Wise is the person who thinks ahead and plans for the future, right? But at what point does planning become presumption? Suppose you are a businessperson, and business has been brisk. Your warehouses are overflowing. Would it not make sense to enlarge?
Here’s another scenario. You are a farmer, and your barns are bulging with the harvest of crops, so you say, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” It makes sense, right?
Not necessarily. Jesus told of such a person, and of this one, God said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20). Planning becomes presumption when you leave God out of your future. You arrogantly forget how fragile life really is. When God calls someone a fool, it is a pretty serious situation.
What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15, NLT
Here’s how James, the half-brother of Jesus, viewed the situation. He wrote, “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 and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-15).
The year was 1902, and Queen Victoria’s magnificent reign had come to a close. Her eldest son, Prince Edward, was to be crowned in her stead. For centuries, it had been the custom to invite royalty and dignitaries to a coronation, the invitation of which traditionally contained a Latin phrase, Deo Volente, or, abbreviated, D.V. And what was the significance of the Deo Volente? It simply means, “God willing!” However, the invitations sent out from Buckingham Palace announcing the coronation of Prince Edward, who was to become King Edward the Seventh, omitted that phrase, Deo Volente. After all, thought some, why should we who are enlightened continue to put that phrase, Deo Volente, on official invitations? “We are the ones who make this decision,” they reasoned, “so let’s get on with the coronation.”
He [God] has a will and His will, will ultimately be done. Of that, you can be certain.
But as the Scottish poet Robert Burns suggested, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” and the coronation scheduled for Westminster Abbey didn’t take place according to the invitation, for Prince Edward was felled with appendicitis and for months was confined to his bed. Following that event, protocol reverted back to include the phrase, Deo Volente.
When you include the phrase, “Lord willing,” or “God willing” in your comments about what you intend to do, you recognize that God does have a will, and that you have given thought to how His will affects your life. This is not to suggest for a minute that God rules as a dictator, disallowing anything He dislikes. On the contrary, much of what happens today is not the will of God, because it clearly violates the revealed direction God has given to us in the pages of the Bible. But recognizing God has a will, and that your plans would not presume defiance of that will, is the mark of wisdom.
The next time you are invited to a coronation at Buckingham Palace (should you be so honored), notice that the Latin phrase Deo Volente is still found amidst the golden engraving and realize that in the affairs of both royalty and commoners, God raises up one and sets another aside. He has a will and His will, will ultimately be done. Of that, you can be certain.
Resource reading: James 4:13-16.