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.” 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. James 4:13-14
A lot of times most of us would like to be in control of our lives. When we plan something, such as where we will live, what school we go to, what job we will have or what kind of family we want to have, we want to make sure things are going the way we want.
We may think we know what is best for us. It is good to have goals, but they can disappoint us if we leave God out. When things are going smoothly, it is easy to have the illusion that we are in charge. The truth is, ultimately God is the only one who is in control of our lives.
None of us can predict the future, not even tomorrow. Our lives are just like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). We never know when we will return to our home to meet with our Father. How would you live differently if God told you today is your last day on earth?
I am not saying that we do not need to plan anything ahead, but we must hold on to our plans loosely. We need to keep in mind that sometimes it is not worth all the stress to plan for our future as it is already in God’s hands.
As Jesus says, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
If we could let go of control and rather trust in God in the midst of uncertainties, we know that our Father is already there in the future just like He is with us now and the past. We will be able to have peace in our hearts and minds.
Let us stop boasting about tomorrow by:
Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? 2 Chronicles 1:10
Earlier this month I celebrated the birth of my second child. In the midst of adjusting to this newborn phase of life again, I was asked whether being a parent has caused me to feel less care-free and more burdened with responsibility.
My immediate response was to say that being a parent entails more responsibility and has caused me to assess my choices more carefully because the consequences of my decisions impact more people.
As I reflected upon my response and also my typical reaction to increased obligations (i.e. stress levels rise and anxieties increase), I was reminded of Solomon’s request for wisdom when he was tasked with leading the Israelites.
What a difference that request made in Solomon’s life. He realised the enormity of the undertaking and knew it required God-given wisdom in order for him to govern well.
While my orbit of responsibility has only increased by one person, Solomon’s story is a great reminder for me to keep my focus first and foremost on God and to seek wisdom and strength from Him no matter what circumstances lie ahead of me.
Let us take some time to:
Hallowe’en seems to have become more and more of a dilemma for believers over the years. Growing up in a non-Christian family, it was always something I looked forward to. Now with my own family, we wrestle with the question of what to do, and our stance and responses have varied.
Like “Trick or Treat,” sometimes we feel the choice has to be an either-or response to Hallowe’en but as with many cultural and societal issues, it may not be so binary – black and white. A good first step is to begin with thorough reflection on the matter.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Think critically – not just about what you will or will not do on Hallowe’en, but in all situations with all your choices. Don’t be passively carried along by the tide of culture and don’t mindlessly buy into it (literally). Ask some questions to help you decide how to respond specifically to your context of Hallowe’en: What is being celebrated or glorified? What values are being upheld? What am I saying by my choice of costume? Do I see any evidence of evil or the occult? Do I want to give my money away to something that is celebrating darkness?
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened. Matthew 13:33
Notice that the leaven needs to be taken up by the woman and put it into the dough. The Kingdom of God works its way into culture to transform it through believers redemptively engaging in society. There might be aspects of the holiday that are okay, or even good. Hallowe’en allowed us to get to know many neighbours in our 17-tower apartment complex and there was a great community connection in organising the different families and homes who would give out candy. The pagan roots of Christmas and Easter have lost their power. Maybe one day Hallowe’en will go the same way.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:11.
Sometimes there is no way to rationalise our involvement in an activity or situation “in the name of ministry,” and it is better to simply avoid it altogether. Some contexts are thoroughly depraved with nothing at their core to redeem.
Trick or Treat? Respond to the question without guilt, with your freedom in Christ, the one who has disarmed the powers of darkness.
For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13
I was at a tech conference the other day where this emotion-detection gadget intrigued me. The exhibitor told me that this gadget was meant to promote mindfulness, helping people become aware of their emotional state so they could address it. I put this gadget on for one minute, and the result was unpleasant.
As a matter of fact, I had been having unpleasant feelings for the past couple of days. The exhibitor was a bit embarrassed, probably thinking that his pitch made me feel unpleasant. He nervously suggested that I should do more sports, sleep earlier and listen to more music. I have since tried his suggestions over the past few days, but my miserable feeling has remained.
Humans are born of flesh and we seek earthly solutions instinctively. We all have our own go-to ways to tackle our unpleasant feelings, such as going on a hike, drinking with friends, playing computer games, sleeping through the day, shopping, etc.
And we have all experienced that these cisterns are broken and will never hold water that can satisfy us entirely. By going to these cisterns that we build for ourselves instead of going directly to the fountain of living waters implies that we are forsaking Jesus.
It’s easy to go back to our earthly way of dealing with feelings and emotions. In doing so, we unintentionally deny Jesus for what He has done for us. Therefore, we need to constantly evaluate and examine our heart, and give everything to God before trying to hew out cisterns for ourselves.
Let us practice this:
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)
Since Typhoon Mangkhut, trees in Hong Kong have been something of a focus since so much devastation was caused to them. I live in the Northern New Territories and it has been sad to see so much damage; but despite the broken branches, the trees have survived because their roots were good and deep. This is sadly not the case for trees planted in shallow concrete planters – they fell down and have since been removed.
Where I grew up in the UK, we were surrounded by very tall beech trees, which had roots that went down as far as the tree was tall. Trees need good roots, not only to remain strong but also to drink deeply of the water and nutrients in the ground. Hence the verse from Jeremiah – such a great analogy for Christian living.
We are to live in trust and confidence in the Lord and so have deep roots in the Living Water of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-38). But this trust quickly gets sabotaged by two F’s – Fear or insecure living in the light of the “what if” question and Forgetfulness – forgetting what God has already done for us.
We are so easily caught up in insecurity: how many times I have been obsessed with “what if this happens?” or “what if that does not happen?” – all of which is a waste of mental energy because I cannot answer any of these questions! Jesus told His followers many times “do not fear” a command we simply have to practice and, every time we do practice it in the face of our fears, our “roots” in Him grow deeper.
These roots also grow deep when we do not forget what God has done in the past – that’s why prayer journals are so good – we can go back and read them and so remember what God has done for us and what He will continue to do despite the “heat” and “drought” in our lives (Psalm 63:1-2).
Let us live out our roots by: