It has only been 5 days (at the time I am writing this) since we were all wishing one another a Happy New Year and yet it feels like a long time ago. Every New Year everyone around me seems to be making new resolutions. Some want to lose weight (which is always a good one), some would like to eat healthier (I would like to do that too), some might want to exercise more and get fit (I won’t even go there!). Some people try to change their attitude: they want to be kinder, nicer, happier, less grouchy, more open to other people’s opinions, more respectful. Others will try to change habits: give up smoking, drink less alcohol, watch less football, play less computer games, help more at home. Some people decide to support a charity, others decide to dedicate one of their holidays to work overseas helping to build a school somewhere in a 3rd World Country. People proudly announce their plans and are full of confidence as they start their new year!
That is great, isn’t it? That people resolve to change their ways! New Year resolutions are good and when a year ends it seems the right time to try again, doesn’t it? After all it is a “New” year. What can go wrong?
I did not have a New Year resolution, but I can tell you that had I decided to stop eating unhealthy food, I would have failed tremendously by now – no excuse. I guess if most people are like me, they are probably feeling defeated already. They had really hoped that this time they would be able to do it! Well, I guess it is only the 5th, they might be thinking. Perhaps it doesn’t count: “let’s try it again”! They tell themselves. Does it sound familiar? I stopped having a “New Year resolution” a long time ago. I failed every time, every single time and do you know why? Because I focused on my own strength. Who was I kidding, right? There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, get, fit, eat healthy food, be kind, be helpful or go overseas to help build a school. The problem lies with the focus we put on our own strength, or lack of.
A wise friend once told me that he and his family would be able to raise enough money to travel abroad to help build a school during their summer holidays. He told me how he and his wife were praying for guidance in how they could best use their resources each month in order to save some more money. I thought it was such a lovely idea and I was absolutely sure they would do it. I tried to encourage them with my enthusiasm and to that they smiled and said “If God wills”. “If God wills”? What a strange saying, we might think. People don’t say those things anymore. But they should.
The Bible tells us in the book of James 4 verses 13-15:
13 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.” 14 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. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
There are important truths we need to learn or remind ourselves of in these verses. The first thing is that only God knows and controls our tomorrows. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. In fact, we do not know what will happen in the next second of our lives. Our God is eternal, outside time. He sees the beginning and the end and every little bit in between all at the same time!
The second truth is that our lives are momentary. I am not sure about you, but I love walking early in the morning when it is misty. Most of all I love watching it disappear quickly as the sun warms the earth. Our lives are that brief compared to God’s eternity. Why would we want to put our trust in our strength to carry out our plans if we know we are here now but might not be in the next minute? When I think about it like that it seems quite a foolish thing to do.
Third truth, we are called to put our trust in God. “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” The Lord, our God, is sovereign and He reigns since forever. He is the one who created all things and therefore, all things belong to Him. Because all things are His, there is nothing wrong with the saying in this verse. In fact, it shows our dependence on Him. It shows that the Christian knows our lives belong to Him and in His grace, mercy and love He will do as He pleases.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore but I do make plans and I try to challenge myself to change in areas I need to (physically and spiritually). These verses are not saying we cannot make plans, rather they are telling us to trust God. To bring before Him our plans and resolution and simply trust that if it is His will it will come to pass. The big plans and the small ones too. God knows all things and reigns over all things. Not only that, He loves us too. His love is so great that He sent His Son to die for us and redeem us.
I am thankful that one day my friend told me that simple phrase “If God wills” and I am even more thankful to know it is not just a saying. It is from God’s word. What a lovely reminder to commit our plans to God. Perhaps we should say it more in our conversations as we encourage one another to continue to grow in our faith. May this be our new resolution (day after day) and may God help us through His Holy Spirit to trust in Him completely.