Recently I was reading through the latest Empire Movie magazine, and I came upon this interesting quote from actor Joseph Fiennes, who was discussing his latest World War II movie, Enemy at the Gates. He made a reference to Russian soldiers in the fight against Germany: “The very fact that these people had a life expectancy of only four days really makes you start to think about the whole idea of fate. You know, it’s like that old concept of, ‘How do you make God laugh? Tell Him about your plans …’”
The quote really got me thinking about life and planning for the future, and I thought, hey, a good place to look into this subject would be the Bible. I haven’t studied this in depth at all, but all the references I could think of on this topic are related to focusing on the present rather than planning for the future.
Now if I was to say that we should only live for today and not plan for the future, that would have huge implications for the way that most of us live. For example, something like studying for a degree/job would go out the window, and that obviously wouldn’t be right. Then, if you follow the other extreme of putting all your time/energy/money into planning for the future, you run the risk of never living in the moment or of never having any effect in the world.
The Message version of James 4:13-15 says, “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.’ You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’”
And then in Luke 12:22-24, 33-34, Jesus says, "Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more …
“Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
In another translation this reads, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus then goes on to talk about the kind of future He is concerned about us preparing for—the one that begins when He returns.
I can think of other examples, like the rich man building his barn to store all of his money in, and God looks down and says, "You fool—this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:13-21 NIV).
So the statement, "How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans," is a really interesting one. But in all truth, I wonder if it does make God laugh, or if in fact it makes Him shake His head and let out a long sigh … "There they go again …"
When I look at Jesus and His disciples, they gave up everything and walked around preaching and doing miracles and healing people, and so sometimes I think that that’s the way it’s still meant to be done today. But then there were also people like Paul, who worked as a tentmaker and paid his own way while he ministered, so I’m very hesitant to say that the best way to follow Jesus is to have or not have a job. That isn’t the issue here.
I guess the issue would be more something like: How do you come up with your plans? Do you go to God and ask what His plans are for your life and how you can fit in with them? Or do you come up with your own idea or scheme of how things should work out and then ask God to bless it and make it happen? Or, do you not consider God at all in your planning for the future?
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. We all think that’s a pretty nifty statement I’m sure—but is it something you believe in and live? If we think of our lives here on Earth as a small fraction of eternity, then where does the main emphasis of our lives fall? Here-and-now, or in the long-term?
I want to encourage you to take a step back and look at your life and the plans you have and really see where God fits into all that. I really don’t want this to be an exercise of, "Woe is me—I’ve got all my priorities screwed up," or something negative like that. Rather, see it as something positive—"What changes should I be making to make sure that my life fits in with God’s plans for me? How can I make a difference in the lives of others? What can I do to further the Gospel in the lives of my family, friends, etc.?"
We need to remember that God wants the best for us—He is not sitting in Heaven looking down with His finger on the lightning button, waiting to zap us for wrong choices and foolish or selfish priorities. He wants us to succeed. He wants to use us to change the world. And His plans are best, always.
You want to make God laugh? You want to really put a smile on His face? Then place yourself in His hands. Go to Him before you make life decisions. Go to Him about career opportunities, about relationships you want to pursue, even about the small things. God has certainly given us a huge picture of His will in the Bible, His Holy Spirit in us and Christian people we are in contact with. He won’t answer directly or specifically to us every single time, but keep including Him in your decision-making and give Him the opportunity to direct, to open the door, to create the opportunities you need. You will be amazed at the results.
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