STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17)
Back in the day when pastors didn’t have equipment to produce bulletins, after Sunday services they made oral announcements. One pastor in particular brought out his schedule book for this purpose. It was referred to as his “God willing” book, because all his announcements were preceded by saying, “God willing,” this or that meeting will be held. He prefaced his announcements this way, for since all things are subject to God’s providential will, and only God knows the future, Christians bow to His will concerning the future.
In the section of Scripture before us, James was addressing Jewish Christians who didn’t take into account the Lord’s will in regard to their plans. They sinfully boasted that without a doubt they would be making a business trip to a certain city and after a given length of time they would come away with a profit from their dealings. These foolish people believed that the future rested in their hands without God having a say in the matter. They failed to keep in mind that their lives were like vapor; it might well vanish in the next moment. Then what would become of their plans?
God oversees everything in this world and governs our lives according to His gracious good will. Since He possesses all wisdom and can foresee the future, the Lord rules according to what is best for us. So then, when we make plans, it is good for us to keep in mind and even include in our conversations that whatever we are hoping to do, ultimately it is up to God if it is to take place.
Jesus Christ, Who had all wisdom and knew the future, was willing to entrust His earthly life into the hands of
His heavenly Father. He knew
well God’s plan for our eternal salvation which involved His suffering many things, including His sacrificial death on the cross. Being aware of what lay ahead for Him, Jesus said to God, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36) Thank God that Jesus was willing to submit to His Father’s will, for it results in making us heirs of heaven.
Some years back after our congregation in Ipswich, South Dakota, celebrated a Christmas Eve service, a ninety-year-old member said to me, “I’ll see you tomorrow, pastor.” For some reason it popped into my head to respond by saying, “Lord willing.” The next morning the Lord in His wisdom and good will ended this gentleman’s life. It was the Lord’s will for this child of God to join all the hosts of heaven in the everlasting celebration, praising and thanking Jesus for making it possible for sinners to be eternally saved.
Believers say of God’s will, Yea and Amen!
Mark Gullerud is retired from the pastoral ministry. He lives in Sunnyvale, California.