Faith or Fatalism

“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.”  James 4:13–16

If you read some very early issues of Adventist publication you’ll notice that our church fathers took the message of our focus text quite seriously. They didn’t always use the the exact words James prescribes but from phrases like, “if the Lord should tarry,” or “if providence should allow,” it’s very clear that they daily lived with the conscious knowledge that God was the one in control and it was his plans that were the operative factor and not those of any man. 

Today, I feel like people aren’t making plans and moving ahead with the arrogant attitude that James is finding fault with, but neither are they adopting the posture of faith and trust in God’s will that the apostle is advocating for. 

We know that life is uncertain. An accident, or an undiagnosed medical condition, could change everything in a moment. This knowledge is reflected in the old proverb, “life happens while you making plans.”  The problem with this version of man’s uncertainty regarding the future is that all it has is fatalism. What James is calling us to isn’t fatalism, it’s faith. 

While it’s true that we don’t know about tomorrow and because of that we’re compelled to live our lives day by day, and sometimes hour by hour it doesn’t mean that we’re not to have confidence in the future that lies ahead. James is calling us to place our confidence in God, not our plans and our abilities to see them through. 

Therefore, it’s not enough to merely add, “if God should will…”, as a prefix our suffix to what we plan to do. Proverbs 3:5, 6 tells us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge (or submit to) him and he will direct your paths. 

James is calling us to live lives of faith and if faith is forging the plans we make then we will be seeking God’s guidance all along the way, ensuring that what we’re planning harmonizes with his will. It’s true that God doesn’t usually let us know specifically what he’s going to do more than a short time in advance but it’s also true that He has a plan and if we’ll listen and submit he’ll guide us to doing our part in making his plan a reality. 

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