There is still time to make your resolutions, time to give up, and time to start again. What would you like to do? I have a few personal and professional goals. As I am sure you do as well. As we begin to think about what we want to accomplish and how we want to do better, I know you will put God’s glory first in all your goals because you want to do what we are commanded, “whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (Col. 3:17).
I hope you will add another wrinkle to your plans. I hope you will finish all your resolutions and all your plans with a sincere “if the Lord wills.” To add this phrase to the end of our plans was once more common, but has fallen out of practice. I hope to revive it. The Scripture says, “we ought to say ‘if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). When we sincerely say “if the Lord wills,” then we remind ourselves and others of our dependence on God’s sovereign control and our own obligation to do all things according to his will.
Martha Snell Nicholson wrote:
Dear Lord, as this new year is born
I give it to Thy hand,
Content to walk by faith what paths
I cannot understand.
Whatever coming days may bring
Of bitter loss, or gain,
Or every crown of happiness;
Should sorrow come, or pain,
Or, Lord, if all unknown to me
Thine angel hovers near
To bear me to that farther shore
Before another year,
It matters not—my hand in Thine,
Thy light upon my face,
Thy boundless strength when I am week,
Thy love and saving grace!
I only ask, loose not my hand,
Grip fast my soul, and be
My guiding light upon the path
Till, blind no more, I see!
With this faith in our sovereign God and obedience to his Word, we can go forward in the new year with him as our Rock and our Leader. James 4:13-17 teaches us to set our minds on God as we make our plans. We should be determined to trust his providence and follow his principles. Everything else is sin. Trust God
IF THE LORD WILLS, WE WILL LIVE—James 4:15
This first statement is the most foundational. Notice that James says our life, the very act of being, depends upon God’s will. This deserves some meditation. God has taught us that our breaths and heartbeats depend upon his will. Job 14:4-5 says, “Who can produce something pure from what is impure? No one! Since a person’s days are determined and the number of his months depends on you, and since you have set limits he cannot pass, look away from him and let him rest so that he can enjoy his day like a hired worker.” Psalm 39:4 says, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing, they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!”
IF THE LORD WILLS, WE WILL DO THIS OR THAT—James 4:15
Since we understand our life is dependent upon him, we should easily understand that the actions of our life depend upon his will as well. Clement of Rome, an ancient 2nd century Christian, “When and as He pleases He will do all things, and none of the things determined by Him shall pass away” James said that we should “do this or that” only if the Lord wills. This teaches us that we will only be able to accomplish anything because God allows or causes it. Secondly, we should see that everything we do should be according to God’s will.
First, we think of the grand works of providence for which we are thankful. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A person’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” The CSB says, “a person’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps.” We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because “It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13). God’s involvement in the intricacies of life is mysterious and undeniable if we believe the Scriptures. While it is a mystery, it is a sacred mystery which we should treasure since we know we are treasured by him.
We should also be thankful for the providence of nature which allows us the opportunity to live reasonable lives. Acts 14:17 says, “he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling your hearts with joy.” Every good and perfect gift is from the LORD. We must trust him.
Secondly, we must recognize our own responsibility in doing whatever the LORD wills. He is our LORD, our King, our Sovereign. He demands our allegiance by his decree and by virtue of his excellence. If there is one aspect of our relationship to God which might be most easily seen, it is that we should obey him. Dr. William L. Pettingill the well-known Bible teacher and author of many books, at a meeting of the Philadelphia Fundamentalists made a penetrating remark on this subject. “Most people,” he said, “don’t want to know the will of God in order to do it; they want to know it in order to consider it.”Paul “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name” (Rom. 1:5). In Romans 6:17 Paul said, “But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.” Everything we do, therefore, should be in compliance with His Word and His nature revealed in Christ.
IF THE LORD WILLS, SHOULD BE A COMFORT TO US
We can trust God with our future because Christ is the Alpha and Omega who holds the future in his hands. We can trust God’s providence and God’s principles. Ultimately, our comfort in our God’s will depends on how comfortable we are with belonging entirely to God. When we declare “the LORD is my Shepherd,’ we should remember that means he is the one who determines our direction, our lives, and our fate.
Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your Word has given me life.” Job said, “Even if he kills me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Charles Spurgeon said, “This is one of the supreme sayings of Scripture. It rises, like an alpine summit, clear above all ordinary heights of speech, it pierces the clouds, and glistens in the light of God. If I were required to quote a selection of the sublimest utterances of the human mind, I should mention this among the first: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Habakkuk wrote, “Though the fig tree does not but and there is no fruit on the vines, though olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The LORD my Lord is my strength;” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
How could anyone have such allegiance to God? This is the only way. We can be baffled at God’s plan, but we must trust his plan. This is the way. Remember how Jesus’ full humanity was on display in the Garden when he prayed for God to take the cup of crucifixion away from him. There was no other way. Still, Jesus prayed that the Father’s will would be done and trusted that will. We must do the same. “Here you see what in a child of God takes the place of desperation. When others despair he trusts in God. When he has nowhere else to look he turns to his heavenly Father; and when for a time, even in looking to God, he meets with no conscious comfort, he waits in the patience of hope, calmly expecting aid, and resolving that even if it do not come he will cling to God with all the energy of his soul. Here all the man’s courage comes to the front, not, as in the case of the ungodly, obstinately to rebel, but bravely to confide. The child of God is courageous, for he knows how to trust. His heart says, “Ay Lord, it is bad with me now, and it is growing worse, but should the worst come to the worst, still will I cling to thee, and never let thee go.”
Someone said, “Sometime, I know not when or how, all things will be revealed, and until then content am I to sail with orders sealed.”
Will of God
His Plan for today is all that I ask;
With Him I can leave the ‘Tomorrow’.
So by faith I can walk, and with Him I can talk:
Just today, with its joy or its sorrow,
He my pathway hath planned, and, led by His hand,
Through the fire while the gold He’s refining,
Be it trial or test, He knows what is best,
So I travel where love’s light is shining.
With no plan of my own, but with Him on the Throne,
And to Him all my problems confiding,
He gives me a song as I journey along,
And His ‘fullness of joy’ is abiding.
Though the path may be steep, and the storm round me sweep,
Yet my soul He is constantly feeding;
And my strength He renews and with fresh power endues,
As I walk where my Master is leading.
Just His will for today, just to watch and to pray,
To be still when to me He is speaking,
Just to kneel at His feet, in that secret retreat,
Where His face I am constantly seeking.
His plan for today, let it bring what it may,
Be it ‘fullness of joy’ or ‘deep sorrow’,
In His love let me rest, for He knows what is best,
So with Him I can leave the ‘tomorrow.’—Alfred Easterbrook
James said that our life is but a vapor. It is here for just a little while and we have far less control than we could ever imagine. Why shouldn’t we, little vapors as we are, just trust the eternal God? He is no puff of smoke. He is the eternal Holy God through whom are all things for whom are all things and to whom are all things. Trust him.
This is your invitation—Trust him.
 Martha Snell Nicholson,
 Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 12.