A number of years ago a friend of mine was conducting a gospel meeting at the congregation where I now preach. After our good-byes for the evening, we left to return to my home. Halfway there he asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have a Mountain Dew in the refrigerator, would you?” I told him that I did not but that I could get one in just a few minutes. He declined the offer. I remember as if it was yesterday that I looked over at him and said, “I will have a Mountain Dew in your hand in less than five minutes.” With that, he agreed. Immediately I began to slow down. In a matter of seconds, my car was rear-ended, completely spun around and forced securely in a ditch. My friend and I spent the evening in the hospital where I received five stitches to the back of my head. We never got the Mountain Dew.
That one event has forever taught me the lesson of James 4:13-16, “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.” Solomon granted us that same wisdom years earlier when he said, “There are many plans in a man’s heart. Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand” (Prov. 19:21).
Before looking at some of the lessons of “If the Lord wills,” we must ask if such a mindset is found elsewhere in Scripture. The answer is “Yes,” numerous times. Paul said, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing” (Acts 18:21). Again, he wrote, “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills” (1 Cor. 4:19). This expression is also found in Romans 1:10, 1 Corinthians 16:7 and Hebrews 6:3. The apostle understood that nothing was chiseled in stone outside of God’s will.
With this in mind, understanding the significance of “If the Lord wills” will help me first of all to be more humble. The prophet Isaiah said, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Is. 55:8-9). Without God and His word, I can not direct my own path. Making a statement of what “I will” do is said by James to be “arrogant” and that such “boasting is evil.” I am not God. I do not have the foresight of God. Sin comes into the picture when we believe that we are the true master of our destiny. The rich man whose fields produced plenty thought this way. He said with confidence, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you…’” (Lk. 12:19-20). Understanding that God’s will is more important than my desires helps me to have the humble spirit of Jesus who said, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Lk. 22:42).
Second, understanding the significance of “If the Lord wills” will help me to realize that there is a bigger picture that I cannot see. The story of Esther is a prime example of God’s workings. Esther was taken from her home. Life for her became very uncertain. She must have wondered why of all the many women that the king would have chosen that she would have been picked to be queen. Little did she know that she would play the pivotal role in saving her people from slaughter and raising them to a position of honor in the eyes of the king and his people. Being human means that we do not get to see the big picture. Yet, we know that God is busy behind the scenes carrying out His will.
Finally, understanding the significance of “If the Lord wills” will help me to accept change. Such an example is found in Acts 16:6-7 as Paul was on his second missionary journey. He desired to go into Asia and then into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit forbade him on both occasions. Either path certainly would have led to more souls for the Lord’s kingdom. However, the Lord had a much grander plan. Paul realized it later as he would receive the “Macedonian Call” (8-10).
We like consistency and stability. This past year with the COVID, restrictions and the economy has been all but that. Yet, we do not have the mind of God; therefore, we do not know all the avenues in which He is working. God can work through the good and bad to carry out His will. Thus, our plans are just that: plans. Knowing that God’s will supersedes my own can help me to appreciate that though life may make many twists and turns, if I follow the Lord everything will be all right.
In times past, it would not have been uncommon to see a bumper sticker that read God is my co-pilot. Christians know better. God is really the pilot of our lives. The awareness of “If the Lord wills” in my life reminds me that God is really in charge. And with this it helps me to be more humble as I follow the One who knows best. It also helps me to understand that since I am not God, I cannot see the big picture. Though I cannot see what God sees, with His help I can endure whatever changes come my way while still remaining faithful to Him.
Roy preaches for the St. George congregation in St. George, SC. He also serves on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger.