James 4:13-17
Will Tomorrow Be The Same As Today?

Authored By Rev. Chen Tientsu, Taiwan Presbyterian Church Missionary To Japan

1.  Let's open to another scripture passage and read.  It is Isaiah 56:9-12 in the Old Testament.

2.  In contrasting the passage we just read to the one in James I think we might be able to learn a few things.  In particular, please open once again to Isaiah 56:12.  And I read, "Hey, let's get some alcohol, let's drink up till we're swimming in strong drink.  Tomorrow it'll all be the same as today.  No, it's got to be a nicer day," says the scriptures.  Those people were deluded over only their own benefits and had forsaken their original position in their faith.  They were soaked with booze and had forgotten their worries that the alcohol they were drinking might run out tomorrow.  They calmly claimed, "No, [tomorrow's got to be a nicer day."  They were full of self-confidence.

Seeing Too Much

3.  These people partying foolishly boldly proclaim without a worry of tomorrow's booze and are [already] seeking for their [next] future pleasure and satisfaction.  As it says in James 4:13 "Today or tomorrow, we will go to this city or that and stay a year and trade and do some moneymaking," they made plans for their flesh and material things and they looked at their dreams.  All this is the self centered way of thinking that humans have.  Humankind thinks they have tomorrow in the palm of their hand.  Without obeying the will and permission of God, they plan selfishly according to their own thoughts.

4.  Among Jesus' parables there is the tale of a rich fool, (Luke 12:15-21).  Since he had had an abundant harvest of grain, he would have liked to have saved a great deal of his assets and so he made plans to enlarge his storage rooms in order to reap it all in and so that his soul would not have to pine for many long years.  Since he doesn't see that the life of a human being is short, he doesn't seek for the eternal.  God said to this rich man, "O foolish one, tonight, your life will be taken up.  Who in the world will own the things you have prepared?"  Human riches and properties, even life, are nothing but like a thin layer of a cloud.  All our hopes are in vain if they are not tied somehow to God and do not suit his will.

5.  Because the sun always rises in the east, we have self-confidence in that it will come up the same way tomorrow too.  Indubitably there is continuity with mother nature.  But, the situation that we must recognize is that tomorrow is quite different from today.  The water that has been flowing today is altogether different from the water that will flow tomorrow.

6.  James thus says, "What will become of your lives?  We don't know what tomorrow will be.  You are no more than a cloud that appears for a little while and soon vanishes away," (verse fourteen).  In Proverbs twenty-seven one it says, "Don't boast of tomorrow; for we know not what will come up during any one single day.

7.  James is not telling us all here with this that since tomorrow in our lives is uncertain and we can't comprehend our futures that things are hopeless.  He is wanting to emphasize with this that we must recognize the reasons for us to depend on God even more.  Even when Paul had written his epistle to the Corinthian church, he used such a message as follows: "But, if it is the will of the Lord, I will come to you right away," (First Corinthians 4:19).  "I don't want to meet you while I'm out on my trip at this time.  But, if the Lord should permit me, I would like to stay for a visit with you for a little while," (First Corinthians 16:7).  In James 4:15 it also says, "You ought to say, 'Instead, if it is the Lord's will, we will live on and do this or that."

8.  James is saying that a person's every day life has a connection to the will of the most high God.  Thus, he exhorts us to correct human self-centered acts and vain behaviors and that we should think about God's will and way.  We always need to say concerning what we all have planned, "if it's God's will."

Hope And Decision

9.  It is a common experience for a lot of folks that one day they are healthy, but the next day they are sick, one day they are wealthy but the next day they are poor, one day they are friends, but the next day they become enemies.  A person's life changes a lot.  What are our hopes for tomorrow?  What guarantees do we have [of anything]?

10.  In the Bible it says, "Jesus Christ is the One who never changes neither yesterday, nor today, nor in eternity," (Hebrews 13:8).  The God we believe in today will still be God tomorrow as well.  Christ today will still be savior tomorrow as well.  Because of this fact, Christ is the source of hope for us Christians.  Thus, James exhorts us that we must trust in God always in our day to day lives.

11.  It is important that Christians entrust all the plans [they have] in their lives over into the hands of God.   The [type of] thinking that puts God first above all else is a faith life of wise humility.  If we don't do that, it will result in something like we have in verse sixteen.  We will be haughty [thinking] we can grasp the future and we will end up committing some stupid kind of sin.

12.  Today God has given a new future to us, to those who see our folly and weakness.  In this unknowable new year, how should we go out to meet it?  I don't think we should feel certain of anything or make definite decisions.  In James in verse sixteen it reads, "It is sin for a person when he doesn't do the good he knows he is supposed to do."  Sin is not only offensive or criminal acts.  Knowing good and not doing it is also sin.  All sin is when we don't have a faith life that we entrust over to God and when we don't do what is appropriate in the will of God.  In The Epistle To The Roman Disciples chapter thirteen and verses twelve through fourteen it says this, "Night is turning to dawn, the day is near.  Therefore, let us cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Shall we not walk with dignity as we do during the day?  Give up partying and drunkenness, fornication and immorality, fighting and jealousy, put on the Lord Jesus Christ.  We ought not use our minds for the flesh in trying to satisfy carnal desires."  A christian shouldn't keep sinning tomorrow the sins committed today.  It is important to decide before God each day to go for a new life from day to day that is different from yesterday and to repent of the sins one has committed.

13.  A certain somebody made the decision to try to stop smoking and drinking and wrote "You could drink today, but not tomorrow" as words by which to encourage himself.  But, the results of his decision were always the same; for, on the next day it would be "You could drink today."  In Ephesians 5:8 it says, "You used to be full of darkness, but now you are in the Lord and are light.  Walk as sons of the light."  Also, in Second Corinthians 5:17 it says, "Therefore, anyone who is joined to Christ is a newly created person.  The old [person] passed away and the new [person] is born."  In the passage above what time is it that [the word] "now" is pointing to?  Who is this person newly created by Christ?

14.  The year two thousand has become the old year.  All of last year has flown by.  Isn't the new today the only thing that has value and what we should expect to understand?  [In Japan we have a saying,] "The whole year's plans are made on New Year's Day."  Today, so completely different from yesterday, I urge you, let us renew our vows before God to have a new faith life in accordance with the will of God.  First, we are to seek the cleansing of Christ (Daniel 1:8).  Next, we are to rebuild our day to day lives to please Christ (Second Corinthians 5:9).  Also, we are to actively communicate the gospel to others (Romans 15:20).

15.  Because today is not [the same as] tomorrow, if we don't anticipate all of our wrong thinking and deeds and correct them, even if we see a new tomorrow it will be the same as the sin we did the day before.  "It is sin for a person when he doesn't do the good he knows he is supposed to do."  Let's put to practice the task we are entrusted with on this new year which is given to us together from God.

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