James 4:13-17 (ESV)
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”— 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
From this short passage, John MacArthur pulls out three points in his commentary on the book of James. He says we see people that ignore God’s will, deny God’s will and disobey God’s will. Those are interesting thoughts because we can all find ourselves in there somewhere. This passage is about business plans, but rest assured you're in there. Across the full span of our lives, we're all in there somewhere.
Are You Ignoring God’s Will?
How often are we guilty of making our plans without consulting God’s Word or even thinking them through this with Godly people we know? It seems that many times people don’t look for God’s help until they are in such deep trouble they are sinking fast. Sometimes we are in so deep that it is too late to escape the consequences of these poor choices. Put simply, it is our arrogance that causes us to live this way.
Are You Denying God’s Will?
Everything we do in life is done intentionally. Whether it is the building of a family business or being lazy and doing nothing, all of our actions require thought and decision. When we deny God’s will it is the act of not only ignoring God’s will, but of us believing there is a better way. And that better way, at least in theory, usually ends up being our way. Parents get upset when children transform a simple project into a hazardous disaster because they didn’t seek guidance. How many disasters have we created in our lives because we thought we knew best and were too arrogant to seek God’s help?
Are You Disobeying God’s Will?
The passage ends with a third option. It speaks to those that have studied and researched what God would have them do in a situation and they simply choose not to do it. Unfortunately, we all have been guilty of this. In a given day there are probably several things that we know are the right things to do and we don’t do it. There a thousand reasons and excuses for this behavior ranging from the task being too hard to me being too tired. Regardless, the Bible says that when we know God’s will and how we should act, when we fail to do so we sin.
Instead, You Ought To…
So, what do you do? How do you right these wrongs? James says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” We should submit our plans to the Lord. We should ask for His help and guidance and we should study His Word to see if our plans will help us live lives that please Him. Are the choices we are considering consistent with God’s Word? What is the ultimate focus of our decisions? Do we desire to honor God, to help others or to exalt ourselves? Through studying God’s Word and spending time in prayer we will come to know our motives. But knowing isn’t enough. We must act faithfully and consistently with what God shows us is right.