There is story about a Jewish rabbi in nineteenth century Russia who crossed a village square every morning on his way to the synagogue to pray. One morning, a large Russian soldier, who happened to be in a vile mood, accosted him, saying, “Hey, rabbi, where are you going?” The rabbi simply said, “I don’t know.” This infuriated the soldier. “What do you mean, you don’t know? Every morning, for twenty-five years, you have crossed the village square and gone to the synagogue to pray. Don’t fool with me. Why are you telling me you don’t know?” He grabbed the old rabbi by the coat and dragged him off to jail. Just as the soldier was about to push him into the cell, the rabbi turned to him, and softly said, “You see, I didn’t know where I was going.”
Folks, that little story gives us a reminder that none of us really knows what today, much less tomorrow, will bring. We live in a culture that often puts a great deal of emphasis on planning. Teachers are required to write out “lesson plans,” entrepreneurs are encouraged to develop “business plans,” and baby-boomers are considered irresponsible if they have failed to adequately “plan” for retirement. In fact, even churches are warned that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” A “long-range planning committee” which attempts to make plans for five, ten or even twenty years down the road is part of the leadership structure of various churches and organizations. A few years ago, the City of Chisholm developed a “comprehensive plan,” intended to be a guide for our community for the next decade. In many ways, we love to plan, even though we don’t really know what will happen later today.
Now planning is not a bad thing. In fact, often it is foolish not to plan. In Luke 14 Jesus reminds us that someone who wants to construct a building needs to do some planning. He notes that unless the builder sits down and estimates how much the project is going to cost, he or she may not have enough money to complete it. Likewise, Jesus says, no good military leader goes into combat without a battle plan. Making plans is a necessary and important part of life.
The Bible warns us, however, that whenever we plan, we need to do so humbly. We need to keep in mind that no matter how well we plan, we still don’t know what the future will bring. The instructions the Lord gives us in the book of James are very clear. “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be liketomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
Friends, knowing it is God, not us, who is in charge of the future means we should never be shocked or distraught when our plans do not become reality. Humble planners know how to be flexible and adjust whenever there is a “change in plans.” Most importantly, humble planners realize that the object of their trust and confidence should never be in their ability to plan or in the plans they develop, but in the Lord, the one whose plans never fail.
Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist, Church