James 4:13-17

What are you looking forward to? I'm feeling really excited at the moment at the prospect of my school running something called Slum Survivor where students will spend a weekend the way a billion spend a lifetime - living in slums. They'll be raising money for Tearfund working with Slum dwellers around the world. It's especially exciting because I reckon we'll be the first school to run something like this, as so far it's mainly been church-based youth groups doing it. Bring it on!

Even though we only just started talking about it today, my imagination is already running away with ideas and visions of what it will be like. Nothing could stop me being excited about this idea right now. Or could it?

Should we still be excited about our plans for the future after reading this? James doesn't actually say that planning is wrong. Planning is an important and necessary part of life, especially if we ever want to achieve anything worthwhile. What James is getting at is what we plan and how we plan it.

What we plan to do is important to God. James uses the example of acquiring wealth as an example of selfish planning to get things that won't last beyond this world. He also rounds this section off by talking about sins of omission - or in other words not doing things we know we should be doing. We often moan about not knowing what God wants us to be doing with our lives when in fact, he's given us plenty to be getting on with. What about loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), or defending the cause of the fatherless and the widow (Isaiah 1:17), or doing the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), or teaching each other about God (Colossians 3:16)? He's given his people plenty to be doing and yet we manage to find ourselves at a loose end. James says 'if you know what you should do and don't do it - you sin!' (v17). Let's make sure we have plenty of cunning plans to be doing this stuff!

How we plan matters to God too. We shouldn't be so sure of ourselves when we talk about thefuture. Sometimes we're cocky about it and we make assumptions about what will happen or maybe even worse, we feel we deserve to have things happen our way in the future. James knocks us down a few notches. We need to remember that our lives are like 'a mist' that comes and quickly vanishes. Does God owe us anything? Absolutely not. Even our next breath is a gift of grace from God that we don't deserve. We have no rights before God. He gives life and he can take it away just as easily. When we're making plans, we shouldn't hold on to them so tightly. We should be totally ready for God to re-shape our plans or throw them out the window and give us new ones. This means we need to trust him and find our security in him rather than in the certainty of our own ideas.

So what are you excited about? Is it something that God has told you to do? Are you bragging about it like it was your idea? And are you ready for God to surprise you with new plans? The bottom line is that we need to trust God and be passionate about doing what he wants us to do. So maybe someone in charge will say no to my ideas for the school. Maybe we'll end up doing something completely different. Maybe God wants us to plant a church or wash cars or do an Alpha course instead. Anything could happen but at least just for now I think God wants me to be excited about the slum thing! What does he want you to be excited about?