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God’s Word for You

James 4:14b-15 As the Lord wills

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 21, 2020

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, then we will live, and also do this or that.”

David also said, “Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:5). The image is of a wisp of smoke or cloud which is there one moment, curls and drifts for a bit, breaks apart into rags of vapor and then vanishes, never to return. How could any human, whose life is hardly more than a breath, presume to make any plans? “As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so is he who goes down to the grave and does not return” (Job 7:9). Each of us is here only a short while, the moment in time when it is our turn to come to faith, to give God glory with our lives, and be called home to our eternal rest. We should use the time we have to the best of our ability, but God will be the one who decides when our service is finally over. Therefore, James coaches us in how we should think about the future and in what to say: “If the Lord wills.”

Notice that “If the Lord wills” is followed by two parts. First: “If the Lord wills, then we will live.” Our very lives depend on God’s good pleasure. If he demands our lives, then “who resists his will?” (Romans 9:19). What we should rejoice in is that through the mystery of his will, we are brought to salvation through Christ our Lord. While we live, our times are in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15). If it is God’s will, then I will live today, and perhaps tomorrow. But I do so only by his will.

Second, James says that we should say, “If the Lord wills… we will do this or that.” This is where the question of planning is brought forward. There are those Christians who imagine that Churches and church members should not make any plans at all, since we don’t know what the future will bring. But they are applying the yeast of the Pharisees to their lives of faith. God does not forbid us from making plans, and neither does James. He simply says that when we make plans we should remember to say, “If the Lord wills.” I have seen the argument in meetings of voters and of church councils many times. One man says, “Since we don’t know whether God wants us to add on to our church, we must not even try.” But another man will say, “But look: God is blessing us. Our people are good stewards of their money. If we share with them this opportunity that we have to expand our building (church or school) we will be in a better position to meet the needs of the growing number of people who are coming to hear the gospel.” One man is using his sanctified good judgment to meet the needs of the church’s ministry, while the other man wants to be safe and take no risks. They come across looking like the men in the Parable of the Talents. One made what he was given grow; the other hid what he was given and did nothing with it at all (Matthew 25:17-18). How does God want us to use what he gives? There is such a thing as being careful, and such a thing as being unwilling to carry the gospel to people—even to the people in your own back yard. Trust God to bless you as you strive to proclaim His name.

  We give thee but thine own,
  Whate’er the gift may be;
  All that we have is thine alone,
  A trust, O Lord, from thee.

  And we believe thy Word
  Though dim our faith may be:
  Whate’er for thine we do, O Lord,
  We do it unto thee. (Christian Worship 485:1,6)

And permit:

  We live now as thou will;
  And all our plans shall be
  As you desire; We serve until
  You call us home to thee.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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