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The Foolishness of Confident Forecasts

James 4:13-14
Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (NIVUK)

Somebody recently said that you cannot mix Christianity with business, or let your faith interfere with your professional life, because it might offend people. While that is the mantra of some officials in increasingly secularised Western society, it is a foolish idea. The rest of the world understands that your family, tribe, business and art-culture are shaped by what you believe in: that is true. Those who believe in Jesus have a personal culture of trusting in the only God who has the ability to change the future according to His Word; and that the secularist gods of power and money have no power in a crisis.

James also understood the world of trading, and the reality of life, but from God's point of view. A business plan is important, but without the Lord it cannot prosper (Proverbs 19:21). It is not that plans are unimportant, they are essential: but they need to be based on what will please the Lord, and subject to His right to change them (Proverbs 16:9). Time-tabling is good, it helps to keep projects moving forwards, but we must be willing to let the Lord impose His timing, for all our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). Relocating your business, or centres of research or distribution, may be a wise response to the market, transport links or workforce availability – but these are not the determining factors for the believer. Even in difficult circumstances, Job's comment is wise to heed: "…He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10).

They say that 'success breeds success'; that assumes that yesterday's triumph is the launch-pad for tomorrow's enterprise. It may, but equally, it may not. Those who boast of tomorrow's achievement share three characteristics with the devil, as he taunts and tempts. They do not know what will happen tomorrow; they use their predictions to suit their own manipulative purposes; they cannot guarantee their quoted outcomes. Only the Lord knows the future. Apart from the normal business hazards of critical cash-flow, market confidence and competition, there are personal crises of health, family stability, accidental catastrophe and natural disasters which can bring the world crashing down around your ears.

Christians should not make business decisions as though they do not know God. Those who trust in Jesus will commit their work to Him, as much as their family and church. The only certainty for everybody is that we will all die, but the believer is not working against that inevitability, but towards it! The godly Christian is looking forward to the final appraisal with Jesus, and meanwhile giving Him the glory for all His grace and mercy, and help and strength. However the secular Christian fears that moment, when all the success of earth will mean nothing, and an answer will be demanded for so much vain boasting that brings no credit to God's eternal kingdom (Matthew 7:23). So, what sort of a Christian are you?

God of all power and might. Thank You for this reminder to keep my working life inside Your will; and to hold my plans lightly. I ask Your forgiveness for the times when I have made decisions without involving You. May I make it my business to keep Your Word in my heart as I go to work each day, and to make plans and forecasts with the knowledge that only You know the future. Please alert me to those occasions when I am too sure of future success, so that I may humbly accept Your will. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams