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. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:13–17).
Verse 13 reminds us that life is filled with opportunities and choices. We hear of people making plans, setting goals, and engaging in travel and commerce. You see here that these plans are well thought out. They are filled with self-confidence and self-certainty. They say:
we will go—to a certain city” (literally “to this city”)
“we will spend the year there in that place”
“we will buy and sell and make a profit”
Now, in one sense, there is much to be commended here. We see confidence and ambition. There is initiative and determination. We read in Proverbs, “The preparations of the heart belong to man” (Proverbs 16:1a). And there are certainly preparations being made here in verse 13 of James 4. But there is something noticeably absent. What is missing? If you know the rest of Proverbs 16:1, you know the answer: “But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:1b).
It is right and good to make our plans, but we must always acknowledge the Lord. The answer is from Him. The outcome is in His hands, not our own.
By this time Christiana was got on her way; and Mercy went along with her. So as they went, her children being there also, Christiana began to discourse. And, “Mercy,” said Christiana, “I take this as an unexpected favor that you should set foot out of doors with me, to accompany me a little in my Way.”
Mercy: Then said young Mercy (for she was but young), “If I thought it would be to purpose to go with you, I would never go near the town any more.”
Christiana: “Well, Mercy,” said Christiana, “cast in your lot with me. I well know what will be the end of our pilgrimage: my husband is where he would not but be for all the gold in the Spanish mines. Nor shall you be rejected, though you go but upon my invitation. The King who has sent for me and my children is one that delights in mercy. Besides, if you are willing, I will hire you, and you shall go along with me as my servant. Yet we will have all things in common between you and me; only go along with me.”
Mercy: “But how shall I be ascertained that I also shall be entertained? Had I this hope but from one that can tell, I would make no stick at all; but would go, being helped by him that can help, though the way was never so tedious.”
Christiana: “Well, loving Mercy, I will tell you what you should do. Go with me to the Wicket Gate, and there I will further inquire for you; and if there you should not meet with encouragement, I will be content that you should return to your place. I also will pay you for your kindness which you showed to me and my children, in your accompanying of us in our way as you are doing.”
Mercy: “Then will I go thither, and will take what shall follow; and the Lord grant that my lot may there fall even as the King of heaven shall have his heart upon me!”
Christiana then was glad in her heart, not only that she had a companion, but also for that she had prevailed with this poor maid to fall in love with her own salvation.
Notes and Commentary
One of the lessons Bunyan emphasizes often in The Pilgrim’s Progress (both Part One and Part Two), is our need to walk the journey together. We need Christian fellowship. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need their wisdom, strength, love, and encouragement. And they need ours! In Part One Faithful and then Hopeful became Christian’s companions. Here in Part Two Christiana from the outset walks with Mercy.
As Christiana begins her journey to the Celestial City, she is delighted that Mercy has decided to accompany her. Mercy is most willing to go, but is hesitant, not knowing how she will be received when they reach their destination. Mercy does not want to return to Destruction. If she could be certain that her journey would “be to purpose” (be successful), she would “never go near the town any more.” Though she is troubled by uncertainty, she still agrees to go on the journey.
What convinces her to go? What overcomes her doubts and persuades her to leave the life she has always known?
Over the past many years, I have compiled a Prayer Book. It includes people I remember in prayer (family, church members, students and colleagues at the college where I teach), lyrics to songs (songs I have written, songs I find meaningful), Scripture passage (for meditation and memorization), as well as other notes and quotes.
One of the pages I visit often is an encouragement to learn patience and rest in Christ. On the page is a list of truths to remember (and preach to myself!) when facing difficult and uncertain times. I wrote down the list many years ago while taking notes in a Sunday School class. I don’t remember the date, but the class was taught by Steve Garrick when my family and I were at Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.
The notes have been valuable in pointing me many times back to God’s Word. In the uncertain times we face today, I hope you find them valuable as well.
Rest in Christ
Help me, Lord, to grow in patience and longsuffering, to learn more and more to rest in Christ.
Help me to remember:
God is absolutely sovereign. I must trust Him fully and not lean on my own understanding.
God is always good—always. I must look to the cross and remember: He loves me and will do everything needed to complete the good work begun in me.
God gave me my life for His glory, not the pursuit of my own pleasure. I must walk in contentment, submissive to His will.
God never reveals my future or explains His decrees. I must walk by faith and not by sight.
God hold me responsible for all my thoughts, actions, and reactions. I must walk in humble obedience to His Word.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).