Five Lies That Ruin Relationships – we are on lie number three, how our jobs can destroy our relationships. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s a miracle story. This is a miracle story. It is a true story. And it has a sad, sad ending, and makes an amazing point.
In my very first pastorate in Texas, in a very small, rural town, about forty-five hundred people – it didn’t even have a stoplight when we got there. And we were in this little, tiny white building, about ten miles outside of town.
And we started with about thirty-five people, and God blessed, and, little by little, we grew. And it was a really warm group. And we had probably grown to a couple hundred people, and had remodeled an old high school.
And then, a fellow came into town. His name was Henry. And Henry was next-door neighbors to a seminary student that went to our church, and he began to build a relationship with Henry, and he said, “I think God really wants to reach Henry.” And so, he said, “Would you go over with me? And let’s meet Henry. I’ve talked to him a couple of times out in the yard, but let’s just visit.”
And so, I still – vividly, in my mind – this is twenty-some years ago – I remember coming to the door and knocking on it, drapes closed. It’s Texas, three or four in the afternoon, a hundred and two degrees, bright, hot. The drapes are closed, and I’m thinking, No one’s here. And so, we knock, and I look at him, he looks at me, “I guess they’re not home.” “Well, there’s their car.” And so, we knock again.
And to make a very long story short, finally, we hear people talking, so someone’s in there. But it’s like, Why won’t they answer the door? And, finally, someone opens the door, and we walk in, and it’s dark. There’s one little light, and it’s – you talk about depressing.
And we walked in, and we talked a little bit, and made a relationship. He was very closed, socially. His wife, I don’t think, said an entire word. Some kids came out, and looked behind. And that was the beginning of a miracle in Henry’s life. And this is with permission. Henry is a very good friend.
Henry and his wife both came from as dysfunctional, difficult, abusive backgrounds as your mind can ever imagine – so sad. And so, in great need, they met each other. And when people who come from horrendous backgrounds meet one another, and get married, apart from the Lord Jesus, they just reproduce exactly what they came out of.
And this was so over the top. They actually had one of their young daughters who was diagnosed as being mentally retarded. And we learned, later, that she really wasn’t mentally retarded, she was so emotionally retarded, and had such a low self-image, and lived in such a world that was so dysfunctional, she not only thought she was dumb – she didn’t take any risks. She was about twelve or thirteen years old, and could not read, and did not know the alphabet.
And I wish I could tell you all that happened, but this is one of those great stories. The power of the body of Christ. My seminary friend loved them, and communicated with them. It took time. Little by little they started coming to church.
And you can imagine, with those backgrounds, they didn’t have the greatest social skills. Walking in ways where they sent all the messages that make you say, “Let’s not get around those people. They have problems.”
And this church didn’t do that. They loved them. And people began to put their arms around his wife, and care for her, and began to invest in the kids. My wife actually took that little girl, and they met every Wednesday night, for about a year and a half. My wife taught her to read, got her up to about a third or fourth-grade reading level, began to give her little verses, and love her, and help her understand. She was an emerging, young, little woman, about twelve, thirteen.
And then, about four of us couples got together, and we paid her way to a Christian school, and she got mainstreamed. And you watched this little girl start to bloom.
And Henry, though – people can come from terrible backgrounds. You think they’re dumb. Henry was really smart. And he worked at one of those places where they drill and dye. But, man, he could fix anything.
And pretty soon we had him working around the church, and pretty soon he was involved with some men. And his kids had been through really difficult, difficult times, and you just watched them come out of their shells. This was awesome!
And Henry actually came to the point where there was a little house, and through the help of some people, he actually bought his own first house, and he got involved in the life of the church. And it was like as clear a picture from darkness to light as I have ever seen in my life.
And then, as Henry began to grow, and get into the Scriptures, and lead his family, the drapes were opened, and they built relationships. And it was like seeing a dead flower, and then watching it just totally be replanted, and then start to produce fruit.
And then, Henry got a job offer – because when God does things in your heart and life, and things really get going better, well, pretty soon, Henry’s changing, and he has more confidence, and he’s a very, very bright guy. And pretty soon, they have him doing other things, and he gets this juicy job offer, two states away. And it means more money; it means, actually, some people reporting to Henry. I mean, this is like, whoa! And so, Henry prays about it, about thirty seconds, and decides that this is what he’s going to do. And he is heading out.
And so, we stopped – and it was one of those times where – you never want to thwart someone’s good fortune, and that God may really be working, but I just sat down with Henry – and he was now in a small group of men, and we said, “Henry, you need to think this through.” “What do you mean?” We said, “Well, you need to think this through. What do you think this is going to do? It’s been three and a half years, your wife now has a friend for the first time in her life.
“Your daughter is in a school, and some people are actually taking care of it. And she’s gone from someone who they thought was mentally retarded to a young woman who is blooming, and growing, and has confidence. Your older daughter, who’s been a recluse, is beginning, now, to open up, and build some friendships. And your son is doing well. You actually own a house, and are making progress.”
And I said, “Henry, you have a church that loves you! And I just think, before you say ‘yes’ to this job, you ought to go check this out. And is there a church that is going to accept you and love you? And is there going to be education for your family? In other words, maybe a great job is not the only basis for relocating your whole family.” And he said, “Oh, well, it’ll all be fine.” And he took the job. And about four months later, things did not work out, and his family began to get back in the very dysfunctions that they had experienced before.
Within a year, he had a very difficult time with his older daughter. Regression occurred with almost everyone. And about two years later, I remember my wife getting a call at home; Henry and his family were homeless, and living in their station wagon, and he was in some state, calling because he just had this connection with our family. And would say, “Hey, I’m really struggling, and I know you guys pray for us. Here’s our situation. Could you…?”
And we’re going to learn that, sometimes, we can make decisions about a job that might be a great job, but that can destroy our relationships. There are some upwardly mobile vocational opportunities that, because of the culture that we live in, we can automatically assume, I have this kind of job, now I could have this kind of job or this kind of opportunity,” and we automatically do it. And the only thing we think about is the value of the job, and the perks, and the benefits, and sometimes we don’t consider that we can actually make bad decisions about our jobs that ruin our relationships.
And in the very first session, I heard a group of people, at least in this room, say, “The most important thing in all the world is not things, or money, or jobs; it’s relationships.”
And so, let’s pick it up together. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to get to listen in. James is going to allow us to be like a little mouse in the corner, or a microphone in the room, in James chapter 4, verses 13 to 17. And there’s a strategic planning meeting going on.
The historical context is, it’s called the diaspora. The Jews were just persecuted, and they were sent out in their synagogues everywhere, and now the Church is growing. And the way the Church grew is that it was to the Jew first, and then also to the Greek. So, it went out, and you notice Paul, he would always go to the synagogue first. And so, now, as the Church is growing and multiplying, there were unbelievable financial opportunities.
And these people are business people. And these people, as the trade routes – you’re going to learn – there are a few words here – that these are merchants. These are people that know how to start a business, see an opportunity, leverage the opportunity, make some plans, and, man, “We’re going to hit it big.”
And so, you’re listening as this is happening over Europe and Northern Africa. James is picking up, and you’re listening to a strategic planning session of two people.
And it says, “Come now” – and, literally, it means, “Whoa! Wait a minute! Wow! We’ve got an opportunity” – “you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’”
And so, James goes, “Wait a minute, come now, stop, reevaluate.” And that little phrase, “You who say” – the word for say, here, means, “you who have carefully researched and developed a logical plan.” That’s the word for say.
It’s just not casually, “Oh, you who say this.” It’s, “You, who, after thinking carefully about what you’re going to do, have come up with a plan. You say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a city, and we’re going to spend a year” – literally, it says, “We’re going to do a year there, and we’re going to engage in business.” And we get our word for emporium. It’s merchants. It’s a ground-floor opportunity. “Man, look at this. We’re going to get the first market share,” is what they are saying. “And we’re going to make a profit.”
So, notice what the business plan included. He chooses his time. It’s very clear: “today or tomorrow.”
Second, he selects his location, right? In business, it’s “location, location, location,” right? So, he selects his location. He’s got a map out, and he says, “Okay, here’s the opportunity. Here’s where we’re going to go.”
Notice, he limits his stay. He says, “We’ll do a year. It’s a ground floor opportunity. We are going to open another franchise in this area, in this specific location.”
He defines his market. “We’re going to engage in business. Here’s our market. This is what we bring. This is the opportunity.”
And finally, he projects his profits. He’s projecting cost. I have to believe there is a P&L statement somewhere: “It’s going to cost us so much to be here. Here’s the opportunity. Here’s what we’re going to do.” He has a very thorough business plan.
And so, you say to yourself, Well, what’s the problem? It sounds like a great opportunity, sounds like Henry’s opportunity. Man, more money, better job, people reporting to you. He planned it. He thought it through. He examined the market. He set specific times. He has a specific goal. What’s the problem?
James is going to say, inspired by the Holy Spirit – here’s the problem – the business plan excluded God. The business plan excluded God.
James is not prohibiting planning. The Bible is full of admonition that we should plan. He is not criticizing making a profit. The Bible is really clear. “Be shrewd; be wise with your money.”
What he is criticizing is this: arrogant presumption, or leaving God out of our plans. It’s getting so excited about an opportunity, of just immediately thinking, Well, here’s the opportunity. We can make money. It’s upwardly mobile – bam! – it must be God’s will. That’s what he’s saying is, “You arrogantly have left God out of your job decision, and your business planning.”
Notice what it says in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” Or Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
God wants us to plan, but He wants our plans to flow out of a sensitive heart that says, Lord, I see a great opportunity. I want this filtered through Your will. I want to hear Your voice. I want to depend on You. What do You want me to do? And is this the job, or the right promotion, at the right time, and in the right way?
So, it raises the question, “Why is planning apart from God so dangerous?” And in verse 14, James is going to teach us exactly why planning apart from God is so dangerous. Because what he is going to say, in verse 14, is that bad decisions about work flow from some false assumptions.
Pick it up, as I read verse 14, “Why” – he makes a statement – “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” “You have this big plan, and you say you’re going to go here. We’re going to go for a year. We’re going to open up this market. There’s a franchise; it’s a can’t-miss opportunity.” And James says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait! So, when did you get your crystal ball? You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.”
And then, he asks a question, a big question. And notice, he doesn’t ask about his job or his work. He says, “What is your life?” So, what is the big ball of wax – what is your life, when you think about it?
And then – in this translation, it leaves out a little word. In the original text, there’s the word gar. It means the word for. And the reason – “What is your life?” He answers, “For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
See, the biblical answer to, “What is your life?” is, “You are a shadow. You are a vapor.” The word for mist, here, was fog, or smoke. It’s the idea of fog coming up – it burns off by ten a.m. It’s here, and it’s gone.
Your life is transitory. Your life is short. Your life is unpredictable. Your life is way different than you really think. And out of this, what you see is, there are two false assumptions to planning apart from God.
False assumption number one is that life is predictable. Life is predictable. It’s subtle. We tend to think, as things have been, so they will continue to be. And when we buy the lie, we set ourselves up for disaster.
The truth is, life is uncertain. The truth is, life is very unpredictable, and that we don’t know what’s going to happen.
I was with an executive in the Silicon Valley – and he became a member of our board for a period of time – and he was an upper-level of the top two or three guys at Cisco in their heyday, when they were the largest company. And not they are not in their heyday, but that was when they were just acquiring, acquiring, merging, merging.
And we were sitting on a plane, because he had joined the board, and he became a good friend and a counselor, because I’m not good on the business side, and my theory is, do what you’re supposed to do, and get really smart, capable, intelligent, wise people to figure out all the stuff that you’re really dumb at. And so, I would ask him all the questions about, “How do we do these things?”
And it was interesting – there was a copy of Forbes and it had the top forty wealthiest men on it. And it was an old magazine. You know how, in planes, they get stuck? And so, this one was almost a year old. And we pulled out a Forbes magazine, and he, because of his life and relationship, either knew or was aware of most of the top forty.
And he said, “You know what, Chip? Let me tell you about, you talk about, here’s the problem in business.” And he pulls out a pen, like this, and he took that, and he goes like this. And it was like, “See that guy? He’s broke. He’s broke. He’s –” “What?” “He’s broke. They went completely under.”
A year ago, can you imagine? In one year, being one of the forty wealthiest people in America, and twelve months later, being either broke, or…
He said, “Actually,” and then, he started to explain stuff about how you can make a bunch of money, and on paper it looks like this, and you have to pay taxes on what is on the paper, but you don’t really get all the money. So, when you go broke, you actually now have to pay taxes on all this theoretical money. I don’t get it, but you business guys probably get it.
He said, “They’re worse than broke.” He said, “Now they have debt there’s no way out of.” I thought, Wow, that’s interesting.
See, we think things are going to be as they are; it’ll be the same. We think life is predictable. It’s subtle.
I came across an article that talks about how unpredictable and how dangerous it is to plan apart from God. It says, “Decca Records controlled the American music industry for decades. Their ear for talent was unmatched.” Now, this is a little nostalgic, historic here. “As a result, they owned the giants of the time – Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Buddy Holly were just a few of the stars in their vast universe of talent. Then they acquired Universal Pictures and MCA. Decca Records was positioned to be absolutely unstoppable.
“But in 1962, after their talent scouts reviewed a group of mop heads from Liverpool named The Beatles, Decca said, ‘We don’t like their sound, and besides, guitar music is on the way out.’ Ten years later, the Decca record label disappeared.”
The article goes on, “Economist Irving Fisher, in October” – this is great – “of 1929” – a leading economist – “said, ‘The stock market has reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.’ Just a few months later, a deafening crash was heard throughout America, as Wall Street collapsed.” This guy is the Greenspan of his day. It’s, “Oh, man, it’s going to be great,” right?
The final aspect of this: “In 1942, Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, said, ‘There is a market for about five computers in the entire world. There is no reason to risk our current success on such a limited venture.’”
False assumption number one of why it’s so dangerous to plan apart from God is that we think life is predictable. Life is not predictable. The only guarantee is change.
False assumption number two is that life is long. Not only is it predictable, it’s going to stay the way it is, but I’m going to live a long time! We unconsciously think other people have car wrecks, plane crashes, and cancer, unexplained tragedy. I’m going to live long, so I have plenty of time to do whatever really is important - later.
Remember the parable Jesus told, in Luke chapter 12, of the man whose prosperity got so big, he said, “You know, the only thing I can figure out to do is, I’m going to tear down all these barns, and I’m going to build bigger and bigger and bigger barns. I’m going to store and store and store, and hoard and hoard and hoard, and I’m going to eat, drink, and be merry! Because, wow, I’ve got it made! I’m going to ‘live forever’ emotionally.” That’s how they think.
And remember how Jesus ends that parable? “You fool. This very night your life will be required of you.”
We plan as though – you know those mortuary tables, and they say, “You’re this old, and you’re going to live to this…”? Those are tables! Those aren’t real people. Okay? That means, there are some percentages, and insurance companies kind of figure those out, but, how many people, you think, before the hurricanes that have happened, and the tsunamis that have happened – what do you think that did to the mortality tables?
Life is short. And when we make job decisions apart from God, and we somehow think that the economy, and things, and people, and structures are going to stay the same, and somehow that we’re this exception, and that our life is going to be whatever the table is, and, “Seventy for most people, eighty for some – I’ll bet I’m an eighty-four. I’m the big exception.” And we never intellectually do that, but we act as though that is true. He says you get in trouble.
Your life is a mist. You should be like Psalm 90: ‘Lord, teach me to number my days. Lord, help me to present before You a heart of wisdom. Lord, show me what Your will is.’”