Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
Today is my 30th birthday. Oh, thank you. I must admit, I was not thrilled about it. I don’t mind being 30, I just wanted to have more accomplished by the time I hit 30. I always envisioned having my masters’ degree and working on a doctorate by this time. I also envisioned myself using it all in a pastoral setting and being much more active in public ministry. By God’s grace I have accomplished a tremendous amount, and have a wonderful wife and daughter (and soon son); I guess like I said, my plans and my vision was just a bit different or that I just wanted more or maybe even, I expected more. So at times I find myself feeling discouraged and wondering what God is doing with me, especially grinding out long days in two jobs, one of them, quite boring and monotonous. But I do find satisfaction in providing for my family, allowing my wife to not have to work so she can home school our daughter, and just earning an honest living. So today I’m 30 and my day did not start out well. However, I just read another brother’s blog article and got some needed perspective on the way I think about some of these things (I will give the blog address at the end because I think all would profit from reading this).
Self-pity is easy to give into, and for some strange reason, it feels good, at least for a while. But at the root of all such attitudes can be found any number of mistaken assumptions and expectations. Recognizing these false and sinful ideas marks the difference between a man-centered theology and a God-centered (Theocentric) theology. What are some of these assumptions? Essentially, it is that it is my due right to always be happy, content, pleasured, prosperous, successful, healthy, and in complete control. We often consciously or unconsciously assume that God owes us these things. This, my friends, is pure humanism. This is the way the world thinks, but ought not to be for those called out of this world (Rom. 12:1-2). Let us examine some of these humanistic assumptions a bit more closely.
Our thoroughly humanistic culture promotes with shouts and is based on the idea that it is your due right to be happy. If there is a God, it is his duty to see that you are happy and content. This was one of the reasons that the British empiricist, David Hume, rejected God—he was not happy as he thought he ought to be if a God existed. Young people (notice I use that phrase now!) grow up in America, esp. in places like Southern California where I live, and they automatically assume that they are going to be successful, meaning that they are naturally entitled to have a nice car, a nice family, a nice house, nice toys, and plenty of leisure time. We assume that it is a right of ours to be healthy and to have health care provided. We assume that life is for the most part, easy; and for a great many it is. We also expect to be in total control of our lives, to be the master of our own destiny. No one will infringe on me and my plans and what makes me happy. If a pregnancy gets in the way of one’s pursuit of happiness, kill it. If you want something, charge it. No one—not even God—can or will or better not violate my free will, my pursuit of happiness, my health, my wealth, and my plans for the future.
When things don’t go our way, or how we want (see previous post on Buddhism), too often we get upset or disappointed with God. Notice that all this thinking from the assumption that it is my owed right from God to be happy and that I can get upset with God when He “fails” to give me happiness, all this is the result of the fall. It flows so naturally because we are depraved, rebels in heart against God. Apart from redemption in the finished work of Christ, we are fatally guilty before the inflexible bar of God’s holiness. We are all born into this world in Adam, legally represented and associated with the guilt of Adam, and thus we all deserve death and judgment. That is all we deserve. Some might still be tempted to think that we do deserve the chance to live life here on earth, to at least try to make the most of it, and if we have been bad, then we might deserve judgment. No. What we deserve from God, what we are owed from God, what we merit from God is (and apart from mercy and grace would be instant) death and hell upon our first breath. Anyone who doesn’t understand that can scarcely understand the gospel.
The fact that we have any pleasures in life, that we have any happiness, and that we have any duration of existence is solely due to the mercy and grace of God, both to the just and the unjust. And think dear friends just how many pleasures and wonders we have in life to be grateful for. We don’t deserve any of that, but God is rich in mercy, longsuffering and patient. You might not be where you want to be in life right now. You might not be happy with your current lot, with your current job, spouse, or degree of holiness. But think, in light of what we do deserve, think of how good you have it. Think of all the little pleasures from taste buds to sunsets. But most of all, if you are saved, think about the grace of God that plucked you out of the depths of utter depraved darkness and extended saving grace to you. This is a theocentric view of reality.
Read the verse at the start of this entry, but now in its context:
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. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins (James 4:13-17).
I love this part: "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." Notice quickly three things.
First, “If it is the Lord’s will.” Our life is in complete control of the plan and will of God (Eph. 1:11). We are not independent, self-sufficient, autonomous beings that keep ourselves alive, create reality by our choices, and plan the future. The future is in God’s hands, not ours. This is the teaching of the sovereignty of God, and it is an essential belief to a stable and steadfast Christian life.
Second, “we will live…” This is often overlooked and read right over. It hit me like a UFC fighter one day while reading it. Every breath we make, every step we take (sounds like a song), and every day we live, it is only by the kind will of God. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." We have our being because He graciously allows us. Have you thanked God for your life this day?
Third, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." We can only do what God wills for us. God obviously did not will for me to get my masters degree by the time I was 30 years old. But he did will that I have a beautiful wife who loves me, a terrific daughter, and other highly estimable blessings. We cannot fight or thwart God’s will; He does as He pleases. We can be assured, however, that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Now read this short blog about a brother suffering with a terrible disease and then watch the video of another blessed brother suffering from an even worse disease. See their positive attitudes in trusting God, and then see how petty most of your complaining is.