“If The Lord Wills”
James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16). We are taught by God in this passage to use the phrase, “If the Lord wills.” So, let’s consider the wisdom involved in both adapting this way of thinking and using this language.
1) An all-too-common error. How often do you tell people that you will do something tomorrow (or some other time in the future). Perhaps you tell someone you will talk with them again soon. Perhaps you state certain plans that you or your family have made. However, while this is the common practice of man, it is “evil” boasting in the sight of the Lord. To the Lord, failing to recognize the uncertainly of your earthly life (as well as the uncertainly of the earthly lives of others) is arrogance. It is claiming to be in control over something that you do not actually control. Instead, James teaches that we should make our plans – but only say and think that we will do them if they are according to the Lord’s will (recognizing that He is the one truly in control).
2) Why you cannot count on tomorrow. There are two definite reasons why you must never boast in having tomorrow. First, your earthly life could end before tomorrow. God has simply not promised you another moment to live on this earth. Instead, James says that your life is like a vapor that appears for a little while – and then vanishes away. Who knows whether your vapor of a life will last through the rest of this day. How, then, can you possibly boast in tomorrow?
The second reason why you must not boast about tomorrow is because Jesus Christ may return before that time comes. Jesus promised that He would return – and that the time of His return is not known to anyone on this earth. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Then, He said, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). When Jesus comes, this world will end and you will be judged. How, then, can you possibly boast in tomorrow?
3) The good that comes from saying, “If the Lord wills.” Other than James saying that we ought to say, “If the Lord wills,” there are two good things that will result from adopting this mindset and language whenever you speak of the future. First, it will serve as a reminder to yourself. Every time you use this language about the future, it should remind you that your life is not guaranteed to last any longer. Second, it will serve as a warning to others. When people hear you using this language, it should cause them to consider the uncertainty of their earthly lives in the future.
“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). If the Lord wills, your life will continue. If the Lord wills, your life will cease. If the Lord wills, Jesus Christ will return. Please consider the uncertainty of your life on this earth and make sure that you are making the proper preparations for eternity today – rather than putting them off until tomorrow!