Life is short. Jesus reigns. Make plans. Do good.

How To Start Your Year Off Right

How To Start Your Year Off Right

Every year, I take an extended period of time to reflect on my life and reboot my priorities. I use a tool we've put together called LIFE PLAN—a compilation of resources we've gathered from others over the years.

And every year, I return to the following passage in James. When making plans and considering the future, it seems that his warning here is salient. 

"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 in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them."     —James 4:13-17

So why do I start my year with a passage about not boasting for tomorrow when making plans for how I want to live tomorrow? Not an irrelevant question. My answer is in nine words.

Life is short. Jesus reigns. Make plans. Do good.

Life is Short

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes...

When making plans for one's life, a good place to start is to remember it's short. James drives the point home here with a vivid visual...you are a mist. Like, *poof*—here one second, gone the next. A blip on the radar of history. Remembering this keeps us humble, gives us a sense of urgency, and reminds us not to miss the joys of today by fretting about the worries of tomorrow. Worry is unproductive time, wasted on things you can't control. Remembering that life is short brings lesser problems that could potentially dominate your life into proper perspective. 

For example, when we remember our life is a vapor, we remember...

  • Life's too short to spend arguing on social media.  
  • Life's too short to be anxious about things I can't control.
  • Life's too short to worry about what people who don't like me say about me. 
  • Life's too short to waste it holding grudges.
  • Life's too short not to enjoy the 10,000 good gifts God has given me today.  
  • Life is short, so even the suffering I'm enduring has an end.
  • Life is short, but eternity is long, so keep my priorities on preparing for the latter.

We have each been given a finite amount of time to spend living on earth. This is a profoundly helpful place to start when sitting down to make a Life Plan. We get one shot. Our life is a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow. Make it count. 

Jesus Reigns

Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that..."

What's he saying? Quite simply...unless the Lord wills it, you ain't doing it. James doesn't mince words; your plans are pointless unless they factor God in. Why? Because Jesus reigns over all things. This is a humbling reminder that in my planning I need to bring my life's vision in line with God's will, lest I find myself at odds with God. Which is a drag.

When we live with this reality before us, we remember...

  • Jesus reigns, so I don't have to carry the burden of running the world.
  • Jesus reigns, so I can be confident my enemies will not ultimately have the final word.
  • Jesus reigns, so I'd better be sure to align my life with His team.
  • Jesus reigns, so I can rest knowing I will face nothing in my day He has not sifted through his sovereign hand.
  • Jesus reigns, which means He wins in the end, and this is good news.

Make Plans 

James is not against planning one's life. In fact, he encourages us to plan. What he's against is you and I making plans as if God doesn't exist. As if God isn't the one giving you breath and causing your heart to pump blood to your brain that's giving you the ability to think and make plans and build businesses and make money. He's not telling us to not make plans (Pr. 6:6-7, Pr. 14:15, Pr. 15:22, Pr. 16:3), he's telling us there should be a sense of humility in our planning. 

Making plans...

  • prioritizes giving our best time to the most important things.
  • prevents us from drifting in the current of laziness, indifference, apathy, and the flesh. 
  • wages war against the pull to live a self-centered life. 
  • helps us know what we should say "yes" to and "no" to.
  • forces us to make an honest assessment of what we value.
  • helps us steward the limited time we've been given. 
  • prevents our life from going in circles by charting a course for progress.
  • gives us direction and provides a grid to use when faced with hard decisions. 

Do Good

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." 

Whoa. That's intense. What's he saying? A sin of commission is doing something we ought not to have done. A sin of omission is not doing something we should have done. For me, when God put the call of church planting on our hearts (Sharon and I), it got to the point where I had the distinct impression that if we did not do it, we would be resisting the Lord. I'll go even further. We would have been in sin. We would be saying "no" when the Spirit of God was telling us to say "yes." 

That's what James is talking about here. Each of us has been saved by God and sent to do good works that He's planned in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:8-10). Which means our life matters, and we shouldn't miss that. Doing good in response to a life situation is great. Someone's car breaks down in front of you and you help them push it through the intersection. Good on you. But planning a life around intentionally and consistently doing good things is better. 

When I do good, I...

  • partner with God the creator, who looked at His creation and declared it good.
  • participate in spreading the Kingdom of God that is fundamentally good.
  • play a small part in God's eternal plan working against the evil of darkness.
  • remind myself that evil and sadness do not have the last word.

So as you prepare to pray, plan, and build a life that matters this year, remember James' words to help put yourself in the proper heart posture and headspace.  

Life is short...don't waste what you've been given.

Jesus reigns...let that both humble you and embolden you.

Make plans...because you won't accidentally drift into a meaningful life.

Do good...you were made to make a difference, so get after it.

__________________________

Start your LIFE PLAN today. 

Watch Pastor Josh's sermon "8 Words To Build Your Life On In 2022" on our website.

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