of plants and animals. I was so excited to learn about this type of science that I ran home and told my mom that I was going to be a paleontologist when I got home (because who doesn’t want to dig up dinosaur bones). My mom politely smiled and said “that’s nice honey, you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”

Now, I never became a paleontologist, but this little story highlights something that for each person starts at a fairly young age. We start thinking and obsessing about the future. This only gets worse as you get older. You get into high school people start to ask you questions like “what do you want to do after high school?” or “what college do you want to go to?” or “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Next we go to college and start worrying about our first job. We get married and start planning our family. As our kids grow we buy houses, cars, worry about our 401k, etc…

We become people who are obsessed with the future and our future plans.

But do we ever stop and ask ourselves this question “what if the future never comes?” or “what if my plans are not God’s plans?” If we are honest, many of us don’t ask these questions because we live with a pride and arrogance that says we are masters of our own destiny. Oh sure we would intellectually agree that God is our master and that we are here to serve him and proclaim the truth of Christ, but we live our daily lives as if our will rules.

But James warns us about such arrogance when he says in James 4:13-16

[13] 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”—[14] 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. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

The truth is we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We wouldn’t even know that if God didn’t exist, and we still wouldn’t have any guarantee that our plans would succeed. But we do have a Triune God who sits on the throne of heaven. He is in the position of power and authority and he is sovereign over all things, including our lives. He is the one who has tomorrow planned out for us, and he is the one who has planned the number of our days.

As God says through the prophet Jeremiah:

[11] For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

He also says through the psalmist in Psalm 139:16:

[16] Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

The point? God is the one who formed us, created all the days of our lives, and has plans for us to accomplish throughout those days. The ultimate plan of my life is already fixed by God. Do I make daily decisions that affect the way I live? Absolutely, but I can only do those things if God wills and allows me to do them. This is why James said in verse 15:

[15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

We don’t ultimately know what God has planned for our life. And it is pure arrogance when we plan out our life as if we are fully in control of what happens without realizing that God has a clear and full plan that he is working in us and through us. So let’s stop planning our lives as if we are in control. Let’s stop living as if we are the masters of our destinies. Instead, we must humble ourselves under the might hand of the one who formed us, numbered our days, and has an eternal plan for our lives.

He is the one who is in control, he is the one who will lead us and guide us, and he is the one to whom we must submit our every desire. We do this knowing that we are but a vapor, that we exist for his purposes, and that in his mercy and love he has good planned for us as his people. So stop boasting about tomorrow, but instead humbly submit your life and your plans to God knowing that he is in control and that his will and plans are far better than anything you could ever come up with.

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