James 4:13-15 – “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.’”
One of the sins of presumption that we commit often is presuming that our plans are God’s plans. Churches make 5, 10, and 20-year plans. We document our expectations in life and let God know what is going to happen. James hits this presumptive attitude hard when he addresses our plans in life. He gives us perfect perspective when he reminds us that we are a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes. We must realize that our time is short in this life. We must realize that the Lord’s will is perfect and that we are to pray as Jesus prayed in the garden saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
One of the mistakes that we make along the lines of this sin of presumption is to fatalistically hold to God’s sovereignty. Fatalism is the belief that all things are predetermined to the point that our involvement in them means nothing. Fatalism would be true if we as humans were not involved in the story of creation. Somehow, some way, both God’s sovereignty over all things is held in perfect unity with man’s responsibility in this life. We see this unique dynamic when we are talking about the role of prayer as followers of Christ. A fatalistic view of prayer would say that God is sovereign over all things, so therefore my prayer is pointless. The opposite of a fatalistic view of life is seen in James 4, which claims to believe that we will do whatever we want to do, as if God is not really in control.
We need to hold to both of these ideas in perfect tension. With regards to salvation, God is sovereign over my salvation; yet I am held responsible for my acceptance or rejection of the gospel message. Scripture teaches that I cannot be saved on my own, yet I am held responsible when I reject him.
As we formulate our understanding of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility we must be regularly asking ourselves what a high view of God’s sovereignty causes us to believe. I have noticed in the past that a high view of God’s sovereignty has led me to prayerlessness because I saw myself believing that God was going to do what God was going to do. Yet, Scripture clearly shows us that he uses our prayers to accomplish his purposes.
One area that this practically plays out for us on a daily basis relates to sins we commit. When we sin, make mistakes, and fail to live as God has called us to live, we can cling to this message of God’s sovereignty as we shirk the responsibility from us to the Lord. While we definitely do not intentionally do this, I wonder how often we fail to acknowledge mistakes out of deference to God’s control in all of life. The Bible clearly teaches that God does not sin. James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Praise God that in his sovereignty, God sent his Son to save us from our mistakes. He sent his Son to sovereignly atone for our sins!