How a Mist Makes Plans (James 4:13-14)
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"—¹⁴yet 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. —James 4:13-14
When the Bible says, “Come now” it signals a gentle word of correction to our thinking. Who are those in view and what thinking needs correcting? Those in view are really all of us: whoever makes plans for their day, for their future, for their families, or their business or their ministry. James has in mind anyone who lives by intention. He's saying, "take care how you live, not just for the present, but also for the future."
What then is the wrong thinking that needs correction? Is it planning? Is it wrong to have an intention and then take steps to carry it out? No. What’s wrong is to plan without open reliance on God. I say open reliance on God because verse 15 goes on to say, “you ought to say.” James wants God to be openly and verbally acknowledged.
What we ought to say is “If God wills.” God’s will caused us to be created (Psalm 139:13). God wills who are believers or not (Romans 9:15). God wills to sustain your mist-like life (Hebrews 1:3). And God’s will lays out your future (Isaiah 46:10). We live and plan, travel and do business because God wills it.
That is the wonder of reality as God created it. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We are not God; He is. Part of His being God means He knows the future (John 13:19). He alone knows and guides the future (I Peter 3:17). I believe He created the world this way so that we would gladly acknowledge His sovereign rule over us and live every moment with open reliance on His sustaining grace. The person who believes those twin truths will always feel in their hearts, and often say, “If God wills.”
Someone might object: "but isn’t it impractical or cumbersome and even silly to always add, 'If God wills' into our conversations and writing? Can’t we just take God for granted and live out His plans for us, much like a child lives?” To which I answer, God disdains being taken for granted. It’s against His very nature. He does all that he does “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12). Our maturity is measured by growth in glorifying God.
Remember your life is a vapor, a God-sustained mist. Joyfully confess that apart from Him you can do nothing (John 15:5). And then let this well up in your heart and ring from your lips: “I will go and do such and such…If God wills.” He means for we who believe to come to the end of our vaporous lives and see all that we’ve been able to accomplish and say, "this is what God willed for me." Then our mist-life will give way to eternal life.
How does it make you feel that God calls your life a mist? Does that excite or sadden you? Why?
What has to happen in your heart to enjoy acknowledging God in all your plans?
How can you write and say, “If God wills…” regularly, without being boring?