“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit,’ yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14)
Does God want us to plan for the future, or does He not? It would seem hard to reconcile verses like this, but if we really examine them, I think He’s trying to tell us we must live both in the duration and in the moment. We must have a plan for the future, but also be willing at any time to interrupt it for what He wants us to do in the moment.
Looking at the plan and life of Jesus, we see both in ample evidence. Did Jesus not have a long-term plan for coming to earth? Did He not know the outcome from the beginning, and yet wasn’t He willing to spend fully three years carrying it out? During that “duration” of time dedicated to the salvation of mankind, was He not willing to stop at any time to give attention to “moments” as He marched steadfastly to the Cross?
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Jesus and the woman who touched His cloak to obtain healing. Imagine yourself as one of the disciples who, over time, has watched your Master at increasing odds with the temple leaders. The cauldron has come to a boil when, at last, there seems to be a path to patch things up and even get them on your side! One of these leaders has come to Jesus to seek healing for his daughter, and now you and the others are headed with Him to tend to her. Suddenly, Jesus stops, turns, and asks who touched His garment. I can just hear the collective gasp of disbelief! What?! We’re on our way to make peace with Your sworn enemies and You stop everything to ask who touched Your cloak [no doubt noticing the thousands of people who always followed Him around]?? Come on Jesus! Time for big-picture thinking!
Jesus had a plan. It can be found in Philippians 2. He was God, emptied Himself of His rights as God, came down, lived as a humble carpenter, died on a cross, and returned to heaven to reign eternally. Done. Paul said of this, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15). Behold what Paul later called “the simplicity of the Gospel,” the duration, and yet Jesus lived in the moment all along the way.
Think about this: if Jesus plan was so simple, why not hide out in a cave for 33 years, then show up at Pilate’s place ready to be crucified? Didn’t Jesus show His frustration at the prospect of living among these fallen humans? Did He not protest, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you” (Matt. 17)? Again, why engage in all the minutia if the big picture was to come down, die, and return to heaven? It’s because durations are made up of moments, durations find their life in moments, and God doesn’t want us to miss either!
Sadly, modern Christendom has done little more than promote the duration for many years now, and thus we have so few who call themselves Christian living in the moment. The gospel of salvation we have been preaching for years promotes coming to Jesus because He died for us, and then going to heaven. While this is true, we have largely missed out on the “follow Me” that demands moments within the framework of the duration. Jesus never missed a moment, as He spoke only as He heard His Father speak and did only as He saw His Father doing. Hmmm. Seems His Father was also a duration and moments kind of Guy.
The One who calls you to those moments said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away” (john 15). He also spoke of those in which His seed had been planted, but who brought no fruit to maturity in this life, having their seed choked out. In that same parable He speaks of those bearing fruit with perseverance being good soil where His seed would grow and grow. Does it take perseverance to simply believe in Jesus and then sit and wait for your salvation? Perseverance is found only in answering those daily calls to moments, not in believing in the duration.
So, go ahead and make your plans, but don’t forget those golden opportunities that moments afford you via the Spirit directing your steps every day. And please don’t let what you perceive to be your duration become so set in stone God can’t direct your steps to another. Your duration may not be His for you. Go ahead and trust in Jesus to usher you into heaven in the end, but don’t forget to follow the One moment by moment who came to bring heaven to earth. If you miss the moments, how will you bear the fruit of Jesus in this life? If you bear no fruit in this life because of moments not capitalized upon, will you really be so assured of the duration our modern gospel promises? Hmmm.