The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘immortal

Planning like immortals

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How are you planning under these present circumstances? Some, it seems clear, are not planning at all. If this life is all, and if there is nothing else to worry about, if—in short—the dead do not rise, then, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1Cor 15:32). It is hard not to see that attitude in the thoughtlessness of many, even if the words themselves are missing. They have barely considered the implications of mortality.

Others, more cautious, are making more careful preparations. Have you noticed, though, what you assume in making your plans? If you are anything like me, you instinctively assume that you will be fine. That you will not have to self-isolate. That you will not fall sick. That you will not be hospitalised. That you will not die. We plan like immortals.

In fact, most of us always have. We have said, in effect, what the people of James’ day said: “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit” (Jas 4:13). We have lived our lives as if our tomorrows were assured. To some extent, we still do, despite the disease sweeping the globe. Most of us, I imagine, are still planning on the assumption that we will be fine. Perhaps the old and the weak might struggle; perhaps the foolish and the feeble might be swept away. We, on the other, will batten down the hatches, and we shall emerge when the storm is past. It goes for the selfish stockpiling and panic purchasing that is blighting our communities with ugliness and distress. The assumption of all that selfishness and greediness is that I will be alive and well to enjoy the fruits of my investments.

And what was the warning that James issued in his day? Yes, you have made your plans to go here and there, to do this and that, but “you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas 4:14). We plan like immortals, but we are feeble and frail. We plan like immortals, but we are the dust of the earth. We plan like immortals, but we cannot guarantee a moment of our lives under the best of circumstances. In this present season, we certainly cannot presume upon the future.

What is the alternative? It is not wrong to make preparations for tomorrow, and this situation should not freeze us with fear or debilitate us with despair. But we ought ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas 4:15). It was always true, but it ought to press upon us now, that our times are in God’s hands. We should make our plans in conscious dependence on him. When I remember this, it makes a difference to the way I plan. I still prepare a sermon, but I am conscious that I may not be alive and well to deliver it. I no longer presume that I will stand to preach, but I urge others to be ready, and to be ready to be unable, too. And, when I have planned, I ask that the Lord might preserve me, if it be his will, to do what I have planned.

I still make my plans to care for my family and God’s flock, but I take pains to make sure that—as much as lies in me—I am prepared both for the best and for the worst, not least by committing all to the hands of God. We have drawn up our timetables for schooling at home, we have thought about how to care for our neighbours, we have made some preparations for various aspects of encouraging and comforting and evangelising ministries. We want to be ready for what lies ahead. But, after all my best planning and preparing, I still need to sit back and say, with all humility, “If the Lord wills, I shall live and do this or that.”

For some, this may be a shift in our whole outlook, and a most necessary one in these days. To presume that all will go well with you is to “boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas 4:16). It is to plan like an immortal. And I am not.

The repeated imagery of the Scriptures for the life of man is that of something fundamentally fragile and frail: “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Ps 103:15–16). It is not morbid for me to remember this in these days; it is wise. It will keep me humble.

So, God helping me, I will plan like a mortal. So should you. When it comes to the matters of this life, we should make our plans wisely and carefully and selflessly, and write above every moment, “If the Lord wills.” And there is a yet more careful preparation that we all need. If I am to plan like a mortal, I need to prepare for my death. For this will come, one way or another, and the dead do rise, either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5.29). There is only one proper and adequate preparation that I can make, and that is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who only is able to deliver, not merely from sickness, but from sin and death and hell, and to grant eternal life, a true and happy immortality. Let us not, then, live boastfully and arrogantly. Let us not now plan like immortals. Let us remember that we are dust, and let us prepare by faith to live righteously and to die confidently, trusting in the Lord, in whose hands is life everlasting.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 20 March 2020 at 12:15

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