A friend of mine is continually making the appeal that he can’t plan for the future. He refuses to plan for anything beyond the following week.
I originally wrote this but did not publish it because of laziness. Then two weeks ago I heard yet another Christian in an entirely different state (KY vs. RI) say the same thing. Again yesterday I heard it. Each time it was directly related to planning for future church involvement.
I find this attitude to be rising in Christianity. It seems to stem from two things. One is an awareness of our inability to keep our word. The other is the diminishing of the importance of Christ and His church in our priorities, which could be stated as an increase in our desire to be entertained instead of responsible.
We grow more aware of breaking our word when we become Christians. The Holy Spirit convicts us of breaking our word. We respond, incorrectly, by decreasing the frequency of declaring future plans. We say, “I don’t know what I’ll be doing in a month” instead of saying, “I will make time next month and, Lord willing, be there”. We figure that if fewer declarations are made, we will fail less frequently. And if something better comes along, what are we to do then? Are we to keep our word? Yes, but if we can plan for that by inserting words like maybe, might, hope, possibly, etc. then we still have the option to opt out. Or, like my friend, if we are completely against making any statement at all then we can wait to see what best suits us at the time.
Is this the correct response, i. e. is this what God commands?
Some may argue that other more important things may arise. What if my uncle goes into the hospital the day of our meeting/service and I cannot make it? Does the Lord want me to void my promise? If the Lord does not understand our inability to plan for everything then He would reveal everything to us. Instead there is risk taken in all future planning. James 4:15 tells us that we should be dependent on the Lord, the circumstances He sees fit for – “if the Lord wills we will live and do this or that”. The Lord is included because the Lord’s will may not be in accord with your current plans. James includes, “we shall do”. The conviction and intention of fulfilling our word is still present. The addition of the Lord’s willingness is for circumstances the Lord may bring up that avert our future plans. We are to be none the less convicted of what we believe the Lord is calling us to do in the future. But we must also consider that our lives may be changed by the Lord in such a way as to alter our well laid plans. As these more important things arise, defined by the magnitude of glory they give to the Lord, we are obligated to alter our plans. The Lord is sovereign, bringing more important events in the expectation of us discerning and deciding on the higher priority.
Concerning the second, the diminishing of the importance of Christ and His church in our priorities, there are many examples to draw from. The above mentioned friend is seeking a degree of higher education. Schooling occuppies 12 or 16 or 18 or 22 years with more frequency. Many plan out 30 year mortgages. Marriage is commanded for life. All of these are considerable life investments. How much higher of a priority should our planning for eternity be set apart from our plans of this life?
When we plan schooling, mortgages, marriage, ski trips, theater performances and so on with great excitement and anticipation but refuse to plan for church activities, meetings and worship, we are doing evil.
Plans that do not devote us to future service for God are disappointing and contrary to the daily cross bearing Jesus mandated for us (Luke 9:23). Paul planned out entire trips, such as to Bithynia and Spain (Acts 16:7, Romans 15:24). Though he was redirected from the former and perhaps never completed the latter, he made plans and kept his word while anchoring them both in accord with God’s perfect will (Romans 1:10).
We should do the same. Christ and His church must be a priority and we cannot show that without purposeful plans around which other activities must bend.