Faith that works when the pressure’s on: A faith for facing an uncertain future
If there’s any single truth that this pandemic has reminded us of, it’s this: None of us know the future. And when you don’t know your future, it can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.
Something To Talk About:
In this message, we continue our study through the Book of James by pointing to three common mistakes we make about the future, and the solution for each one:
- We make plans without asking God: When it comes to making plans, there are at least two kinds of people in the world. Some people are afflicted with the malady of perfectionism. We want to make plans and we work hard at making them, yet we struggle to actually put them into action because we never feel we have enough information or perspective to make good plans. There’s always another angle, detail, or possibility to consider. Then there are people with the opposite problem. They don’t really make plans at all, or at least they don’t think much about the plans they make. They just lunge forward and do things regardless of what may happen. No matter which approach you lean towards most, whether procrastinating or being hasty and impulsive, both approaches are missing the main factor in wise planning, which is total dependence on God. When we stare into the fog of the unknown future that lies before us, we can’t ever know exactly what’s in store. Yet we can and should consult with the God who does, and that’s what Proverbs 16:3 reminds us to do: “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”
- We presume we will have tomorrow: Look at James 4:14-16. Here you are making all these plans. We’re going to do this or do that, but “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” So instead, James says, “What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” This is a phrase we need to become very comfortable with. And James says, otherwise, you are boasting. You’re just bragging about yourself when you’re announcing your big plans that you’re going to do. This is why we should be making the most of the time we’ve got right now. First, the future is uncertain. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, much less next week, next month, the next year. The only thing that’s certain in this life is the truth of God’s word. The consistency of God’s love for you. The dependability of God’s goodness and the reliability of God’s promises. Nothing else is dependable.
- We put off doing what is right and good: In other words, we know the good thing to do, but we postpone it. We delay it. It is the sin of procrastination. And James ends this section by talking about the sin of procrastination. Now, the fact is procrastination, where you just keep delaying, you know the right thing to do, you just don’t do it, destroys your potential. It wastes your life. It misuses your time. It misses the golden opportunities that God has given you. And that’s why in the last verse of this passage, James 4:17, he says, “remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” He’s talking about procrastination. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but you can sin by doing nothing. It’s not just the sins of commission, it’s the sins of omission. When you know the right thing to do, but you don’t do it. Here’s the question: What do you know God wants you to do, but you’re still putting it off and you have postponed it over and over and over? Maybe to reconcile with that person, to forgive that person. Maybe it is to serve in the church. And you’ve been thinking about it for some time, but you haven’t done it. Don’t put it off, do it today.
- What are some plans you’ve made in the past that you worried about or that totally flopped because you didn’t adjust them to the Word of God?
- Why don’t we include God in our plans? How should we include Him, and what are the benefits of doing so? Why is it not good enough just to make plans and then “pray” about them?
- What are some principles, truths, and priorities that should influence these plans that you are making for the future?
- When we are planning, we often presume we will have many tomorrows. Why shouldn’t we assume that we have a lot of time?
- Live one day at a time and make it count. What are some things that you can do differently to “make each day count”?
- How can we know or recognize when we are procrastinating and putting off doing what is right and good? What are the indications that there is something we should be doing for God?
- Sometimes we avoid what we should be doing. It may be important to change our ways today, not tomorrow. What is the next step of spiritual growth and obedience that you need to take?
- What are some reasons we don’t do what is right? What can we do to remove those obstacles?
- Why does facing an uncertain future require faith?
- What did you hear? What point in this message was most impactful for you? What do you think? How did this message challenge, change, or affirm your thinking? What will you do? How will you or your group put into practice what you’ve learned today?
Take one thing home with you:
We all have different fears about the future. There are unknowns about the future. During these times we need to remember Who holds your future instead of what the future holds. The future will look a whole lot better if we intentionally choose to trust God instead of worrying. Giving your future to God frees us to live the life that God has given us now.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have goals for the future. The problem arises when the goal becomes God. Or in other words, when we sacrifice everything to achieve them, including our family and God.
You don’t have to have your life all figured out; you only have to take one step at a time walking with God. And every time you put your hands in God’s hand, you’ll know you’ve got a solid hold on your future.