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The 5 Year Plan

I’m a very goal oriented person. I need to constantly have a goal in front of me to accomplish or I will do absolutely nothing. And that applies in every area of my life. I have career goals, school goals, personal life goals, goals in my hobbies, goals in as many aspects of my life as possible. I’ve got a scratch off map in my office of the 50 states and all the National Parks and when I’m bored I’ll try to figure out what road trip I should take next to go see a park or two and scratch off a couple states in the process. When I got back form the honeymoon the other week the first thing I did when I got to my office was drop my back and scratch off Washington and Nevada on my map. I tried to include Olympic, Ranier and Cascade National parks in this trip but we didnt have time. I’ve go travel goals, I’ve got giving goals for how much money I want to give to charity over the course of my lifetime, and as inflation continues, it’s looking like that’s gonna get easier and easier. And I track these things. I love a good to do list so that I can see myself accomplishing goals.
But if my goals are too far off in the distance I get complacent. I need a direct and immediate task that I can be working on right now. I need something I can scratch off. There’s a dopamine hit in the brain that you get from scratching off to do lists and honestly that is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
I need to know what’s next and get to work on my 5 year plan.
Tonight we’re in the book of James. This is a rare, one off sermon. We usually do series, and we will start a new one of those in a couple weeks. But tonight we’re just going to jump in somewhere. and I’ll be honest, this is coming out of something that God is really working on me with right now. This is something that I have not figured out yet. I am preaching as much to myself as I am to you tonight. Look with me to James chapter 4.
James 4:13–17 CSB
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.
There’s a lot here. Let’s walk through it piece by piece.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”

In verse 13 we have a guy, simple merchant, tradesman, whatever and he is making plans for how he will manage and expand his business over the course of the next year so that he can make a profit make some money for himself. He’s got an idea and a plan and it’s gonna benefit him in the long run.
He even has a timeline for when he’s gonna get started on it. When is he gonna get started? Today or tomorrow. So he has a plan to expand his bank account and he has some drive to get started on it as soon as possible.
Let’s be clear about this, because James is gonna make it sound like this is a bad thing, and it’s not. It is right and good to make a plan and execute it. It is right and good to try to earn some money for yourself. This hypothetical merchant isn’t doing anything wrong so far.
We sometimes get the idea that it’s wrong to make a plan. As if making a plan and then trying to execute that plan is somehow diametrically opposed to following God’s will for your life.
The way we talk about God’s will and God’s plan can sometimes give the impression that trying to take charge of your life and execute a plan for yourself is the opposite of following God’s will…It’s not.
I’ve known people who, because they were so focused on making sure that they were open to God’s will and God’s plan that they just didn’t do anything with the idea that they needed to be open and flexible to what God asked of them.
People who were starting their 3rd year of college and still hadn’t picked a major because God hadn’t told them what to pick yet; wasting time and money out of the idea that they needed God to tell them exactly what the next step was.
What would you say to one of your friends who, while everyone else is filling out college applications, you’re applying to 6 schools, your best friend is applying to 8, the person you eat lunch with is applying to 4 schools…but then you’ve got that 1 friend who is just like “God hasn’t told me where he wants me to go to school yet, so I haven’t started any applications.” In case it’s unclear why that’s a bad idea, you need to send in college applications in like, summer and fall of your senior year. The bigger and more prestigious the school the earlier you have to apply. UGA sends out it’s first round of acceptance letters in like February and you’ve got 30 days to respond and say “Yes, I’ll definitely be there” or they drop you and give your spot to somebody else who was deferred to the 2nd round. If you don’t get your applications in ahead of time, you won’t be going.

Making a plan and following God’s will are not opposites.

Being proactive about your life, getting to work on accomplishing a goal, is not a bad thing.
But wait, didn’t James just get onto this merchant for making a plan and acting on it, instead of following God’s will? Well, let’s look at what James actually said. Verse 14 & 15.

14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

So based on verse 15, doing this or that, carrying out your plans, is not inherently wrong. What was wrong was the merchants attitude about it. The problem is that He never gave any consideration to what God had in mind for him. He said “this is what I’m doing and we’re starting today.” He never bothered to ask God “is this ok?”
Here’s what I mean by that. I don’t mean you should expect an audible voice from heaven that says “Apply to Ole Miss, UGA, Yale, and South.” But I do mean that you should consider what you already know God has called you to do.

What do you already know about God’s will for you?

God put you here, as a part of a local church family, and maybe He has given you some direction or calling to a certain area of service that can only be done here. If that’s the case, then you need to focus on schools that will put you in a place where you can continue serving…Maybe He’s set you up in such a way that you are the best person to take care of a relative, but you get a job offer or an acceptance letter that will send require you to move somewhere where that’s no longer possible…if that’s the case maybe God is telling you that He wants you to prioritize the situation that he’s already placed you in.
Maybe you feel strongly that God’s will for you life is to serve in the military, if that’s the case, getting too attached to a boyfriend or girlfriend is probably a bad idea because you have no idea where you’re going to be living for a while.
If you’re trying to make plans for your life in accordance with God’s will the first step is to ask the question
What do you already know about God’s will for you?
and you can build everything off of that. Until God gives you further instructions, start with what he has already instructed you to do and build your life in a way that works with it until you feel like He is leading you somewhere else.
But once you develop a plan, let’s not forget what verse 14 said.

14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

There’s going to be a natural temptation to get you plan and then white knuckle it until it happens. There’s a temptation to say “this is the plan and we’re sticking to it. I’ve found the love of my life. We’re going to UAB together. We’re getting married in 2028. and we’re gonna move back to Linden and start having kids in 2033. This is the plan. God told me. That’s final.
Stop. You have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.
As wonderful as that plan may be, God may well direct you down one path because he sees a fork in the road or a curve in the journey that you don’t. You have to be open to the idea that He has every right to change your plan.

God has every right to change your plan.

look again at verse 16 and 17

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.

As good as your intentions are. As God glorifying as you think your plan may be, you are incredibly limited in your ability to see what is coming. and by holding so tightly to what you think is a good plan, you may miss out on something better that God has for you.
Yes, to reject God’s plan in favor of your own, even if it’s a good, God glorifying plan, is still sin.
It is the height of pride it is outright Hubris to say “God I know you have a plan, but so do I and I think you’ll like my plan even better!” Who do you think you are? You do not know what He knows or see what he sees.
I’m reminded of what God said to Job. Job asked God “Why are you doing this to me. This isn’t how things were supposed to go. I thought I was doing right by you and then you throw this at me. and God says literally “Job we can have this conversation if you want but you need to put on your big boy britches. Tell me real quick since you’re so smart.
and then God goes off for 2 straight chapters of asking Job the craziest questions.
Matter fact, just listen to this real quick because this is some next level stuff.

Job 38 & 39

Do you understand the ignorance and sinful pride it takes to tell God, I had a plan and I liked mine better.
Look it is right, and good and ok to make a plan for your life. You should do so. you should have a 5-10 year plan for what you want to do after high school. You should already be getting some ideas and making some moves in that direction. Even if you’re in 7th grade. Start figuring out what you want to do, but I think James says some thinks here that we have to keep in mind as we do that.
So what do we do with this text tonight.
You need to stop waiting for God to spoon-feed you the answers to your life.
You need to figure out how to build your life around your calling, not find a calling that fits your life.
You need to loosen your grip on your plan and see what God has in store.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for a voice from heaven to tell you what to do next. You’re so terrified you’re gonna go against God’s will for your life that you cant decide to brush your teeth up and down or side to side so you just don’t brush them at all and it’s starting to stink. That’s an exaggeration; but you know what your gifts and interests are. As long as it’s not blatantly sinful, pursue them and see if God is blessing you in that direction, if so great. if not, turn around. But don’t just sit on your hands waiting for instructions on what to do with your life.
Maybe God has given you a burden for a certain kind of ministry, figure out how to build a life that allows you to maximize that. I’ll give you an example; my friend jessica, she has always had a huge heart for foster kids, even when we were in high school she babysat for a foster family, just a rotating door of kids and fell in love with the ministry. She knew she wanted to be a lawyer, so she just decided that family law and helping Christian families adopt needy kids was the best way for her to do that on a big scale. IF you’ve got a heart for disaster relief ministry, learn to be an electrician or a lineman and you can go do that every time a tornado or hurricane comes through. Figure out what God has for you in the kingdom and build a life around it.
Maybe you picked your trajectory and know your plan and when things start to go a little off course, you just hold on tighter and try to force God back into your plan…I need you to repent of that sin. tonight. and once you do, once you really open up your life to the posibilities for His will, you have no idea what He may have in store for you.
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