James 4:13-16 (NKJV)13 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”; 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
We as sinners like to imagine that we are in control. We buy Franklin Planners and chart out our responsibilities. We rank them with our As, Bs, and Cs. We check them off when we’re done and get the little rush of endorphins. “Ah, I’m in control,” we say to ourselves. “I’ve got it all together. I am the master of my own destiny. Nothing shall stop me.”
It is this type of sin that James addresses with these words to his audience. They boasted in their arrogance. They imagined that they were the ultimate shapers and molders of their own destiny. But James calls them up short – you don’t even know, O foolish man, what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. You are nothing; your plans are nothing; your Franklin Planner is nothing; you are not in control. You are a vapor hovering over the ground subject to the blowing of the wind, the rising of the sun, a change in the temperature. If the wind begins to blow, you float away. If the sun rises, you vanish. If the temperature changes, you get lighter or heavier depending on the change. You are not the master of your own destiny.
Well, if I’m not, who is? God is. God is the master of your destiny. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Our lives rest in the hand of God; He is the Lord. He causes the wind to blow; He causes the sun to rise; He causes the temperature to change. He is the One who wields the nations like a woodsman wielding his axe. “Come and do my bidding,” he declares. “Invade the northern territories of Georgia. Unsettle their population. Uproot their democracy.” And then He declares, “And afterward I shall punish the pride of your heart; I shall overthrow your wickedness. For shall the axe boast itself over the woodsman who wields it?”
So what does James have to tell us today? When you are making plans and decisions – which we all must do – when you are orchestrating a move, making an investment in some new business, selecting a spouse, organizing a date with your beloved, driving to the store to buy groceries, do so in faith, saying, “If the Lord wills, we shall do this or that.” Acknowledge the sovereign Lordship of God and hold all your plans, even those closest to your heart, in uplifted hands that are open to the sovereign intervention of our Lord. He is in control.
Unfortunately, rather than plan in faith, we plan in unbelief. We plan as though we are the master and so we get bent out of shape when our plans are thwarted. We gather all the kids and pack them in the car, getting ready to head to the store and what happens? Junior hits his sister. What is our response? Do we take this as an opportunity given to us by the hand of our loving Father to intervene and train our son? Not likely. How do we respond? With frustration and anger that our plans, orchestrated so carefully, have been thwarted. “Don’t you know, junior, how long it takes me to get everyone dressed and in the car?” But here’s the question – who thwarted your plans? Did your son? No – not ultimately. God did. He crafted this moment just for you. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Reminded that we often plan in unbelief and not in faith, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.