I love the New Year for the fresh start it gives us on setting goals and making life adjustments.
But in all our preparing and planning, it’s good to remember that our lives belong to God, and we are simply stewards—managers—of what He has entrusted to us.
How do New Year’s goals look different when you remember this?
This past Sunday morning at Lancaster Baptist Church, we looked at James 4:13–17 and learned from this passage about Successfully Stewarding the New Year. I’d like to share the same life stewardship tips with you.
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.—James 4:13–17
In all of our new year’s planning, sometimes we cross the line into presumption. We decide what we want our lives to look like, set our goals, and put our plans in motion…all without really considering God’s will.
This was the problem with the people in James 4. Interestingly, that passage is actually a passage about planning. In fact, their plans don’t look like bad New Year’s goals! And James never condemns them for setting goals and making plans. He only warns them not to plan without God.
Planning itself biblically commended. The psalmist prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Presumption, however, is biblically condemned. Jesus also condemned another great “planner” in Luke 12. Notice again the presumption in this man’s plans:
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.—Luke 12:16-21
So plan, yes! But plan with God in mind and a desire to, first of all, do His will.
Assess God’s Purposes
Ultimately, we have one purpose—to glorify God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
And yet each of us have God-given responsibilities that fall under that purpose. When we set goals for life stewardship, we are wise to set them according to the responsibilities and roles God has given us.
One of the main lessons of James 4 is that our lives are so short—a vapor. When we remember the great purposes that God has entrusted to us and we remember how short our lives actually are, it motivates us to plan so that we use the time God has given to us.
But to use it wisely, we must not only remember life’s brevity; we must also remember a coming eternity. Because our identity is found in Christ, we should live for things that matter in light of His return.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.—Colossians 3:1–4
Activate a Plan
Remember, James did not condemn these Christians for planning, but for planning without God. In fact, he told them they should plan—“For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
As we set goals, then, we must do it in submission to God’s will—trusting Him and humbly yielding to Him.
But James 4 reminds us that there is no virtue in setting no plans at all. In fact, verse 17 warns, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
How do we know what is “good” to do? From the pages of God’s Word. For instance:
- It is good to spread the gospel. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
- It is good to give to the cause of Christ. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19).
- It is good to help fellow believers. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
So our plans for the new year should be plans to do “good” according to the responsibilities and commands God has given to us.
One of my favorite statements is the quote, “Life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to Him.” The same could be said of a new year. Determine to steward this year for God.