After we follow all the principles we are to submit ourselves to God’s Providence. Even though God grants us great liberty in making any decision we want (as long as it conforms to His Word), we need to recognise that sometimes our decisions are not actually God’s will. What must we do then? We are not to fight or resist it, but rather we are to submit ourselves to God’s will. This is illustrated by what we read in James 4:13-17. In this passage is a picture of two kinds of people. One person lives selfishly by making all their decisions and plans separate from God. Then the other person is the one who regulates their life by the will of God. Both of them make use of sound judgment and have plans, but there is a huge difference.
James begins in verse 13 by addressing those who are making plans for the future (specifically business plans),
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”
The person in verse 13 makes a decision that involves five specific facets: (1) Time of departure “today or tomorrow”, (2) destination “such and such a town”, (3) duration “spend a year there”, (4) duties “trade”, and (5) desires “make a profit”.
James goes on to reveal why this planning is foolish. Notice that the foolishness is not because of the five facets of planning – they are wise. Instead, he observes a glaring omission in the plans of verse 13. He begins his argument by reminding his readers that their knowledge and lives are limited (4:14). Then he reveals what was missing in the plans of verse 13: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that‘” (4:15). His point is that the man in verse 13 is a foolish planner, whereas the person in verse 15 is the wise planner. What is the difference? Both make plans, but only one makes plans in recognition of who God is and submits to His will. James does not condemn planning for the future. This is apparent because the person in verse 15 still plans by saying “we will live and do this or that.” The person that says, “If the Lord wills” rightly understands that they are limited (4:14) and that God is sovereign and knows all things. So in their planning they submit their plans to the will of God. Such an attitude prevents the believer from bragging about what their future accomplishments will be.
In verse 16 James exposes what is the attitude of the foolish planner. Boasting in self and future plans is evil because it ignores who God is, and places self as sovereign. In this passage James has rebuked the individual who makes future plans without considering the will of God. The point is this, if you make a decision and God closes the door, you are to submit to Him. Also, if He opens the door you are to submit to Him. Make plans with the view that you will do what God allows.