“the good you ought to do today?”
Recently, Lisa and I had the opportunity to reunite with Owensboro Christian Church in Owensboro, KY. We attend OCC while living in Kentucky throughout much of the 90’s and up until 2002. I was baptized at OCC in April 1994; so, the church has a special place in our hearts.
Upon visiting, we spent quality time with OCC’s Senior Pastor, Scott Kenworthy, getting to know him and his heart. As it turns out, Scott’s an Indiana native and grew up not too far from where I grew up west of Indianapolis. I have got to tell you, I truly have enjoyed my time with Scott and believe he is a tremendously gifted communicator. No, Scott’s isn’t a high energy, extroverted speaker; he’s simple a lover of Jesus, loves God’s people, and can teach the scriptures in a manner that’s practical and real to one’s journey today. In fact, I often wonder if one of the key reasons we’ve been connected is simple such that I regularly listen to his teachings. The past 6 months, they’ve been hitting my right between the eyes with a 2 X 4.
Recently, Scott taught on the passage (linked above) which he mentioned led him to become a pastor some 13 years ago, James 4:13-17 – Boasting About Tomorrow. In his teaching, he related this passage to one’s quest to figure out God’s will for their lives. Scott says this passage asks questions like: “Can believers know the will of God? How do we make sure our lives leave a meaningful impact? What would God have me do in this moment?” And it even “addresses topics like goal setting, entrepreneurialism, and goodwill.” So, let’s read the passage:
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. 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. (James 4:13-17 NIV)
Now, if you’re like me, you likely can see the challenges with this passage right out of the gate. I’m a planner, list maker, strategist and I like to look ahead in life with dreams and visions of what is to come. In fact, reflecting back on my time in Owensboro, I had career goals mapped out for 5 and 10 years. As I’ll relate in an upcoming book to be published, I had it all mapped out and was doing really well at attaining these goals. So, when you hit a passage like this talking about “boasting about tomorrow” being “arrogant”, “evil”, and a “sin”, that can begin to mess with your mind a bit.
Adding to the complexity of the topic, if you do shift to start to reflect upon – “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” – you can begin to become quit perplexed. Yes, in many of my writing to date, I’ve touched on the topic of God’s will and one’s quest to seek to understand and walk in obedience to His will. Using Scott’s words which I also relate, he says: “I’ll be honest there’s been times in my Christian life when passages like this have paralyzed me. Maybe you can relate. You hear things like this and worry you’ll miss God’s will for your life….” Or, can I “mess God’s will up” for my life?
Well, as Scott relates, and I’ve often reflected there is “arrogance” in our thinking we could “miss” or “mess” up God’s will for our lives. Stop and think about what we’d be doing in believing we could “miss” God’s will. We’d be placing ourselves in control and ahead of the God of the universe. Granted, we might be able to do some things that make it harder or easier to live out God’s will; however, in no way can we “control” God’s will for our lives. We may go through struggles in life; however, God is still sovereign and good. Our circumstances that He allows move us to further dependence on Him so what you’re going thru will prepare you for future ways of serving. We see this happen time and time again in stories of God’s people throughout the scriptures.
Scott mentions, “It’s significant that James never tells us to find God’s will. Everybody wants to find God’s will – what’s God’s will for my life? James says you can’t know the ultimate plan God has for you – you know nothing of tomorrow – but you can know the good you ought to do today.”
Continuing to quote Scott, “When as followers of Jesus, we allow our personal plans for tomorrow to interfere with opportunities God has given us today we’ve exchanges obedience for arrogance.”
So, the question becomes, what is “the good you ought to do today?” Are you to set aside time to dig into His word? Are you to provide someone with an word of encouragement? Are you to simply turn off that voice within that fills us with anxiety and worry? What is it for you?
For me, God has opened up a window to take my daughter and a friend to lunch for which I leave you with today.