When I was in grad school, I knew this guy in my Christian club who was incredibly spiritual. You could say he was “on fire for God.” This guy knew the Bible front to back, top to bottom, any which way. He could recite any verse on a whim and give you its context. No matter where he went, he always carried around a Bible — not the NIV or the ESV or even the NKJV, but the KJV. He spoke in a way no else spoke. For example, one thing he would always say was, “Lord willing.” If he was about to go on a trip, he’d say, “I’ll be going to such-and-such place, Lord willing.” And he’d say it so naturally, too. It just flowed so swiftly from his mouth. It was something I always tried to emulate, but it just never would sound as natural. If I said it, it would just come off as pretentious, because it’s something I don’t normally say. If I say that I’m going somewhere, then I say it without thinking that I might not make it to my destination. But saying “Lord willing” isn’t just something you say to sound spiritual. In fact, the Apostle James actually instructs us to say it every time we make plans to go somewhere or do something.
13 Come now, you who says, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
This is one of my favorite passages because it talks about something so overlooked. There is not a day that goes by where we don’t have a plan to go somewhere or do something. It can be something as big as a vacation to Europe or something as small as a dentist appointment. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular church goer or even a pastor of a church, we definitely don’t always say “Lord willing” all the time.
So why is saying “Lord willing” so important and, most of all, how does this all tie in to today?
14 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.
Why does this sound so familiar?
I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind
No, that wasn’t a passage from Ecclesiastes, though the band, Kansas, was heavily inspired by the book when writing ‘Dust in the Wind.’ What a sad and depressing song that is, right? “Dust in the wind?” Steve Walsh is singing about how everything is meaningless and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. What a Debbie Downer. But, again, Walsh is just loosely quoting the Bible.
Both go to the same place — they came from dust and they return to dust.
But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless — like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
But what is James trying to tell us by saying we are a mist? Well, he’s saying exactly what Kansas was singing about: “Nothing lasts forever.” It’s going back to the saying, “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Tomorrow is never guaranteed. James is trying to tell us not to live in our arrogant ways. We aren’t God. We aren’t in control of what happens tomorrow. We can say we can do such things and go to such places, but that may not always happen. In fact, James says it is “evil” to think in such a way.
As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
If there is one thing the Bible talks a lot about, it’s boasting:
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riche.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The word “boast” is defined as “talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one's achievements, possessions, or abilities.”
Can you see why James would frown upon such an act? James doesn’t want us to become prideful. He wants us to be humbled. He wants us to put God’s will first, not our own.
So when it comes to not boasting and not putting God’s will first, I, and the rest of the world, had to learn the hard way. As I am writing this, the world is currently in the middle of a global pandemic. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread all around the world infecting millions, killing thousands, and isolating billions in their homes. With this virus came a lot of cancellations and postponements. People had to cancel trips, parties, concert tours, films productions, appointments, and weddings.
A year ago, I proposed to my girlfriend. We were supposed to get married in May of this year, but because of the virus we had to make the tough decision of postponing our wedding until October. It wasn’t something we planned on doing or even expected to happen. We were so excited to be getting married in front of all of our friends and family at a big resort in the mountains. Aside from postponing the wedding, we also had to postpone our honeymoon. Our plan was to do a huge road trip to some of the biggest national parks in the country with the final destination being Banff, Canada. If you’ve been following the news, then you’d also know that not only are all of the national parks closed, but so is the Canadian border. Talk about the perfect storm. Of course, all of these things can be moved to a later date and everything will still be there, but I think what’s more frustrating was the fact that my fiancée worked really hard to make this wedding come alive. For it to sit in limbo really sucks. It was supposed to be the biggest event of the year. Everyone was talking about it and we were so excited to have the wedding at an awesome venue that people would be talking about for a long time. Enter boasting, stage right.
It was foolish of me to expect everything to go as planned. It was foolish to believe that there was nothing that could ever ruin the event. As the event was approaching, people were telling me that I shouldn’t be skateboarding until after the wedding, because I couldn’t afford to have a broken bone during such an important time. Little did we know that something far worse than a broken bone would change all of our plans.
Having our wedding being postponed really put things into perspective for me. It’s like God wanted to wake up the world to realize that we are not in control and that we will never be in control. We can plan events, but if God wants to shut down the world, then he can do just that — and we’d have no choice but to cooperate. Instead of doing things by our own way, God has found a way for us to trust him.
Instead of boasting about our wedding, we should have given it all to God. We should have said, “We will get married on this date at this location, Lord willing.” Instead, we just assumed that each day would pass by and, thus, allowing us to get married as expected.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes an exception to the boasting rule:
Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”
1 Cor. 1:31
Boast about all of the great things God has done for you. Thank God for the trip to Europe. Thank God for your wedding. Thank God for each day and know that he is in control of everything. By saying “Lord willing,” we are putting our hope and trust in God. In that way, we won’t be as heartbroken, flustered, or even surprised when things don’t go as planned. We’ll be able to see God’s plan a lot clearer and earlier on.
So if there is anything that comes from this virus, it’s that I hope people begin to humble themselves. I hope people begin to not take the pleasures and achievements of life for granted. I hope for myself that I will begin to put my trust in God a lot more often and not boast about tomorrow. I hope we can all learn to be comfortable saying, “Lord willing” in all situations.