Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1.
I’m sure I am not alone in being a forward-planner. Indeed, as someone who combines a busy domestic life with a successful business and a full preaching and teaching ministry, forward-planning is absolutely essential if I want to avoid everything ending up in a state of chaos. And I don’t believe this verse is telling me that forward-planning is wrong or un-Christian. What it is telling me is that I need to be constantly aware, as I make my plans and book my appointments and make my reservations, that God is God and I am not, and that he is the one who holds the future, not I.
In these posts, I frequently find myself harking back to my days in the Closed Brethren, and I must do so again today, for on the door of the meeting room I used to go to in Ilkley were the times of the various meetings and then the two letters, “DV”. DV? What did that mean? There is an internet acronym site that gives 55 possible meanings but you won’t find the answer there. On the Brethren notice board it stood for Deo Voluntis … God Willing; and I recall there being a real consciousness among the folk there of God’s sovereignty over all our tomorrows. Perhaps that is something I need to regain.
In his epistle, James picks up this verse from Proverbs and expands upon it: “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. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4.13-16).
Looking back on my life, there have, of course, been many times when — far from being gung-ho about the future — I have been worried sick about it. And that is equally wrong. Jesus tells me: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Therefore? What’s the ‘therefore’ there for? The verse before tells me. “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33). The answer to my over-confidence about the future on the one hand or my anxiety about it on the other, is to refocus on God, on his kingdom rule, and my right-standing before him. If I do that, my attitude to tomorrow will become one of quiet trust … a glad acceptance that whatever the plans are that I have made, they may come to nothing, and that whatever awaits me, he who lives in me and surrounds me with his love and care will get me through.
God of surprises, I thank you that, although I don’t know what the future holds, I do know that you hold the future. Help me to face it with quiet trust in your goodness and providential grace. Amen