Lesson 27. The Display Of The Correct Attitude (James 4:15)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)



“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

A Christian man in making his plans ought to acknowledge his dependence upon God and say in his heart, “If it is the Lord’s will” – I will do such and such (see Acts 18:21; I Cor. 4:19) because our entire life is in God’s hands. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. All is uncertain. We are like a mist of water: today we are here; tomorrow we are gone. Therefore, we should never put our trust in plans; we must trust only in God. Only He is trusting and never-changing. Yes, we must plan and plant the seed; but God gives the harvest (1 Cor. 3:7). We must plan and work, but God gives us success according to His will. In Him only must we place our confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have goals, but goals can disappoint us if we leave God out of them. There is no point in making plans as though God doesn’t exist because the future is in God’s hands. What would you like to be doing ten years from now? One year from now? Tomorrow? How will you react if God steps in and rearranges your plans? But hang on to your plans lightly. If you put God’s desires at the center of your planning, you will not be disappointed.

We are taught to keep up a constant sense of our dependence on the will of God for life and all the actions and enjoyments of it: You ought to say if the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that. Having reproved them for what was amiss, the apostle now directs them to be and do better. “You ought to say it in your hearts at all times, and with your tongues upon proper occasions, especially in your constant prayers and devotions, that if the Lord will give leave, and if He will own and bless you, you have such and such designs to accomplish.” This must be said not in a small, formal, or customary way, but to think what we say and be respectful and serious. Thus, it is good to express ourselves when we have to do with others, but it is indispensable that we should say this to ourselves in all that we go about.

1. If the Lord will, we shall live. We must remember that our times are not in our own hands but at the disposal of God; we live as long as God appoints and in the circumstances God sets. And therefore must be submissive to Him, even as to life itself; and then –

2. If the Lord will, we shall do this or that. All our actions and plans are under the control of Heaven. Our heads may be filled with cares and plots. We may propose to do this, and the other thing for ourselves and our families or our friends, but Providence sometimes breaks all our processes and throws our schemes into confusion. Therefore, both our suggestions for action and our conduct in war should be entirely referred to God; all we plan and all we do should be with a submissive dependence on God.

Arrogance and Boasting. Our verse can also be applied to boasting, which is a problem for many believers. However, the key to avoiding boasting is to maintain a godly perspective. Instead of making big plans on the human level, one must expand his view to include God in the picture. Instead of vain boasting, one should say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” These are not so many words to be used like some charm but a realistic attitude that affects all of one’s being or behavior.

God cautions those who manifest “arrogance,” the self-aggrandizing (exaggerating) and hostile attitude that for James represents the segment of the world opposed to God: “God resists the arrogant, but gives gifts to the humble” (4:6; Prov. 3:34). James states the infinite distance between this Lord and human arrogance: only one of them is able to “give life and to destroy it.”

James’ reminder provides the transition to the condemnation in 4:13-17. Arrogance is now expressed by the happy and heedless confidence that human cunning can secure for the future and that life consists of “buying and getting” of business (4:13). James mocks such self-delusion. Humans can not guarantee even their tomorrow, much less their “next year” (4:14). The lives of humans are not in their control. If they lived by God’s measure, they would recognize the utter likelihood of their existence and projects (1:9-11), for only by the will of God can they live or do anything at all (4:15). Their presumption that God is irrelevant to their life and has no claim on their world is evil “boasting,” a pride based only on empty arrogance.

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