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home : religion : e-religion December 9, 2019

10/20/2019 12:21:00 AM
Don't Go Backwards
Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is  10% what happens to you and  90% how you react to it.'

Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is 
10% what happens to you and 
90% how you react to it.'

Rev. Susan Smith Walker
Emanuel Reformed Church

James 4:13-17
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

I have a friend in Hickory named Anner who must have read this passage from James because she always prefaces statements about the future with “If the Lord wills, I’ll see you tomorrow,” or “If the Lord wills, I’m going on a trip this summer.” Most of us don’t hesitate to talk about our plans and those things we want to do in life, but this passage reminds us we don’t know anything about tomorrow. God is the only one that knows what is going to happen in the future - five minutes from now, tomorrow or next year. James says it is arrogant, even evil, to brag about what we are going to do like we know for sure we can make it happen.

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I can understand that. Who are we to say for sure what we are going to do in the future? Even so, I think it would be very difficult to start every sentence about what we plan to do in the next minute or even the next day with “If the Lord wills.” That would make for some very long conversations. I don’t even think my friend Anner would take it that far. Is that what James is suggesting we do? I don’t think so.

He ends this passage by telling us if we know we should do something and don’t do it, then we are sinning. What? Why does that idea come at the end of warning us not to brag about what we are going to do in the future? I had to think about this for some time before the Holy Spirit helped me understand what he was trying to tell us in 2019.

The deeper meaning in verses 13-16 is that God’s will trumps every plan we make if it is not in line with His purpose for our life. Can we truly understand and believe this? If so, we will be humble in our hearts and live surrendered to His Spirit as we go through our day. We don’t have to say “If the Lord wills……” out loud all the time but we will live that way in our relationship with Him. Once we understand this and begin to live this way in our spiritual nature, we can’t go backwards. If we forget what we have learned, if we begin to make plans and brag about them with no thought of God – then we are sinning.

This same principle applies to other areas of spiritual growth such as trusting God to provide or loving your neighbor. Once we make progress spiritually, we need to keep moving forward because to go backwards is sin.

Rev. Walker is the pastor of Emanuel Reformed Church  and she can be reached at 828-962-8196 or

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