If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. James 4:15
In 2000, an upstart company operating on a movie-rental-by-mail system offered to sell their company for $50 million to Blockbuster, the home movies and video game rentals king at that time. Netflix had roughly 300,000 subscribers, while Blockbuster had millions and millions of them. Blockbuster passed on the opportunity to purchase their little competitor. The result? Today Netflix has more than 180 million subscribers and is worth nearly $200 billion. As for Blockbuster, well . . . it went bust. None of us can predict the future.
We’re tempted to believe that we’re in control of our lives and that our plans for the future will succeed. But James says, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (4:14). Life is brief, quick, and more fragile than we often realize. Planning is necessary, but the sin of presumption is in the assumption that we’re in control. That’s why James warns us not to “boast in [our] arrogant schemes,” for “all such boasting is evil” (v. 16).
The way to avoid this sinful practice is through grateful participation with God. Gratitude reminds us that He’s the source of every “good and perfect gift” (1:17). Then when we come to God, we ask Him not to simply bless our present and future plans but to help us join Him in what He’s doing. This is what it means to pray, “If it is the Lord’s will” (4:15).
How are you tempted to be in control of your life? What will it mean for you to surrender to God and participate with Him?
Dear Jesus, I relinquish my plans to You. Help me to put my trust in You, because You never fail.
Is it wrong to plan? Certainly not. Those who come away from James 4:13–17 thinking that good planning is a bad thing miss the point of the passage and ignore Scripture’s teaching elsewhere. Students of life know the value of having a plan. So did the writer in Proverbs 21:5: “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (the message). A good plan is a good thing. What James critiques and condemns, however, is the kind of planning that ignores life’s uncertainty and brevity (James 4:14) and God as the giver of life (v. 15). The book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” James 4:13–17 echoes Proverbs 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” and encourages us to “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding” (3:5).