Lord Willing

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

- James 4:13-17


Lord willing. Every time I hear those words I think of my grandma. They are words she used often. If she was talking about the future she would always include the phrase “Lord willing.” Whether the conversation was about something that would happen the next day or the next year it was always prefaced with her subtle acknowledgment of God’s control. As a kid I appreciated my grandma’s awareness of God, but it wasn’t until I was older that I began to really understand the depth of her words.

I remember the first time I made the connection between “grandma’s saying” and the book of James. I was reading chapter four and when I got to verse fifteen a light came on. The phrase that I had heard so faithfully didn’t just sound biblical; it was actually in the Bible!

In the last five verses of chapter four James helps us consider the way we view our lives and how we plan for the future. James gives an illustration of some people who made some very specific business plans. He explains that they chose a specific time, to go to a specific city, to establish a specific kind of business, for a specific purpose. They knew how, when, where and why. They had a plan and the only thing left was the execution, however James suggests that they were not really prepared.

In verse fourteen James makes an abrupt transition. It’s reality check time. He says you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Regardless of what your calendar or your planner may say, no one can know for sure what tomorrow will be like. In fact, we can’t even know for sure that we will have tomorrow. James compares our life to a mist or a vapor. One minute you see it, and the next minute it’s gone.

It’s easy for us to become so focused on our plans that we forget how easily our plans can be changed. Have you ever received that phone call; the phone call that changes everything? We probably all have stories of how one phone call changed our lives. Maybe someone called to inform you of an accident or a death. One phone call can change everything very quickly. Maybe you received a great phone call. Maybe someone called to tell that you got the job that you had always dreamed of. Or maybe you were told that the test results came back clean and there was nothing to worry about. No one is exempt. One phone call can change everything for any of us. So what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to plan? How are we supposed to think about our future?

Part of the answer is recognizing that James doesn’t criticize planning. He doesn’t knock the desire to start a profitable business. The Bible is very clear that planning and preparing are important. However James is concerned that this group did not include God in their planning process at all. They were not prepared for the fact that the plan might change. They never considered that God’s plan might be different from their plan.

So what does James want us to do? James tells us that we are supposed to include God and His will in our thoughts about the future. Verse fifteen is the verse that reminds me so much of my grandma. James says, Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

Wait a minute. Is that it? Is he trying to change the way we talk? Does he want us to make “Lord willing” a staple in our vocabulary? Does that really change anything? The answer is “not necessarily.” James’ is goal is not necessarily to change our vocabulary, although that may help. James’ goal is to change our thinking and the way we consider our plans.

In verse sixteen James tells us that making plans without considering God is prideful. You see, James is not necessarily telling us that we need to pepper our speech with references about God’s will. He’s telling us that far too often we make plans without even considering what God would want. We make plans without ever thinking that God may choose to change our plans. We must ask ourselves, are we prepared for change? How will we respond if things don’t work out the way we think they should?

Our team has spent a lot of time planning and preparing for Southern Hills. However as we dream together and share our plans with others I keep hearing James (and my grandma) in the background saying: If the Lord wills you will move to Austin. If the Lord wills you will start a church. If the Lord wills you will see the church grow.

We have made good plans. Most would agree that we have made God honoring plans. It is easy to say, of course it’s God’s will for a church to be started. However James’ point is not necessarily about right and wrong. James did not want to change the business dreams of the group of people in his illustration. What he wanted to change was their lack of awareness of God. He wanted them to acknowledge that they don’t have the final say, God does.

So we have to ask ourselves, are we prepared for God to change our plans? How will we respond if things don’t work out exactly like we’ve hoped? It’s a heart issue. Are we so in love with our plans that a change in the plans will devastate us? Do we live as if we know everything?

What about you? What do you have your heart set on? How will your respond if God has a different plan? I hope you see God’s involvement and God’s plan as a good gift in your life. You don’t know the future, but there is a God who knows it perfectly. It’s His plan and He made it for your good. He is the giver of good times and He is the giver of difficult times, but He gives both for your good and His glory.

God is working out His perfect will in your life; plan accordingly.

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