We hate when plans go awry. I’ve been in traffic and found myself getting anxious, extrapolating terrible consequences from being late, worrying if I have enough time to do things. Sometimes I worry about my career too. I’m not a planner at heart. My wife has a schedule and a list of what needs to get done. There’s wisdom in that, and her schedule and detail-oriented personality have been a gift in my life.
Sometimes our plans for tomorrow awry in more tragic ways. We grieve when the old pass on to the next life, but it feels more traumatic when someone young and healthy suddenly dies. A recent celebrity example is Chadwick Boseman, a terrific actor who succumbed to cancer in the prime of his life.
The Bible is concerned for our future, so concerned that the writers often speak of our plans, teaching us that tomorrow is not promised. Not in this life.
Is Tomorrow Not Promised in the Bible?
The Bible makes a difference between our plans and God’s purposes. We are told not to boast about tomorrow because we don’t have any guarantees what will happen (Proverbs 27:1). James speaks on the same theme in the New Testament, telling us that we are foolish for speaking confidently about what we will do tomorrow in business or life. Our life is “but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:13-17).
Our life is temporary. We don’t like to think about it too much, but nothing lasts in this life. Many things don’t work out the way that we planned. Things break, deteriorate, die. We can spend decades building something good only to watch it destroyed in an instant. That is the way of this world.
Left to this reality, we would be discouraged and depressed. We would seek only for our own pleasure, as Paul tells us. If this life is all we have, we would say, “Let’s eat, drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
And yet this life is not all there is. There is more. There is another life, a more important one.
Thousands of years ago, in a utopian paradise called the Garden of Eden, humanity made a tragic choice and set us on a path. That choice was simple: they decided they should be the ones responsible for knowing what was wrong and right. The Garden of Eden had only one rule: don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In other words, there was only one thing we couldn’t do in a perfect world: decide for ourselves what is good and evil. The utopian Eden was perfect in relationship with God, walking and fulfilling purposes with him.
Humanity chose poorly, and all creation was set on a path of destruction and death. That’s pretty harsh. But when we understand that God is life and the only good, living apart from him gets the opposite – death and evil. So that’s where we are. That’s the path we are on, the heart we have. To fix that, God must interrupt our plans. Our plans (even the ones we think are awesome) are ignorant of all the factors, limited at best, and selfish at worst. Apart from God, even our “good” plans are participating in the entropy of this world. They don’t matter. They can’t make a difference.
Thank God he doesn’t leave us there.
The Bible is the story of God interrupting people’s plans and lives to get them on his purpose. Abram probably felt his life in Ur was great. God interrupted that life (and certainly the life of Abraham's wife Sarai) and set them on a different path where all people would be blessed. God even changed their names. Later in the Old Testament he interrupted the plans of Gideon, David, Elisha, and more. Every character in the Nativity (Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Herod, the Magi ) had their lives, plans, and expectations radically changed.
Why Does God Interrupt Our Plans?
God interrupts our plans for two reasons.
First, our plans won’t work, as much as we love them. Our plans are temporary and won’t last. What will? God’s purposes. Back to James 4, the writer corrects us to what we should say. Instead of being confident in what we think, we should make it clear, “If God wills it, we will do this or that.” Proverbs 16:9 tells us that man makes his plans, but God determines the steps. God’s purposes are the only ones that last. They are eternal, and they prevail (Proverbs 19:21).
Second, if we align with his purpose, we will gain everything we have ever desired. Paul writes that “all things work together for good for those that love him and are called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28). That’s a far cry from depression and discouragement, seeking after our own pleasure. We may not be promised tomorrow in this life, but God does promise us the tomorrow beyond, the Eternal Tomorrow.
Why Should we Not Worry About Tomorrow?
What does it profit if we gain the whole world and lose our soul (Mark 8:36)? Jesus asked this question, contrasting things of this world with what matters. What is eternal? It might be fun for a while if we gain the world, but we’ll lose it. The vital part of life to focus on is our soul. That’s eternal. That will last beyond this life.
Following Christ, we have the great and precious promises of God (2 Peter 1:4), literally escaping the corrupt world we are currently in to share in God’s divine nature and Heaven. Upon following Christ, we are born again as his children, and if children, then heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and incorruptible (1 Peter 1:4). That alone is wealth beyond imagining, wealth we get to keep.
However, God does not leave us with nothing in this life. He knows we need provision and promises to be faithful to bring us necessities like food and clothing. That promise, however, is not for everyone but for those that “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), those aligned with his purposes and plans.
Walking with Christ in the Father’s purpose, we find blessings in this life and in the life to come. There is sacrifice, to be sure. We give up our plans and expectations in exchange for the Father’s. But he alone is good, and his plans for us are good, to prosper and bless us. All we sacrifice is returned to us 30, 60, 100 times (Matthew 19:29).
5 Ways We Can Live in the Moment
There is a fantastic reality within walking with Christ. We live in the moment and impact the eternal at the same time. No moment is insignificant when approached through the lens of eternity.
Peter discusses this too. He begins by declaring that the world and everything in it will melt with heat and fire. We look beyond that to the New Heaven and Earth to come, an eternal day to come where all will be set right (2 Peter 3). Knowing that, what kind of people should we be? How do we live in the moment of today and impact eternity for good? Every moment is an opportunity. Here are 5 ways to live like Heaven is real.
- Remind ourselves what matters for eternity.
As followers of Jesus, we deal with two eternal things every day. First, the Word of God. Jesus left the gift of the Holy Spirit, and he leads us into all truth. That Spirit has no end and no beginning and reveals what is accurate and true in a world full of lies. That truth is known through reading the scripture and fellowship with the Body of Christ.
Second, the souls of people. We spend so much of our time focused on things that don’t last and can’t profit us, and often too little time on the people around us that have eternal souls that need love, hope, and encouragement. The greatest commandment was two in one, inseparable, love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40).
- Listen for what God is saying for the moment.
We have the gift of hearing from Heaven and must choose to use it. Those who have ears to hear should use them (Matthew 11:15). Jesus’s followers are marked by their ability to hear his voice (John 10:27). Even in matters we feel trivial, or beneath his notice, God has something to say. He loves us and wants to walk with us, intimate in relationship. We must discipline our spiritual ears to listen to him in every moment.
- Trust in God’s provision.
When we listen, God will tell us to do things. Maybe that’s why we don’t listen? He often tells us to do things that challenge our thinking or plans or expectations, as we’ve already covered. As plans change and God redirects our steps to walk in ways that seem impossible, we have to trust that if he has called us, then he will provide the means and way to accomplish what he has set before us. Scripture tells us that in Christ, even it seems we have nothing, we own everything (2 Corinthians 6:10). As his children, we have the resources of Heaven.
- Be generous with what we have.
My pastor friend once told me, “Generosity is the currency of the Kingdom,” and I’ve never forgotten it. God so loved the world that he gave. He gave the best that he had to a people who didn’t deserve it. Once we are secure in his provision, we also offer what we have. Like the fishes and loaves, God takes what we give to him and multiplies it many times through his power and blessing.
The marked difference between the sheep and goats was who gave and who didn’t. It begins with a heart of giving and trust in his provision, but it must be expressed with actual giving. That blesses Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-46).
- Speak life and encouragement to others.
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17-21). For others to hear it, someone must speak it. We don’t have to possess a doctorate in theology to speak the truth. We have to love others and seek their eternal good. From that heart, listening to God, we can speak life to those around us, leading them to a God of love.
My mentor lost his father when he was ten years old, and he was so glad he told his father he loved him the night he died. That taught my mentor to take every opportunity to tell people we love them, hug them, welcome them. As I’ve gotten older and lost close friends and family to death, I’m so glad to have been taught that lesson.
We have been promised tomorrow, not on this earth which will pass away but in a New Heaven and Earth where we will enjoy God’s love and fellowship forever. Let’s live according to that promise and find a foretaste of that joy, helping to bring Heaven to earth.
And if we miss an opportunity, don’t worry. Another moment and opportunity is coming right behind.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/Kwangmoozaa
Britt Mooney (with his amazing wife, Becca) has lived as a missionary in Korea, traveled for missions to several countries, and now lives in Suwanee GA as a church planter that works bi-vocationally with Phoenix Roasters, a missional coffee company. He has a podcast about the Kingdom of God called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author with Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.