To be human is to live your entire life without knowing the future. The only one who knows the future is God. He is above and outside of time. We are not.
But not knowing the future often creates unnecessary anxiety and stress in our lives. Recent surveys have shown that 66 percent of people are fearful of the future.
Fear has always been part of the human experience. Even in biblical times, people struggled with uncertainty about the future. Thankfully, James 4:13-17 teaches us how to avoid the three most common mistakes people typically make about the future—mistakes that you and I still make today.
Mistake #1: We make plans without asking God.
At first glance, the plan James describes in verse 13 doesn’t sound out of the ordinary. He writes, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit’” (NLT).
James is describing a person with a thoughtful business plan, one even the book of Proverbs backs up. It’s important to have a strategy about how you’ll engage the future.
But this entrepreneur is missing something. You’ll notice he doesn’t mention God. It’s all about self-reliance. Four times he mentions what he and the other leaders will do. But there’s not a single word about what God will do.
I know a lot of leaders like this—even pastors. They plan like God doesn’t exist. If you want God’s blessing, you need to involve him in your planning.
Proverbs 3:5-6 famously says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).
As you look toward the future of your life, your family, and your church, do more than just plan—pray.
Mistake #2: We presume we know what tomorrow holds.
James writes in 4:14-15: “You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and carry out our plans’” (GW).
James goes on to say in verse 16 that presuming to know the future is a form of arrogance. The Bible says there’s both good pride and bad pride. It’s good to say that you’re proud of what God is doing in your life. But the kind of pride in James 4:14-15 is clearly a problem.
If there’s anything 2020 taught us is that we don’t know what tomorrow holds, much less what God will do in the next year.
The good news is, God’s love, goodness, and reliability can all be counted on. Nothing else in life is dependable.
Mistake #3: We put off doing what’s right.
Procrastination is always the wrong way to handle uncertainty. We procrastinate when we know what we need to do but don’t do it.
James makes it clear that if we procrastinate doing what’s right, it’s a sin. He writes like this in 5:17: “Whoever knows what is right but doesn’t do it is sinning” (GW).
Procrastination wastes your life and misuses your time. If you procrastinate, you’ll likely miss golden opportunities God has placed before you.
Sin isn’t just about what you do. It’s about what you don’t do. Many of you have been talking for years about a step you know you need to take in your own spiritual journey and in your ministry.
Why are you waiting?
John writes, “We are sure that we know Christ if we obey his commandments. The person who says, ‘I know him,’ but doesn’t obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn’t in that person” (1 John 2:3-4 GW).
So don’t put off doing what God has clearly told you to do.
You’ll never escape uncertainty in your ministry. No matter what you’ll face in 2021, you don’t have all the answers right now. Yet by recognizing and avoiding these common mistakes, you can head into uncertainty with faith rather than fear.