Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, June 1st, 2023…Vapor Trails

A few weeks ago my wife and I were at our little cottage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I often do when we are there I took some time to sit on the deck and relax, taking in the warm sunshine, the gentle breezes carrying the fresh mountain air and the sound…of silence. I was basking in my perfect recipe for peaceful relaxation sitting with my feet propped on a small wicker ottoman and my head leaned against the back of the loveseat. My eyes as they often are when I have assumed such a position were closed, until…the silence was interrupted by the faint and far away sound of a jet engine. I opened my eyes scanning the bright blue sky, and sure enough there it was. The airplane was too far away to be seen, but the direction it had come from and that it was headed in, were no mystery. The vapor trail it left behind was as clear as the sky it was traveling through. On one end it kept extending following a silver pinpoint that was in actuality a very large metal fuselage. On the far end the trail widened and became less sharp in the sky. Interestingly, though I knew the plane was traveling through the clear sky at high speed, the vapor trail was not getting any longer, as it extended forward it equally dissipated behind. Then as soon as it had appeared, it was gone, out of my line of sight.

A familiar thought when I see one of those vapor trails appear while I am enjoying a healthy dose of R&R, once again escaped my lips. I turned to my wife and said, “There go important people, traveling to important places, to do important things.”  I always find the contrast of those people’s supposed existence…to mine in those moments…striking. In my mind’s eye those planes are crammed full of business men and women jetting to their next important meeting, where they will either succeed or fail. I imagine the stress they must be under as that metal tube propels them forward toward the next big thing in their lives. I on the other hand am so relaxed in my setting that I wouldn’t trade places with them for any amount of money, fame or success. Everything they are flying toward and working so hard for, could be gone as quickly as that vapor trail disappearing behind them. And, that peaceful mountain view I am taking in…that’s going to be there for a while.

James wrote about the disappearing act we are all engaged in. He reminds us that essentially we are all here today and gone tomorrow. However, He also pointed out that though we will not remain on this planet forever, our existence will continue on…even long after that awesome mountain view I enjoy so much, fades away. Allow me to read James 4:13-17 from my favorite paraphrase, The Remedy. There it is declared this way…

Pay close attention – especially those who say “In the next few days we are moving to a new city and will live there a year, open a business and make huge profits.” You don’t know what the future holds. Your life is like a vapor trail: here one minute and gone the next. You might not even be alive in a year. So stop being so rigid with your preplanning – it only increases your stress. Instead trust God with your future and how things turn out. Learn to say, “If it is in harmony with God’s plan for my life, then that is what I will do.”, and you will worry so much less. As it is you focus on yourselves; you brag, boast, and try to control everything in order to advance your own agenda. All selfishness is destructive. Anyone who knows God’s methods of love but chooses selfishness deviates from God’s design for life.

I know that it is incorrect for me to assume every person on those planes in the sky above are headed to their next business meeting, to make their next pitch, and close their next big deal. Undoubtedly some are in route to their own vacation destinations to enjoy a little R&R themselves. No matter who they are, where they are headed or why they are going there, James has some words of wisdom good for us all.

So often we talk about our plans as if it is completely within our power to see them come to fruition. Are we even aware that if we make plans to do this or that and tell the people what we are going to do, we are putting ourselves in God’s position? We might simply think we are informing others of our plans, but if we express those plans without understanding they may only happen if God wants them to happen, we are speaking about them with authority we do not possess. The bible tells us that it is only in Him we live, move and exist. (Acts 17:28) Literally, that means I don’t even draw my next breath or experience the next pulse of my blood flowing through my veins, without His expressed say-so. Jesus said that without Him we can’t do anything. (John 15:5) In light of those scriptures and others like them, we can see just how foolish it is for us to say what we will do, or where we will go, as if we do so by our own ability or power. To think that way is to claim equality with God. As a result, it is a recipe for adding unnecessary stress to our lives. Anytime we make assertions about what the outcome of something will be, especially if that thing is not completely within our control (and nothing is completely within our control), we create our own stress-filled environment.

If instead we do as James suggests and say if it is the Lord’s will I will go here and do this or that, we aren’t saddled with the weight of making sure it all goes according to our plan. Does this mean we shouldn’t plan ahead? Of course not. There are all kinds of scriptures that say we should plan, save, and make provision for tomorrow. Proverbs tells us that in the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil. However, we ought to express our plans with this exception…If it is the Lord’s will, I will…dot-dot-dot. The point of this is not as some might think to give God the option of vetoing or endorsing our plans. I think it is more profound than that. I think James is correcting our behavior that we might learn to seek the Lord more regularly for His plans, because that initiates a subtle but necessary change in us. When we seek the Lord’s desires before making our plans, we become outward thinkers. When we seek His will before determining our direction, we are putting Him above us as we should…and that develops selflessness.

Why is selflessness so important? Because selflessness is godly. When we are focused on where we are going and what we are going to do, the theme is we, which is selfish. If instead our desire is to know where God would have us go, and what God would have us do, the theme becomes He, which is selfless…just like He is.

So now, Asking God where you should go, and what you should do, before you declare to others…Go be Awesome!