By Jim Willis
TEXT: James 4:13--17 '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.' (NIV)
These words from the Book of James remind us of the danger of putting too much confidence in tomorrow; and yet at the same time we should not look at tomorrow with dread and consternation.
In our world it is so easy to become depressed and fearful when we read the newspaper, watch the evening news, or spend too much time on Facebook. It seems sometimes you just want to pull the cover up over your head and go back to sleep rather than face the bad news of the day. So much of the news we read and hear makes us almost wonder if we want to face the day. We wonder "Can it get any worse"...and it does!
We have political problems today -- and so did people in the past. We like to predict national disaster because of our political enemies. An early president of Yale, Timothy Dwight, said against a certain presidential candidate, "We may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution soberly dishonored and polluted; the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, the loathing of God and man." Who was the object of his denunciation? Thomas Jefferson -- the author of the Declaration of Independence!
In the last two years we have experienced shortages in everything from toilet paper to baby formula. More airplane pilots are retiring than there are replacements for them. Problems with labor are not new. Labor problems occur today as they did in the past. More than a century ago, a large department store required its employees to work fourteen hours a day, six days a week. The store gave them one evening off a week in which they had to go to prayer meeting. Employees with "the habit of smoking Spanish cigars and being shaved at the barber's would give their employer reason to doubt their integrity and honesty.
Even good people in the Bible got discouraged. Ezekiel said, "He answered me, 'The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.'" (Ezekiel 9:9). Does that sound familiar? We could replace "Israel and Judah with "The United States of America and just about any city or state. Another example is Elijah. He had defeated the prophets of Baal and even executed them. He got afraid and ran away from Jezebel the Queen. He was so discouraged he asked God to take his life because he was the only righteous person left. God told him that he wasn't the only one left; in fact he had 7,000 who were still faithful to him. The whole story may be found in I Kings 18--19. (I had never thought about this before until I was working on this lesson. Though Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and the people were impressed, it doesn't seem they changed, otherwise Elijah would not have been so quick to hightail it out of town.)
Too many people feel that, having come so far, humankind can go no further -- all great discoveries have been made, and all noble accomplishments have been achieved. (There is a story that back in 1899, the U.S. Commissioner of Patents Charles H. Duell declared that everything that could be invented had been invented and even suggested the closing of the U.S. Patent Office!!!) Can you imagine that if that had happened, where we would be? We restrict our vision to current movements of the stock exchange and votes in Congress. We need to say with Paul, "We are perplexed. But not in despair." (2 Cor.2:8)
"Tomorrow is as bright as the promises of God" may be an old saying, but it is still true. As a Christian, you need not fear for tomorrow. There is a song I heard a number of years ago entitled "Fear not Tomorrow, God is already there" In God's eyes and in the light of his promises, fearing tomorrow is an act of foolishness. From the play Annie Little Orphan Annie sings "Oh/The sun'll come out tomorrow/ So ya gotta hang on/ 'Til tomorrow! Come what may/ Tomorrow!/ Tomorrow!/ I love ya/ Tomorrow!/ You're always/ A day Away! Or as David said in Psalms 59:16 " But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble."