Life often doesn’t go as planned. Or at least, life often doesn’t go as we planned.
At times we play the short game. We focus on the things of, for, and by this world. Sometimes we believe that if we fit certain molds, or if we achieve x, y, and z, or if we experience certain rites of passage, we will feel complete. We’ll be satisfied. And we chase after these things, don’t we?
A degree, a spouse, children, a higher paying job, prestige, a bigger house…or even a fruitful ministry that will make me appear more holy…these idols creep into our hearts in the most insidious of ways. Most are actually good things when held with open hands. But a good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a substitute for the best thing...especially when held with clenched fists.
“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
God plays the long game. And He sees and knows us and our stories and our reasons for existing better than we know ourselves. He has redeemed us not for our own glory, but for His glory…and He created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do! (Ephesians 2:10)
His plans are infinitely better than our plans. There is solace in this, too, when things don't happen as we planned...not as a result of sin, but just as a result of living in a fallen world. When loved ones pass on, or betrayal happens, or everything seems to fall apart, we have hope. "Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy." (Tim Keller)
The long game, in which we spend eternity with God and death is no more, propels us toward joy and hope.
Father, Eternity is beyond our comprehension, but please give us faith and patience to play the long game, and to trust that Your will is good. When good things become a substitute for the good works you have created us to do, and when good things become a substitute for the delight we find in You, please reveal these idols to us and rearrange our priorities, as temporarily painful as that might be. We trust You and desire to build Your kingdom, rather than our own. Please permeate our hearts with the phrase, "If the Lord wills." In Jesus’ name, Amen.
See you Sunday!