JAMES 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Am I a dreamer, a realist, or something in between? Do I find myself always looking forward and missing the opportunities that are right before me? Do I confuse faith with presumption my life? All of these questions come to mind when I read these verses in the book of James.
Recently I was at a restaurant that is owned by a Christian family. They have two televisions in the restaurant. One is always tuned to a sports channel, and the other to a Christian channel. As my wife and I ate our dinner a well known TV Evangelist was promoting their new book. The basic title was “If you can conceive it, you can receive it.” When I heard this title I wondered, “Have they ever read these verses in the Epistle of James?”
Is faith merely finding what we want, conceiving it in our mind, and then proclaiming it with our mouth? What does James say about this type of faith (or in reality what I would call presumption)?
- “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
None of us knows what tomorrow holds. The only assurance we have is that we are in the hands of the One who holds tomorrow. Any boasting on our part, or so called “faith speak,” is really boasting beyond our own knowledge. In fact, the whole concept of “conceiving and receiving” is really a misunderstanding of a couple of Scriptural texts at the best, and an outright deception of New Age thinking at its worst.
What is James answer to this? It is twofold. First, we must acknowledge that we are to submit to the sovereign will of the Lord.
- “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Notice, James does not mince his words. We are either walking in faith fully submitted to the sovereignty of God, or we are walking in boastful arrogance. And James is clear – “All such boasting is evil.”
The second part of James instruction is to engage in what we do know, as we trust the Lord for what we cannot see.
- “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
This is what I call dealing with the seen, as we walk in faith for the unseen. Since we cannot control tomorrow, we are left with what we hold in our hand today. If through presumption I am focused only on the future, and neglect the present good that I can do today, I sin. There is no other option. Jesus said that we are to live one day at a time, trusting in the Father to meet all of our need in the future. This is exactly what James is saying in his epistle.
Some may recoil in objection. “What, are you saying that you never plan for the future, that you never have dreams or vision for what the Lord has called you to do?” Absolutely not! If anyone has dreams and visions for the future it is me. Yet, I am reminded that I really don’t know fully what the future is going to bring. If I think that I can “speak the future into existence,” I am merely boasting, and I am also playing God. Yet, if I submit my dreams and visions to the Lord, and live for today, doing all the good that is at hand, I am walking in faith.
Faith is not about manipulating life (and God) so that I get what I want. Faith is about trusting God, obeying him moment by moment, so that He fulfills what He wants in my life, and in this broken world. Faith is truly praying – “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth (and in me) as it is in heaven.” The angels in heaven are not telling God what to do. One angel did that a long time ago and we know what happened to him. No, the angels are living to fulfill the will of God each and every moment and each and every day. And so should we.
The wonderful thing about living this way is you truly find peace in your life. Also, you begin to live life as an adventure. When you don’t know what to expect next, every day is a wonderful journey of walking with the Lord. New opportunities arise that you would never dream could come your way. The dreams and visions you have are often replaced with dreams and visions that are far greater than what you could have ever imagined for yourself. And you grow in a sincere awe and appreciation of the sovereignty and love of God the Father!
Lord, I don’t know what you have in store for me today. Help me to live moment by moment for You. Help me to engage in all the good that is at hand, as I place my dreams and visions in Your hand. Do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that I am able to ask or think, according to Your sovereign will and loving kindness. Truly help me to walk in faith.
In Jesus Name!