A Humbling Start to a New Year
As we come to the beginning of a new year, I’m sure that we are all excited to kick-off 2021. Making resolutions, planning family vacations and get-togethers, and looking forward to the many exciting things ahead of us. However, this time of year is a very humbling time, because the truth is that you and I have no idea what the next year holds. This past year is a great example of that. Not a single person reading this could have predicted a year like 2020. So, the start of the new year is a very humbling time for us, and this time of year always reminds me of a passage of Scripture that we find in James 4, where we read this:
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”— 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. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 ESV)
These verses remind us that we are not guaranteed to make it through this new year. In fact, you are not guaranteed to make it through this newsletter article. But this passage is not intended to make us feel depressed over that fact, but instead to open our eyes to realize that our lives are just a mist in this world. Here one second and then gone the next. In 1 Peter 1:24, we read, “All flesh is like grass and all it’s glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls…” In other words, life in this world doesn’t last very long. So, with that in mind, how can we make the most of the time that we do have left here on this earth? What does it really look like to have faith and trust in God when you are not guaranteed tomorrow?
1. Being humbly submissive to the sovereignty of God.
In verses 13-16, James is warning us that we can become so consumed with the material realm (thinking about our plans, our strategies to work and make money) that we can become blind to spiritual realities.It’s not that we shouldn’t plan, but the problem is that we usually plan in such a way that God has no place in those plans.James is telling his audience, “You are planning to do something in the coming year to make money, when the reality is that you may not even see tomorrow!” See these people were living in arrogance, not acknowledging that their life could be taken from them.
Again, the truth is that all those things could be taken away from us. God is sovereign over life and death, He is sovereign over our activities and our accomplishments…and that is something we need to daily remind ourselves of.The things of this world – our health, our wealth, our families, our friends, our possessions – guarantee us nothing. They could all be gone tomorrow if the Lord wills.So, what James wants us to do is to live a life of humble dependence on our Sovereign God.Every accomplishment, every activity, every breath that we have is acknowledging, “I am alive, I am well, I am able to do this all because of the sovereign grace of God.”We need to have that mindset and be humbly submissive to the sovereignty of God.
2. Being obedient to the will of God.
In verse 17, James says that it is a sin when a person knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it. Being humbly submissive to God means humble obedience to His will. When you don’t obey what God tells you to do, that is sin. So, this text should cause us to daily ask ourselves, “what has God commanded me to do today? He has given me life, given me another day here on this earth, what has He called me to do with it?” That is why every year at the church we stress the importance of spending time reading God’s Word; to help us see what God has called us to do with the life He has graciously given to us each and every day…and obey Him.
So, my challenge to us this year, is to make the most of the life God has given to you…and if the Lord wills to give us an entire 2021, that we make the most of this year which will be here and gone before we know it. God, help show us all how we can best obey you this year!
For Your Glory,
Pastor Doug Wagner