It’s getting to the end of seeding in the Great Southern. Many people have finished, some are still going, and some will undoubtedly be plagued by all sorts of break-downs or other problems. One thing that Christians in this situation often struggle with is knowing how to trust God when there is no certainty. There is no certainty that the weather will work out for the season, that there will be a sufficient harvest at the end of the year to cover the cost of putting in and maintaining the crop. Sure, everyone does their sums, adds on a margin of safety, and hopes for the best. Even more, everyone constantly measures, assesses and tends their crops, spraying, fertilising, doing everything they can to tip the outcome in their favour.
All of this actually works to give us the impression that we are in control of the outcome. That if I work a bit harder, am a bit smarter, if I can get better advice, or get a better product, then I can make sure things work out the way I want.
We might say that it’s all in God’s hands. But the reality is that we think and act as if it’s all in our hands.
Which leaves us the problem of how we trust God when there isn’t any certainty, but we have tricked ourselves into thinking and acting as if it’s all in our hands, and we can achieve a level of certainty by our own efforts.
This is the problem we face in almost every area of our lives. Our health. Our jobs. Our retirement. Raising our kids. Pretty much everything. Because we focus all of our attention on the end result of almost everything we do. We set goals, aim for outcomes, and work hard to achieve those, putting all the effort into the end result and not into considering the details of the decisions we make along the way.
However, the decisions we make along the way are the ones that we actually need to focus on. This is what the Bible tells us is the way we should live our lives. Certainly we should aim to provide for ourselves and our families in the long term, that we should set appropriate goals and seek to achieve them.
In James 4:13-17 we are told: “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 ever know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life. You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
There is a lot there, and lots to mine out of it, but James moves the focus from my long term goals and plans to the short term choices I make each and every day to do what is good as things happen right in front of me.
The problem with doing the good that God puts in front of me each day is that it doesn’t always get me to the goals I want to work towards. Which is where we need to, as James says, devote ourselves to the practice of seeking God’s will in every little step along the way. That may mean stopping to help someone, even if it will impact on my goals. It may mean setting time aside each day for reading the Bible and praying, regardless of whether you think you need every moment of the day to get your crop in, or sprayed, or repair the equipment and fences, or deal with sheep. It means spending time with your wife and kids, showing them what a godly man looks like and acts like, and how they make decisions based on faithfully following Jesus.
There will be an endless parade of things that can keep you from following Jesus and focusing your life on him each day, because you have bigger and higher priorities to set your sights on. But this is a false dichotomy. As Jesus says in Luke 12:20 “But God said to him ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'”
This is what it is to trust Jesus and follow him. To look at what he puts in front of you, and say “How can I follow Jesus faithfully in this situation today?”