What Does James 4:15 Mean?

Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

James 4:15(NASB)

Verse of the Day

The book of James is filled with wisdom, providing us with much-needed insight into how to live our lives in a God-honouring way. In James 4:15 we are reminded of the importance of submitting our plans and desires to God’s will. James tells us to consider the brevity of life, and how quickly our plans can change. We may plan to go on a trip or embark on a business venture, but none of us knows what the future holds. He uses the image of a vapour which quickly appears and then vanishes away, to illustrate this point.

Psalm 103 reminds us: "As for man, his days are like grass. He blooms like a flower of the field, but when the wind passes over it, it simply vanishes and is remembered no more." We don't know what tomorrow holds, so why do we make plans as if we do? It's important to remember that our plans are just that - ours. We may make the best plans for our lives, but if we don't check in with God's will, then our plans may not be His plans. We must seek His will in all we do, and if it's not in line with His will, we must be willing to change our plans. We need to end every plan and plan-making process with the words: "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

Throughout our life, we make many different types of plans. We make plans for our future, for our careers, for our families, for our finances, for our education, for our vacations, for our businesses, and so much more. We plan, we dream, and we envision the days to come. But is that all we should do? James chapter 4 reminds us that our plans are nothing compared to God's plans. We may think we know what our future holds, but James is warning us against developing an attitude of independence that excludes God. We should never forget that God holds the future and that His plans and purposes for our lives are far greater than ours and far beyond our control.

We all want to live our lives with purpose and to the fullest, but oftentimes we forget the importance of surrendering our plans to God and forge ahead with boastful, arrogant planning, which too often excludes an awareness that our times are in His hands. We should never forget the fragility of our mortal existence, nor underestimate our own human limitations. The Lord upholds all things by the word of His power, and we live, and move, and have our being at God's direction and only as His sovereign will permits.

James also reminds us that our lives are fragile and unpredictable – something we can easily forget as we make our plans to "go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." The truth is, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and instead of making plans solely based on our own desires and ambitions, we should be saying, 'If this is in line with God's plans and purpose for our lives, then we will go to so and so and do such and such.'

James is not suggesting that we should not make wise plans for the future. He is not discouraging us from making prudent plans. What troubles him is stating we WILL do this or that and we WILL go here and there with no regard for the Lord. He is concerned such a prideful attitude excludes God entirely from our lives, which demonstrates a total lack of reliance upon Him. Jesus, Himself told the parable of the rich man who excluded God from plans as he tore down his barn to build bigger barns, and was rebuked by God: "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?"

Acknowledging the supremacy of God in our lives is essential, but it is also vitally important to have faith in His plans for us. God is sovereign and all-knowing, and He knows what is best for us. He knows which path we should take, how to use our gifts and talents, and when to take a risk. When we surrender our plans to Him, we can be sure that He will guide us in the right direction. 

May we always be mindful of God's will and plan for our lives. May we always be willing to submit our desires and plans to God’s will, and be willing to change our plans if God has something different in mind. May we never forget that God’s will is always better than our own. We may think we know what is best for us, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. Let us, therefore, seek to live in humble dependence upon our Heavenly Father, to always seek His guidance, and to ensure that we include Him in our plans.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, I do not want to live my life apart from You. I surrender my life into Your hands, knowing that You care for me. Thank You that nothing can stop Your perfect will from being done as You unfold Your plan of redemption from eternity past unto its perfect completion. I pray that Your will be done in my life each day, until I see You face to face. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

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