“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17). 

As a new decade launches and 2011 begins, I ask the Lord for a new paradigm: to have God-honoring attitudes and actions that so often I have selfishly and pridefully forsaken. Depending totally on the power and wisdom that only God can supply and using James’ insightful words as my guide and inspiration, this year I will:

  • Seek God’s direction before planning on my own (v. 13). Clearly our lives require some sort of planning. Whether it be work, church, family, or leisure we must, to a certain degree, look forward in order to live in an organized fashion. The point here is whether we even consult our Lord as to what’s best for us to be doing. Our passion should be for God’s best and not to settle for just what is good or OK – which is typically what we settle for when we plan our lives around our own ideas and desires as opposed to His. May we live with the reliance of the Psalmist who said, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5).
  • Focus on pleasing Him today (v.14). Sobering as it is, our last breath is the only one we are assured. James tells us our life is as brief as a mist (the Greek word picture here is that of the steam that comes from our breath on a cold winter day). So, as easy as it is to get stuck in the past and obsess about our earthly future, today is our greatest opportunity to honor Jesus. Our focus is to take the blessed reality of today and make it centered on pleasing Him and “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”” (Hebrews 3:13). May we have the same mantra as the Puritans: “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). 
  • Seek, acknowledge, and practice His will (v. 15). Please understand, God’s will is not as esoteric as we tend to make it. 95% of what He wills for us has already been revealed in Scripture. Do we use this ultimate source of God’s heart and desires as our final rule for living? In those limited gray areas; do we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as opposed to leaning our own logic and understanding? May we all passionately pursue lives that image forth the sincere prayer of “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) and a life of “[not mine but] your will be done” (Matthew 26:18). 
  • Forsake anything that draws focus away from God being glorified (v. 16). As much as we crave attention and are myopic in how we spend our time and energy, our role in the expanse of God’s kingdom is to point others to Him. We must deny all egocentric and arrogant attitudes that in any way deflect others from seeing God’s beauty, worth, and honor. We must live with a surrendered and missional lifestyle that resonates with “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). 
  • Be sensitive to and act upon the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be obedient in the opportunities God provides for service and ministry (v. 17). I believe often our chief sins are not those of commission but those of omission. How often do we ignore opportunities to be “Jesus in our skin” because we fail to heed to the Lord’s promptings? How often do we turn our heads or shrink back from that which we know needs to be done, and that which God will empower us to do? May we have the mindset of Paul who desired “to make the most of every opportunity” for the glory of the gospel of God (Colossians 4:5).

Five profound verses, five simple resolutions. Although primarily directed at me, I have written much of this in the 1st person plural. Why? Because you may want to join me in this journey. Knowing that this very passage warns against looking to far into the future, these commitments are probably better made day-to-day and afresh each morning. However He leads you to prepare for the day(s) ahead, I do believe that surrendering to these principles will enable us, as empowered by our infinitely powerful God, to be one more in-line with the image of Christ that He is creating in us. For as Paul said, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

May this year be a year where, day by day, He is magnified by the Christ-like image He is creating in us! A joyful , Christ-filled New Year to each and all!