One of the things that amazes me as the years march on is how quickly time seems to be passing now. When I was a kid, it seemed like life passed so slowly, especially when I was in elementary school. I couldn’t wait to become a teenager. I thought, “That’s it. That is when it happens.”
Now I can remember decades more easily than I can remember individual years. Time just seems to go by so rapidly.
When Billy Graham was asked what had been the greatest surprise in his life, he said, “The brevity of it.” That is so true. How brief life is. How quickly it seems to pass.
That is the very topic James raised in his New Testament epistle: the brevity of human life and how we want to be so careful to not forget God. He wrote:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (4:13–16 NIV)
James posed a significant question: “What is your life?” James wasn’t presenting a philosophical question. Rather, it was a more descriptive one. A better way to translate this from the original language would be, “What sort of life do you have?”
It’s important to note that James was addressing his words to Christians who were in the world of commerce, those who were investing, buying and selling. They seemed to be taking credit where credit wasn’t due. They were boasting in their ability to make money and be successful, and in the process of doing so, they were forgetting all about God. In spite of the fact they were professed believers, they were living like practical atheists.
There are people who will speak of their faith in God and claim to be followers of Jesus, but in the way they conduct their day-to-day business, there is no thought whatsoever of the will, plan, or purpose of God. Thus they become practical atheists.
That is what James was speaking of. It is always dangerous for us to take credit for what God has given us the ability to do. God warns that he will not share his glory with another (see Isaiah 42:8).
James was effectively saying, “Instead of boasting of your ability to make money, and instead of making your long-term plans without any thought of God, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”
James wasn’t condemning the person who makes plans for the future. Rather, he was criticizing the person who makes those plans with no thought whatsoever of the will of God.
Often in his writings, the apostle Paul would refer to the will of God for his life. He told the believers at Ephesus that he would return to them for renewed ministry if God willed. And then he wrote to the Corinthians that he planned to visit them if the Lord willed.
That is something crucial to factor in through all of our planning. We make our plans, and that is fine. But we must always remember the words of James 4:15: “If the Lord wills …”
It doesn’t mean we have to say that about everything we plan on doing. For example, someone might say, “Do you want to go to lunch today?”
“If the Lord wills.”
“Do you think you’re going to order a hamburger today?”
“If God wills it, I will.”
We can carry this too far. The idea is that we remember the Lord in our plans. We remember that God may change our plans. We need to be cognizant of the will of God in our lives. We may plan to do a certain thing, but God may intervene. He may have another plan.
Sometimes the will of God doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the Lord will lead us differently than we would like to go. But what we must come to recognize is that the will of God is perfect. We should never be afraid of it.
In all honesty, I think some people are. Some businesspeople would say, “What do you mean, ‘If the Lord wills?’ This can really cause some problems. Quite frankly, you are not going to get ahead in life that way. In the real world, in the dog-eat-dog world of business, you have to be careful. Business is business.”
The Bible tells us, however, that if we are true Christians, it should affect everything we do in life – and that includes our business dealings.
I’m not saying that God necessarily will direct you to change the way you do business, unless that way includes dishonesty, manipulation, stealing, or something like that. But if you’re seeking to conduct your life in the business world as a true Christian, who’s to say that God won’t bless you with greater success?
That is not to imply that every business dealing will be a great success, but it is to say that the Lord may want to bless you even more than you are being blessed now if you would put him first, if you would honor his principles.
Maybe you’ve been working diligently in your position, and you see how someone else has been manipulating the boss. You see they haven’t been telling the truth. Yet they have moved ahead of you, and you’re thinking, “It’s just not fair. Why is God allowing this?”
Give it time. You will see that God honors honesty, integrity, and commitment. You will see that people who manipulate their way in often will find themselves manipulated out by other manipulators. Those who live by deceit often die by deceit. You just hold your course.
Think of it this way. Wouldn’t you rather be honest and be in the position God wanted you in rather than advance through dishonesty?
The will of God is the best place to be. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid to embrace it. Remember that God’s will for you is good.