What a challenging letter the Apostle James wrote. So many of the verses are quotable and there are many basic principles stated which form the basis for leading a genuine Christ-like life. It is the one place in God’s word in which the phrase “If the Lord wills” occurs (4:15). This phrase has become commonly appended to the conversations of many of us, but we suspect it has become trite expression for some.
The context in which James uses this expression is, “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’ – yet 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. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (verses 13-15).
Do we see our life as a mist that will vanish into nothingness? The more we see our lives from God’s perspective the more we realize that is what our life is now. But our minds should also develop to realize that there is a wonderful divine ‘tomorrow’ in a world renewed by God: our daily reading will make this vision clearer.
Where is James quoting from when he writes, “the Scripture says, ‘He (God) yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’” (verse 5)? Isaiah said, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (57:15).
How meaningful, indeed awesome, is the picture that develops in our minds as we meditate on these words! God is constantly at work. The Psalms repeatedly reveal this to us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (46:1). All those who have developed a real relationship with God through constant efforts to be in His service will therefore constantly say, “If the Lord wills, I will live and do this or that”.