“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” –James 4:15, NIV
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) Bible study class is currently studying the Book of James. We’re using Greg Gilbert’s book, James, a 12-Week Study. This week I’ve been doing my homework for Week 9, and our class will meet later today. But I just had to share one insight with you now.
On page 69, Gilbert asks this question regarding James 4:15:
Do you think you should actually say the phrase “if the Lord wills’ when you talk about the future? Even if it’s not necessary to say it every time, how can you work to cultivate that kind of dependence on God in your own life and thinking?”
The first time I read that, I laughed right out loud. I startled the dog, who was lying by my feet. He looked up, annoyed, then went back to sleep.
Why does that question tickle my funny bone so? Because I live the analogy that answers the question! I am an Army wife!
Every two or three years, my husband gets a new assignment. Up to a year out, the Army-powers-that-be start discussing where my husband will go. We fill out a dream sheet, stating where we hope to go. We tell family members, “We’d like to go here next. We think this is where God wants us. We feel really good about it. If the Army agrees (as God directs it–something we firmly believe He does as far as assignments for Christians go), we’ll be moving to this place next year.”
(In the early years of our military ministry, family members took this statement very seriously. So much so that they ignored the whole “if the Army agrees” bit and became confused whenever all plans changed. Now they just raise one eyebrow and say that they’ll believe us when the movers unload the truck.)
A few months or so later, we’ll get official word from someone in the know about where Mike’s next assignment will be. We tell family members, “The Army is planning to send us here. If all goes as planned, we’ll be moving to this place next year.” (Notice, we don’t say, “If the Army agrees” or “If the Lord wills.” At this point, that is clearly understood. Our families skeptically wait for news of Plan C.)
After this we eventually get an RFO (Request for Orders) which makes the new assignment mostly official. When the actual orders come, we start to get excited about our next move. Even then, however, we know–and our families know–the needs of the Army may change. If so, Mike’s assignment will change. We go where the Army most needs us and, as servants of God called to military ministry, know this is where God wants us to be.
No. We don’t always have to say, “If it is the Lord’s Will,” so long as we and the people to whom we are talking all understand that we know God is the one who is ultimately in control. We make plans according to His leading, yet keep our hearts prepared for last-minute change. Personally, I rarely state plans in definite terms. I guess I’ve gotten used to everything changing; my language naturally reflects this.
We cultivate this attitude by living in close communion with God every day. We talk with Him often. We rely on Him for every little thing. We remember where we stand before Him: we are His children, His heirs, invested in the good of His Kingdom. Just as Mike and I go where the Army most needs us, Christians do whatever God calls them to–for the good of His Kingdom, for the glory of His name. When we’re aware of our place and our purpose while enjoying a close relationship with God, uncertain plans and last-minute changes in plans won’t rattle us so much. We live on-call and ready to serve, wherever God’s Will leads.
- What other occupations lead people to live an analogy of James 4:15?
- What life events have helped you understand the truth of this verse?
Father, we live for you. Thank You for giving us dreams and for allowing us to make plans, but thank You also for guiding us elsewhere in light of Kingdom needs. We know that, ultimately, what’s best for Your Kingdom is best for us, too, and so we gladly live in submission to You. Amen.
Note: If this devotional spoke to you, you might enjoy my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, a daily devotional written to encourage women throughout the process of moving. Click here to purchase it at Amazon.com.