“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.” (James 4:13-16)
There have been a few people in my life who frequently ended their statements of purposes with, “God willing” as in, “See you bright and early tomorrow, God willing.” Their uncertainty didn’t arise from vacillation of purpose but a healthy knowledge of the frailty of human life and the sovereignty of God. It is good and right to know our desires and to make plans based on them. However, ignoring the providence of God is tantamount to living as if God does not exist. Here we have the good force of the Law, which states, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). James 4:13 implies self-idolatry, choosing to go and do based solely on my desires and purposes. Saying, “God willing” will not save anyone, but living without God is an indication that regeneration has not occurred, or if it has, the new believer has not yet matured to desire God first in all aspects of life. Christians live with God and through faith in him because we love Christ and want to obey his Law.
The Ten Commandments are introduced by a statement of the Lord’s sovereignty and omnipotence, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). Failing to recognize God’s providential operation in the ordinary details of life is practical atheism and might even be considered the sin of omission. It puts people in the role of God, without acknowledging the uncertainty and frailty of life. No matter what our desires, no person can be assured of success by his or her own power, nor can they have eternal aspirations.
There are at least two good reasons for doing everything based on the “will” or providence of God. First, the more we acknowledge God’s operation in the ordinary matters of our lives the greater will be our recognition of his unique work in them, and ability to use them for our good (Romans 8:28). It is also important to remember that this life is short, painful, and precarious. At any time, we might injure ourselves, become seriously ill, suffer financial hardship, or have a loved one die. How will we comfort ourselves then? There is no formula for a relationship with the Lord or a meaningful life. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that gives us a desire for and appreciation of the quality of life that only Christ can offer. This is eternal life in Christ.
Are you still using formulas or equations to make your life “work”? Instead, won’t you seek God’s involvement on the most intimate level? Will this be your desire today?