Reflections on James 4:13-17
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring – what your life will be! For you are like a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is sin to know the good and yet not to do it.”James 4:13-17, CSB
I recently studied through the book of James. This short epistle has been one of my favorite books of the Bible for years. I am a practical thinker by nature, and it is chock-full of practical applications teaching us how to live out our Christian faith. It was penned by a man named James, who was the half-brother of Jesus. James also led the church in Jerusalem at the time this was written. He wrote to Jewish Christians. That’s why it is written with the assumption that the reader is a follower of Christ. He primarily addresses the question of what it means to live in the world as a believer. Many in his original audience, like many of us today, attempted to keep one foot in the world, while halfway acknowledging Christ as Lord. They were believers, saved by faith in Christ, but they clung to their ways of life before submitting to the Savior.
While I could write a book about how God has used the book of James to shape and teach me, I am going to focus on James 4:13-17. During this last reading of the book, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and convicted me deeply, especially regarding this passage.
How often do we say “Lord-Willing?” Why do we think it’s ok to say “Lord-willing” in the same way we say things like “Knock on wood?” Reading this passage of Scripture leads me to ask – Do I really desire the will of the Lord above my own? Or do I say this, thinking that if I don’t, my plans may not come about? Why do I feel the need to “throw God a bone” when I’ve already decided what is going to happen and how? Is this a genuine prayer of my heart or a superstitious mantra I say, fingers crossed, wishing my desired plans will come to fruition?
Making plans and preparations is not sinful. It is important to be mindful of the future and be faithful stewards of what God gives us. However, putting our assurance and confidence in those plans becomes our downfall.
I love plans. I like making the plan and seeing it through to the end. I like to be in control of the plan. When plans are not concrete, or they change constantly, it makes me crazy. During stress-filled seasons of my life, being forced to change the slightest detail of a plan (especially one I created) can send me into a tailspin.
I know I am not alone in feeling this way. What is the real problem here? So what? I like things to be organized, and I like plans to be made in advance and honored in the moment. My problem is that, far too often, my hope rests in that. The sense of control I desire is not control I will ever have or need. When I feel my perceived control slipping through my fingers, I hate it. This visceral, instinctual reaction reveals the true state of my heart. I can say that I truly desire the will of God over my own. I can say this to others and even to myself, over and over again until I start to believe it. Then, when things aren’t going as I expected, my heart shows itself. It is exposed for the deceitful, fickle thing that it is.
How do I fix it? I can’t. You can’t. BUT GOD. In Christ, we have blessed assurance. We can rest in the grace of God, who saves us. I don’t need control because my God is SOVEREIGN. He is good and perfect. He is love. He never changes or wavers. He always has been and always will be. Thinking about the character of God makes me realize that He is everything that I am not. I am sinful. Pride and arrogance drive me when I’m left to my own devices. My heart is deceptive, wavering and falling every single day. My life is just a vapor, a brief moment in time. I don’t need control. God in His grace, His kindness, His mercy, His LOVE, is in full control of everything.
I struggle every single day, with this need for control. I’m sure I will until I go to heaven. I pray to the Lord to help me, to forgive me for my arrogance. May I never boast in myself, but only in what Christ did for me!
Our hope is not in ourselves, and for that I am eternally grateful. It’s a deep joy and inexplicable peace knowing that I could never save myself. God saved me, and there is nothing or no one that can change that, including me. I was born a sinner, just like every other person in this world. Through his infinite grace and mercy, God saved me from the death I deserve. Only in Christ do we have true security and peace. Only in Him can we put our unwavering trust, knowing He will NEVER let go.
For everything was created by him [Christ], in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones of dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.Colossians 1:16-17, CSB