Jas 4:13-15 “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
We use a phrase in our language today when someone says something that goes against reason: “oh, come now!” From what I can understand, this is the same thing James is expressing with “Go to now.” He is admonishing us that taking the position that we will, on our own, go and do anything is against reason or common sense. It is something we do all the time. “I’m going to the grocery store this afternoon” or “we are going on vacation next week” and similar expressions are heard every day. James is, in effect, saying we should know better.
The structure of our daily lives lends itself to erroneously thinking that we are in control of our future. Employers often ask us to tell them where we see ourselves five or even ten years into the future. As children we dream of the day when we will be old enough to drive. When we start driving, we dream of the day we can move out and live independently. We land that first summer job and begin to dream of the day we will have enough money for that new car or own home.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with making plans, setting goals, and having dreams for the future: the issue is that we forget to look to God for the fulfillment of our future. We move forward as though we are totally self-determining. The simple truth is, we do not know if we will take another breath or if our heart will beat the next beat. We can, quite literally, be sitting here one minute and our life on earth be over the next.
In the phrase “ye know not” the Greek word rendered “not” is described by Strong’s as the “absolutely negative adverb.” We absolutely have no knowledge of what tomorrow will bring or if there will even be a tomorrow. Rather than despair over life’s brevity and uncertainty, we should be thankful that we have One to look to who has a will (intention, delight in – see Strong’s) for our lives. The lesson is not about how fleeting our time is, but rather about trusting God with whatever time He has been pleased to give us.
There is a great comfort in knowing that each minute of our lives is “if the Lord will.” What a blessing to come to the understanding in our lives that this is not just a neat catchphrase, but the absolute truth of our lives. We are here according to the Lord’s will. We will do according to Lord’s will. We will quit this stage of life according to the Lord’s will. As Paul said, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Before someone misunderstands, I am not saying that our sin is according to the Lord’s will. I am saying the Lord will work His will in spite of our sin. God’s will was for Jonah to go to Nineveh: Jonah’s will was to do anything but go to Nineveh. Jonah went to Nineveh anyway. Saul’s will was to persecute all those that trusted in Jesus Christ: God’s will was for Saul to be an apostle of this same Jesus. Saul, who later came to be called Paul, was a great comfort to the very people he started out persecuting. Our will is not more powerful than God’s will. He is omniscient and omnipotent: we are a vapor.
May we find great joy in declaring every day that we will live and do according to God’s perfect will!