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James 4:13-17

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 and brag. All such boasting is evil. (verses 13-16)


Late last Spring, my wife and I took a trip to Europe. It was wonderful and entirely memorable. The trip itself lasted 2 weeks, but the preparation took months! We had multiple flights to book, train and ferry tickets to purchase, accommodations to arrange, walking-tours to schedule, and sights to research. We told friends and family about our plans, happily looking forward to all we would experience and enjoy.

But I don’t think I ever prefaced the sharing of those plans by saying, “If it is the Lord’s will.”

Did I run afoul of this passage? It gives me pause.

Further, there have been many other trips and events we’ve planned over this past year (let alone a lifetime!) to which I haven’t consciously attached this phrase. Have I been living presumptuously? Boastfully?

To a certain degree I think I have, at least to a greater degree than I would have acknowledged before re-reading these verses.

In my youth, many of my elders would regularly sprinkle a phrase like this into their conversations. “Lord willing,” they’d say, or simply ,“D.V.”, which was code for the Latin phrase “Deo volente,”which means the same. But do the words themselves, code or otherwise, actually get to the heart of James’ instruction?

When it comes right down to it, I think it’s our own heart that is actually the issue. In the core of our being, what is our perspective? Yes, we may see the Lord as Sovereign over all things, but when it comes down to practical, day-to-day decision-making and planning, do we simply entrust all of that to ourselves? Do we confidently act as if the future is at our own disposal, announcing our plans to others (and ourselves) as if we were fully in control?

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Perhaps James was meditating on this verse. Or perhaps he was reflecting on Jesus’ story about the rich man who brazenly tore down his old barns, building bigger and better to provide expansively for his future retirement. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you’” (Luke 12:20). He thought he controlled the future – but he didn’t.

As I make plans for tomorrow – and the day after, along with however many others may follow – I need to combat my own careless presumption, and instead consciously acknowledge that each future minute is completely in the Lord’s hands. Yes, I pray about my plans, but this feels more basic yet. It calls me to the deepening realization that was expressed by David, the psalmist, shepherd, and King: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).

Embracing that reality fully, I want to make a habit of speaking James’ words: “If it is the Lord will.” I may not speak them aloud, but I choose to voice them loudly and clearly in my own heart, again and again. For truly, my times are not my own. I do not control them. They belong wholly to him. So, I choose to consciously submit it all to him, acknowledging that my plans will only hold together “if it is the Lord’s will.”


Lord, my times are in your hands – each and every moment. I submit myself to you – my dreams, my plans, my days, my all. Teach me to live by this deeply ingrained commitment: “If it is the Lord’s will.”


Reflect: What plans are currently on the drawing board? What has been your perspective thus far? Are they in your hands, or in the Lord’s? How should you adjust?


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