A Vision for the Future
by Leah Nichols 7/05/2010 / Christian Living
Ever wonder how your life will look five years down the road? Ten? Twenty?
What will you be doing? Will you be married? Have children? Grandchildren? Where will you live? How much money will be in your bank account? Will you even have a bank account?
How will you be serving God? Will you be a missionary? A teacher? A pastor? An evangelist? A stay-at-home-mom? Serving the homeless on Friday nights? Leading worship? Praying fervently on the intercession team? Writing encouraging articles to single women on the internet?
Where do you want to be? And what is your plan to get there?
Proverbs 16:9 tells us, "A man's [or woman's] heart plans his [or her] way, but the Lord directs his [or her] steps" (NKJV).
James also brings up a similar point:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:13-15 NKJV).
So, if God is in control, does that mean we just sit back and let things happen? What kind of responsibility do we have, then, over our actions as far as they affect our futures? What do we do with the desires and the visions God has placed on our hearts?
Six months before my wedding day, I knew I had a big change just over the horizon. Ryan and I had talked very seriously about the possibility of marriage, and the thought of moving across our state to start a new life in a new city. At the time, those visions felt far removed from my life as I cared for my daily responsibilities. To be sure, I desired the change, but my ring finger was still bare and our jobs fairly certain.
Fast forward six months, and there I was just moments away from my wedding - the day I had dreamed of since childhood. I was also writing a resume and cover letter, and searching Craigslist for housing in that city across the state. The days and weeks and months had flown away, and with them the fear and trepidation of making such a huge move in my life. I was so excited for what God had in store.
Does that mean I had any clue what I was going to do? Absolutely not. I still don't! In the next five or ten years we plan to pay off our debt, buy a house, have some kids, get involved in a church, do some ministry, grow in Christ, get to know each other more, etc. But those are loosely held plans.
What if tragedy strikes? If one of us gets an illness? If we lose our jobs, our house, our livelihood? If we can't have children? What if we have to move back to our hometown, or even leave for the mission field or another location?
We can't see tomorrow. We can only dream. And our dreams must be held to the light of Christ. God knows what He's doing here. Our ultimate goal is not the American dream, even if it sounds wonderful. Our goal is to be more like Christ everyday - no matter what life throws at us.
God is ultimately in control of the universe, and He does direct our lives, but He also does a dangerous thing: He gives us a choice. Each day, we have a daily decision - will we obey Him? Will we submit to His plan?
Joshua had a warning for the people of Israel as he gave his last address:
"Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil for you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
So the people answered and said: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods....We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God."
But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God....If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good."
And the people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:14-27 NKJV)
The sad reality of the story, as most of us know, is the Israelites did not serve the Lord, despite their promises and their vows. The practices of the nations around them drew them to serve other gods, forsaking God, even after all He had done for them.
This warning we need to take to heart. Every decision we make today will affect our future. I can say with my mouth that I desire to serve the Lord, and do "this or that" in the future. But unless I submit my every plan to His purposes, the daily decisions I make could lead me into paths I never intended to take.
For example, in order to serve the Lord most effectively and remain in obedience to God, it is best for a single woman to marry a Christian man who is also submitted to God (or to remain single, which is another point entirely. . .but I digress). In order to marry a Christian man, the woman must only date Christian men. In order to date Christian men, the woman must resolve in her heart to allow herself to interact with romantic intentions toward only Christian men. The daily decisions boil down to refusing to entertain romantic thoughts toward worldly men, no matter how much attention those men give her.
This kind of daily decision making, albeit logical, is not always easy to put into practice. Why? The sinful world we live in (and even the devil) aims to trip us up from walking the path of obedience toward God. The way of righteousness quite often runs directly opposite to the "do what feels good" attitude of the world. Refusing romantic attentions from a worldly man can be extremely difficult, especially if no one has given a single woman any attention for many years.
I know the struggle well - for many years before I met Ryan, I wondered if any Christian man would ever pay me attention. I wondered if marriage was an impossible dream. I had to refuse the attentions of many worldly men who were more than willing to offer something contrary to the guidelines of the Word of God. The daily decisions of life were often made with my head directing my heart - doing what I knew I should, despite what I felt.
God has given us clear guidelines in His Word for our lives. He also has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us of these guidelines. The desires of the world can be almost impossible to resist without the power of the Holy Spirit. Searching our hearts and cleansing our minds has to be a daily resolve, a daily habit, if we want to continue serving God with our entire lives.
The good news -- God honors obedience. He brought Ryan into my life, not only a Christian man, but a man who desires to serve the Lord with his life. His vision for the future matches mine. We both agree - no matter what happens, we desire to serve the Lord. The waiting and trusting isn't easy, but in the end it is worth it.
I asked earlier, "What kind of responsibility do we have, then, over our actions as far as they affect our futures?" Our daily actions will ultimately affect our futures. We have a responsibility to submit our daily lives to God if we desire our future lives to be thus submitted.
I can't see the future. I don't even know what's going to happen next week. But I do know that I have a vision for my life - a vision for my future -- I want to be serving God, no matter what happens.
So tomorrow, I am going to get up, read the Word, and resolve to live for God that day. And the next. And the next. And every day thereafter.
What's your vision for the future?
Leah writes in her spare time....whenever it's available. She and her husband Ryan live in the greater Los Angeles area, where she works as a labor/delivery nurse, writing and playing the violin on the side. She also enjoys cooking, baking, walking, and reading blogs on the internet.