“If it is the Lord’s will…”

By Kristi Bothur © 2013

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. James 4:13-17 (NIV)

How often have you heard someone pray, "Lord, if it is your will, please..." and then follow it with a request for healing, or financial help, or reconciliation, or some other blessing? Teaching about prayer often reminds us to submit our will to God's, with Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as the prime example of laying one's will down in favor of whatever God's plan is.

But the phrase "if it is the Lord’s will" in James is not about prayer. It is about planning. It's about making plans for the next year without considering some important truths.

The first truth is that tomorrow is uncertain. The daily news reminds us of this every day. Tragedies are never expected or planned for, and they always interrupt life, leaving schedules, goals, and desires unfulfilled.

The second truth is that we are vulnerable. James describes us as a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Like fog in the early morning that is quickly dismissed in the light and warmth of the sun. No substance to it.

And third, that God is sovereign and his plans trump ours, no matter what. And His plans do not always fulfill our desire to "carry on business and make money" or rake in any of the other earthly blessings that are at the top of our prayer lists. Refusing to recognize that is pure arrogance.

This is something that makes me stop and think as I consider the year ahead. As I look back at last year, I see a lot of good things that happened - the birth of our son, special times with family and friends, the growth of ministry opportunities through Naomi's Circle and our church, new friendships beginning. I also see a lot of failures - promises I didn't keep, goals I didn't meet, and much in my life that remains, sadly, unchanged, in spite of my intentions and plans. I want to change that. When it gets here, I want to enter 2014 with the satisfaction that 2013 was a "success." I want, I want...but what does God want?

James tells us plainly. First, God wants us to submit any and all plans and desires to Him. James doesn't tell us not to make plans, but to make them always with the recognition that God has both the right and the power to determine the direction of our lives. Sometimes that means filling our lives and days with the obvious physical blessings of this world. And yes, sometimes that means allowing the hidden blessings that come with loss or illness or other kinds of hardship.

The other thing James tells us is fairly simple - to do the good that we know we ought to do. I wonder sometimes how much time I would save worrying about what God wants me to do, if I would just do the things I know I should? And where do I find that out? From God's Word. The Scriptures contain all I need to know about the good I ought to do, no matter what my circumstances are.

This new year, I encourage you to follow James' advice. Make your plans for 2013 with a humility that says, "If God allows me to, these are my plans, but if He has something else in mind, so be it. And no matter what, I will put God's Word into practice in my life and fill my days doing the good I ought to do in whatever circumstances I find myself."

Praying that 2013 is an excellent year for YOU as you follow Jesus in all you do!

Father, help me to submit my plans to you this new year, and help me to do the good that I ought to do. Make my 2013 what you want it to be. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of five - two on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com). You are welcome to contact her at naomiscircle@gmail.com. Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and son.