By: Dr. Matt Shackelford
As I think of a brand-new year with unlimited possibilities, I’m reminded of a man named Larry Walters. One day Larry was bored. He always felt like his life would never amount to anything but a “dead-end.” So, one day, Larry decided to try “something new.” On July 2nd of, 1982, Larry decided to rig up a series of 42 weather balloons tied to a Sears lawn chair. With that decision and armed with only a pellet gun (for the altitude), Larry lifted off! It was a fantastic experience. At several thousand feet in the air, he had his breath taken away… His mind started getting “fuzzy” with the altitude. To say Larry was shocked to be thousands of feet in the air would be the understatement of his life. He wasn’t the only one shocked! A Southwest pilot radioed the tower saying, “You’re not going to believe this… ‘Some guy’ is floating across the sky in a lawn chair!” Eventually, Larry started shooting down a few balloons, and within a few hours, he landed safely in Long Beach, CA. That crazy decision got him a lot of things… First, it got him arrested. Apparently, piloting a lawn chair is frowned upon by the FAA. Second, it made him famous. He went on the Tonight Show, got a Timex Watch ad, and even had to quit his job to become a motivational speaker! He never saw any of that coming.
Larry’s story is impressive and instructive. Larry is an example of a man who presumed his future. Yet, he never dreamed of what would be in store for him after the day he took off.
Isn’t that the very issue James chapter 4 addresses? In James 4:13-15 we read, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
So often, we live with this sense of “practical atheism.” We often live as if we are God and the masters of our destiny. Then, James reminds us how limited and dependent we are. That correction is a needed message for the new year, and it humbles us as we make our plans.
In 2023 I hope you will step forward into new ministries, reach out to the community, and grow a healthy culture of trust and love. Most of us have no shortage of plans, and our calendar is a part of life. James is not discouraging good planning. He’s saying you and I should live so that we submit all our plans to God’s sovereign will and seek the Lord’s will, not our own. So let’s keep those words close by, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”