“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” (James 4:13-16).
It seems natural for us to look forward to the new year with plans and ambitions. We all want to accomplish more than we did last year. We want to reach new goals and fulfill aspirations that we may have been harboring for years. We resolve, “It is finally going to happen this year in 2015!” Whether it is a professional goal as represented in our devotion’s text, or a more personal one involving our relationships or our health or well-being, we all try to use this new beginning on the calendar to motivate a new effort toward personal accomplishment. As children of God, we will also include some spiritual goals. Our faith is most important to us all, isn’t it? And isn’t this often an area of personal disappointment as we look back over the past year? So shouldn’t we also make a resolution to increase our faith and our knowledge of God?
While we cannot know the finer details and must submit to God’s will with trust, we do know the big picture, and God’s ultimate will for us.
How do we proceed to do better in the future, the immediate future of this new year? The typical New Year’s resolution depends on our own human determination and will. However, the Apostle James, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs us to submit our plans, our futures, our entire lives to the will of God. Human nature is reluctant to do this. So then let us consider God’s will for us. While we cannot know the finer details and must submit to God’s will with trust, we do know the big picture, and God’s ultimate will for us. We submit to this as a matter of faith. God’s will for you is your eternal salvation. To make this a reality, “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). God’s will for your salvation includes that He knew you and chose you to be His own from before the world began. The Apostle Paul writes, “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these
He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). How wondrously God’s will plays
out for our eternal salvation! This will is neither capricious nor fickle; it is holy and gracious toward us.
It is this same will of God that we trust with our future plans and endeavors when in faith we say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (v.15). He who has blessed me with “body and life, eyes, ears, and all my bodily members, my mind and all my senses” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Sydow edition, explanation to the second article of the Apostle’s Creed) also blesses the labors of my hands as I live to the glory of His name. Such a resolution does not lessen our hope of success in this new year, but rather enhances and enriches our goals and aspirations. It lifts all that we do from the temporal and mundane to be blessed by the Lord for our good and to His glory. His Spirit will direct our will according to His will, and He will guide and direct us on life’s path. We are spiritually strengthened and brought closer to our Lord even as we are enriched in all things by the use of our God-given gifts and abilities. May God grant you such a blessed and successful 2015.
Theodore Barthels is pastor of St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota.