If you’ve flown recently, you have probably followed the normal custom of walking by the pilot on your way out the airplane and thanking them for safely delivering your family to your destination. While it is obvious that a pilot is a contributor to the safe delivery of airline passengers, there is a lesser-known person who has a major role in each safe flight: the Air Traffic Controller.
THE GUIDES IN THE SKIES
The people who work in Air Traffic Control have an extremely important job. Though each man and woman who pilots an aircraft has thousands upon thousands of hours of training, they each have a very limited understanding of the other factors that go into their flight. The pilot rarely knows who is flying around him nor does he have their exact location and altitude. A pilot has a limited understanding of the different dangers on the flight pathway, and is therefore unable to fly to the destination safely without the help of Air Traffic Control.
The people who make up Air Traffic Control perform a high-stress and high-stakes job every single day. In fact, the job is so demanding, the mandatory retirement age is 56 to prevent age-related fatigue from endangering those in the air. Air Traffic Controllers know which planes in their region are in the air and they know the exact location and altitude of each aircraft. Since they know where each aircraft is located, they are able to prevent mid-air collisions (especially near airports) and manage the busy “highways” in the skies. The Air Traffic Controller’s knowledge of the big picture is what ultimately allows the pilot to deliver hundreds of passengers safe to their destination.
What if a pilot decided not to consult Air Traffic Control? You probably don’t even want to imagine the sheer horror of commercial airlines colliding in the sky or running into each other as they attempted to land at the same landing strip. Each pilot is smart enough (and legally obligated) to consult ATC because they realize that their decisions affect hundreds of other lives onboard the aircraft.
THE GUIDE OF YOUR LIFE
In a sense, each of us pilot our own plane and take it to the destination we choose. What we often forget, though, is that there are other passengers aboard our plane and our life decisions affect them just as much. When a man chooses a career path, he has onboard of his plane a wife, kids, friends, church family and more that will be impacted by his choice of career. The college a young person chooses to attend will affect their parents, friends, and the unknown people in their future at that particular college. Financial decisions always seem to affect people other than yourself: the family you provide for and the church to which you give, just to name a few.
I think anyone could agree that the number of passengers on board only highlights the fact that you need an external force to guide you in every major decision of your life. You need someone who sees things you can’t see and can give you the best course to take to the intended destination. If you’re a Christian, then you’re in luck because you have a loving heavenly Father who wants you to make wise decisions that will be best for you and the other people aboard your aircraft. In fact, He cares so much about us making the right decisions that He gave us one filter that would help us make the right decision in every situation.
IF THE LORD WILL
Before James wrote his letter to the scattered believers he knew so well, it is possible that he had caught wind of some plans that they were making to take a short-term business trip into another country. The plans weren’t intrinsically evil: they were just going to do some business and make a profit for themselves. The plans were even well thought-out: they knew where they were going, when they’d be leaving, how long they’d be staying, and they evidently determined that they would be able to make a profit in this other country. If there wasn’t anything wrong with the plans themselves, then why did James correct them at the end of chapter 4? The problem with their plans was that they failed to make their plans with consideration to God’s will,
“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
Was James commanding these believers to tack on the words, “Lord willing” to all of their stated plans? “Lord willing, we’re going to have lunch with our friends tomorrow and, Lord willing, we’ll be eating at the restaurant that opened up last week.” Sounds a little strange, right? What James was telling these believers was that all of their plans needed to pass through this one filter before they acted upon them. No plan was to be approved before they could confidently answer this one question, “Does God want me to do this?” Even if their business trip seemed like a profitable venture and fit into their calendar, they were best served if they made sure that God approved of their plans.
That means our plans, no matter how thought-out, should always pass through the filter of God’s will. When you are deciding if you are going to marry a significant other, it’s not good enough just to see if you are attracted to each other and compatible. You need to also answer this question, “Does God want me to marry this person?” That will take some time in God’s Word figuring out the type of person He wants you to marry, it will require prayer and fasting, and it will take humbling yourself to seek the counsel of a spiritual mentor. The next time you are making a career decision, it’s not good enough just to assess the work environment of your next job, or the living situation of a city to which you might relocate. You also have to seek God through prayer and figure out if this is job change is something God wants for your life. It’s wise to make major financial decisions not just by looking at your spare monthly income or your need for a new possession, but to also consider what God’s Word potentially has to say about the purchase you’re going to make.
But why? It takes a lot of extra effort and time to confidently be able to answer if something is God’s will, doesn’t it? It requires an understanding of the direct commands and principles in the Bible relate to your situation. It often takes weeks of prayer, and possibly fasting, to get the confidence that you are following God’s will, and it takes a lot of humility to ask for someone else to give you advice about a situation you think you know perfectly. Frankly, decisions often seem so urgent that it seems impractical to seek God’s will before we choose what to do. James told the believers who received his letter one reason why it would be worth all of the trouble: God is infinite, while you are not.
YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE
Many reading this blog post have heard verse 14 over and over again, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Many times, we’ve heard that verse used as a way to scare people into accepting Christ because life could end at any moment, but that doesn’t seem to be the intended meaning in the context. It seems that James is trying to emphasize to some proud believers that they are very finite people with a very limited knowledge: they don’t even know how long their lives will last, let alone be able to guess how well their business would be received in a foreign country. On the other hand, they serve and are under the authority of a very infinite God who has all wisdom. It just made sense that they would seek the counsel of their infinite God before they made that major decision.
It just makes sense to seek God’s will before every major decision you make. In a way much greater than Air Traffic Control, God has an understanding of all of the factors surrounding your decision that you can’t see. God sees the heart of a boss who is hiring with promises he can’t keep. God sees the shifts of economy that could leave you jobless within 5 years of switching to a career in a new industry, and God sees the deepest secrets in the heart of someone who is pretending to be a different person just to secure a marriage. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a few weeks seeking God’s will about a decision that will impact your life for years? It just makes sense to let God shape your plans because He’s the one who holds your future.
You know why planning your future God’s way is always worth it? It’s worthwhile because you always have the security that you’re taking the best path on your journey and you know the other passengers on board your aircraft are in good hands. When you let God shape your plans, you can take every bump knowing that God intended for you to be there, and you can push through every inadequacy knowing that God is going to help you through. Let God shape your plans because he holds your future; you’ll never regret it.