“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. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 5:13–17

The incredible genius of God displayed in His creative work is that He built a world that generally reveals His nature, but it does not specifically reveal Him (Romans 1:18ff). Hints of His sovereignty over all creation are seen in the enormous power of natural forces, whether in His unleashing of it (Noah’s flood, calamitous events like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.) or in His staying of it (Matthew 8:24ff).

God’s wisdom is so magnificent that He is able to create a world that appears to grant mankind volitional free will. Every man, woman, and child has the perception that he makes choices and “creates his own luck.” He can choose between “good and evil.” He can change tomorrow. Yet, lurking within man is the specter of predisposition, of events that are bigger than he is, and of ultimate accountability. Though a man’s life is finite he can sense that there is eternity before him. God has made such a marvelous creation that He has made harmonious His complete sovereignty with man’s total responsibility for his own actions—of belief and of unbelief, of obedience and of disobedience.

An illustration of the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, where man’s will works in concert with God’s will, is Judas. God’s sovereignty is seen in the fact that our Lord refers to him as the “son of perdition” (John 17:12). Just as factually we see Judas fully willing to play the part he did in the betrayal of our Lord (Mark 14:10).

This seemingly irreconcilable reality between God’s sovereign control of all things and happenstance, and between God’s sovereign will and man’s responsibility, can be imperfectly illustrated. The nature of tapestries comes to mind. The “display” side the tapestry makes a beautiful picture of order, every stitch lending meaning to all the other stitches, in perfect harmony. But the “behind” side bears an imperfect likeness of the other side, stitches appear to have no meaning and the observer is forced to be creative to appreciate meaning.

The reality is that we humans live on the back side of the tapestry of God’s sovereignty. Every stitch does have a meaning and it is in perfect harmony with His beautiful, holy will. It takes faith to trust that God’s sovereign “stitches” in our life, though they seem as if God is disinterested, find their fullest meaning on the other side of eternity! Anything good that comes my way comes from God (James 1:17), anything evil I do is from within me (James 1:13ff); anything that happens to me is under His sovereign control (Romans 8:28ff—He who perfectly designed the universe has a perfect design for you!), and any chastening that comes my way is an act of love from my heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:6ff).

Living by the light of the sovereignty of God is one of the smartest things a man can do. You may have heard the expression “you need to pick your battles.” The last thing you want to do is pick a fight with God. Yieldedness to your heavenly Father is a supreme requirement for every saved individual. A life that works against the inevitable and inexorable will of God will fail. Sinful, willful and blind selfishness brings nothing but disastrous loss.

The sovereignty of God is evident in the fact that He is God and He is your Creator. His sovereignty is His kingship over all creation and over all events in His creation. You are a creation of His, and certainly your life and all it entails falls under His authority and management.

God’s sovereignty is not just over your circumstances and prospects, He is also sovereign over everything that is precious to you. Your lifespan, for instance, is fully in His hands (Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 6:27). God’s sovereignty is not just over your body (your material existence) but also your spirit (your immaterial existence). Your immaterial includes your soul, your spirit, your mind, etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:23). For instance, no man gains his salvation apart from it being a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Man’s fallen will and dead spirit can never respond to God’s saving grace without the intervention and enlivening of God (John 3:3ff, 2 Timothy 1:9ff).

Knowing all this, many believers live as if they are “practical atheists” when they do not acknowledge God’s sovereignty in all things—in all things they receive, in all things that befall them, in all their plans, in all their perceptions. Our text from James 5 chides your errant heart.

James puts words to the average believer’s behavior: “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit.” Where is any obeisance to God’s sovereign hand? James exhorts you, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow [let alone a year]. For what is your life? It is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” No wonder he calls this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin’” nothing less than arrogance! You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

May you not sin through arrogance by failing to yield to God’s sovereign hand of love! Ponder and praise. Trust and obey.