(This is a post I wrote back in 2012)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. – James 4:13-16
I’ve been thinking about these verses for the last couple of days. They came to mind while I was thinking about my summer. I didn’t have any plans for this summer, and yet I’ve been kept very busy with writing, work, tennis camp, and VBS. I’m only part way through this summer, and next month might keep me even busier. It just made me stop and think about how true those verses in James are.
Since I kept thinking about these verses, I decided to do some studying.
James most likely wrote the book to scattered Jewish believers. His emphasis was on the believer living out a godly life. One way to look at this book is as a series of tests to examine the genuineness of a person’s faith. Many of the truths in this book can be found in the Old Testament as well as many references to the Sermon on the Mount.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. – Proverbs 27:1
It’s easy for me to plan my week and think that it will all happen exactly as I have planned. However, it seems more often than not, things never go as planned. Or, as this summer has shown, I can have no plans and later realize that I have been kept busy with things I never would have imagined myself doing. A good reminder that I have no way of knowing what my future will look like.
Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand. – Proverbs 19:21
Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way? – Proverbs 20:24
God already has our life planned out for us. No matter what we think we want or what we think we already have planned, it is nothing compared to what God has in store for us. We can’t know what God has ordained for us, but we can know who God is. We know that we can trust Him to take care of us. We must constantly walk in faith knowing that God has only the best planned out for us. (Matthew 6:25-34)
James tells us to say “If the Lord wills” when making plans to do something. I remember the first time I heard someone say that. My 11th and 12th grade teachers would say at the end of class, “See you tomorrow, Lord willing.” I thought it was weird. I think that was just because I wasn’t used to hearing that. Some people might call it “old-fashioned”. Yet, James 4:13-16 tells us to say that.
Paul uses some variation of “If the Lord wills” at least 6 times (Acts 18:21, 21:14 Romans 1:10, 15:32, 1 Corinthians 4:19, 16:7). He understood that he could only do what the Lord had already planned for him. Paul trusted God completely, and he showed it my submitting his life to the Lord and by being willing to follow and serve Him in whatever way He chose.
However, it’s not just the act of saying “Lord willing”, but it’s believing that we can’t know what tomorrow will bring. It’s believing that only God knows, and it’s trusting Him with our life, no matter what happens. When we make plans, we should remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty. We need to remember that God is always in control of everything. Paul’s life showed that he truly believed this.
For me, I believe all these things. Yet, I know I can easily forget them. It’s easy to fall into the lie that we can plan out our own lives better than God. I don’t want to do that. I pray that God reminds me of these truths when I try to plan my own life. I know God has plans for me that are bigger and better than anything I could imagine. I pray that I don’t get caught up in the lie and forget how important His plans are. He is all-knowing, and He gives me peace and hope for my life.
As you try to decide what you will do this weekend, or for the rest of your life, don’t forget that God is in control. Don’t forget to seek His guidance and wisdom in every area of your life.
Your sister in Christ,