James 4:15

Monday, 26 August 2019

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:15

James just spoke of the life of man being a mere vapor which appears for a short time and then it fades away. Because of this, it is boastful to claim that we will do something or another in the future. Now he instructs us on how we should state any future decision or goal, beginning with, “Instead you ought to say.” This is set in contrast to the words of verse 13 –

“Come now, you who say…”
“Instead you ought to say…”

Those in verse 13 proceeded to speak boastfully about what they would do. In fact, however, they didn’t know if they would be taking their next breath. James corrects this by showing that we should approach the future with humility by saying, “If the Lord wills.”

Other than the moment in which we presently exist, we have no idea what will transpire next. The ground could quake under us and the roof could then fall on us – life over. The future is known only to God, and we are to leave that unknown sea of time up to His will. In invoking His will, we can then say, “we shall live and do this or that.”

Both life, and what is done with that life, are up to His allowances. However, this is not a fatalistic approach to the future by any stretch of the imagination. Two things are occurring here –

1) If the Lord wills, we shall live (solely a decision of the Lord).
2) If the Lord wills, we shall do this or that (based on the granting of the first statement that we shall live, we will then act with freedom to choose what we will do).

The concept of free will in man is seen throughout Scripture, and it is revealed even in our acknowledging His sovereignty over the future. The Bible does not portray the fatalistic view of Islam or various other religions. Nor does it portray the autocratic rule of God – even in salvation – which is held to by Calvinism. Instead, it reveals that God is wholly sovereign over all things, and yet He has factored in our free will desires and actions. This is seen for example in Paul’s words, such as in 1 Corinthians 4:19 –

“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.”

Paul freely chooses to come to those in Corinth, and yet He understands that the Lord may not will him to do so. There is a synergism which is being displayed in the life of man who works within the confines of God’s overall sovereignty.

Life application: If you are ever talking with someone about future plans like traveling, starting a business, etc., and that person says, “I’ll be doing that, the Lord willing,” you can know that they are obeying this particular verse of the Bible. Instead of speaking as if the plans are certain, this individual is willing to acknowledge that God is sovereign and our decisions and hopes are based solely on His allowance of them coming to completion.

This attitude does several things –

1) It rightly gives credit to the Lord for achievements in our life.
2) It removes from us an aspect of the stain of failure should our plans not come to fruition.
3) It keeps us living in the Spirit because we are ever-conscious of His guiding power in all matters.

As God allows or restrains the intentions of the wicked, how can we expect to land safely at the next airport without the Lord’s protection? As God is in control of the natural forces, how can we expect to climb a mountain during an earthquake? As God is in control of our very heartbeat and breath, how can we make plans to see our children’s marriage apart from His allowance of it? As God likewise controls the lives of others, how can we expect even one more visit from our father or mother? Every moment is precious and every moment is controlled completely by Him. Therefore, whatever we plan, it should be with the understanding that it will only come about if the Lord allows it to occur.

Lord, forgive us for looking to the future and thinking that we have any control over it. We can only hope to have what we wish for, but in the end we must rely on Your open hand to provide it. Please remind us to be sure to acknowledge Your sovereign hand over all things when we speak of our plans for the future. Amen.

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