“If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that”
(James 4:15)

Believers recognize their dependence on the will of God.

James admonishes: “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” (James 4:13-16).


Arrogant boasting is evil.

It does not show proper respect for God.

Some people are always boasting about the great things they are going to do in the future.

As king Ahab of Israel replied to arrogant BenHadad, king of Syria, whose army God had decided to deliver into the hand of Israel, “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11).

But what is so wrong with saying, “We will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”? Many people see nothing wrong with that at all.

This is arrogant boasting because due consideration is not being given to man's dependence on God.

Jesus illustrates this truth in a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-20).

This man did not include God in his plans. God blessed him with abundance. But rather than laying up treasure in heaven by helping the poor (Luke 18:22), he was self-centered and thought only of his own comfort. He was not rich toward God and he was not prepared to die. God calls him a fool. It is never wise to plan for this life without giving priority to the afterlife.

Jesus asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

James warns the rich that they will suffer misery if their wealth was gained unjustly: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:1-5).


Saying 'Lord willing' recognizes our dependence on God.

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

Our lives are in the hand of God. He “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). As Solomon says, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Our lives are short. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Job says, “My days are but a breath” (Job 7:16).

God has established a maximum lifespan, but there is no guaranteed minimum. Today can be the last day for any one of us. Thus we “ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:15).


Paul submitted his life and plans to the will of God.

When Paul was zealously persecuting Christians, he mistakenly thought he was doing the will of God (1 Timothy 1:13). Because of his sincerity, God intervened that he might truly know His will. The preacher, Ananias, informed Paul: “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth” (Acts 22:14).

Paul began many of his letters with, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (see the first verses of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Timothy).

When he departed from Ephesus on his second missionary journey, he told the brethren, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing" (Acts 18:21).

He wrote to the brethren at Corinth: “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills” (1 Corinthians 4:19).

To the saints at Rome he wrote: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Romans 1:9, 10). Near the close of the letter he asked them to pray with him “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God” (Romans 15:32).

These statements show that Paul was ever conscious of his dependence on the will of God.

On the way to Jerusalem after his third journey, he told the brethren at Ephesus: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more” (Acts 20:22-25).

As he neared Jerusalem, when he was at Philip's house in Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus revealed what would happen to Paul: “When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, 'Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”' Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, 'The will of the Lord be done'” (Acts 21:11-14).


What have we learned from the Scriptures about our dependence on the will of God?

It is evil to arrogantly boast about what we are going to do in the future without consideration of the brevity of life and the providence of God. When we qualify our plans with 'Lord willing' we recognize our dependence on God. We can look to the apostle Paul as an example of someone who was ever conscious of his life being circumscribed by the will of God.

“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'” (James 4:13-15). Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)