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  • Rich Zeiger

Deo Volente

It is nearly May as I write this, and I am beyond ready for the chaos of COVID-19 to be over. It is quite likely you are, too. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently extended her “stay at home” order to May 15, and I received calls and texts almost immediately asking when Real Life planned to resume our regular assembling for worship and other meetings. I did not have a particularly satisfactory answer; my response was essentially, “We’ll have to wait and see.” I am fairly sure no one really felt satisfied by my answer, but it seems to be one of the great lessons God is teaching us through this novel Coronavirus. We neither know nor control the future. Don’t get me wrong; I long to get back to actually meeting in person. While livestreaming, premiere videos, and Zoom meetings are something, they are not the same thing. I would love to be able to simply say, “Here is what we’re going to do!” and blaze ahead with our best-thought-out plans. As much as I would like to, I simply cannot. That is “above my pay grade.” Any reasonably serious reading of the Bible leads us to a very basic conclusion about life and our understanding of the future: only God knows exactly what the future holds, because God alone holds the future. We see this from the opening chapter of Genesis, as God the Creator creates everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). There was nothing but God, until God formed everything that is not God. We see it in Genesis 3, following the fall of all humankind in Adam, as God speaks the consequences—the Curse—that accompany that fall. He tells not only of the immediate repercussions to humanity and all of Creation, nor even just of our spiritual (and eventual physical) death; God tells of the Serpent Crusher who will come to save us. Since God holds the future, God knows what the future holds. The Lord tells His people that one of the central measures of a true prophet (as opposed to a pagan sorcerer, diviner, or “medium”) is complete, unerring accuracy in foretelling events that are to come, according to Deuteronomy 18:22. Because God holds and determines the future, He knows the future that He determines, and those who speak only His words have no possibility of error. Those who claim to speak for God or to know the future, but whose predictions do not come true, cannot be speaking the words of the God who holds the future. Perhaps the most direct and clear passage addressing this truth is James 4:13-16. 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.  The Latin phrase Deo volente—meaning “God willing” or “if God wills it”, and often abbreviated “D.V.”—may predate New Testament times, but it is fitting shorthand for the mindset that James commands here. No one but God can make absolute plans for the future, for no one but God actually knows what the future holds. We cannot say with certainty that we will even be alive tomorrow, let alone do this or that. God alone knows, because He alone is God. If we learn nothing else from all that we are now experiencing through the COVID-19 pandemic, may we all learn the truth that we neither know nor control the future. Our tomorrow is not in our hands, but in the hands of the Sovereign God. May it humble us to realize that no matter how intelligent, wealthy, or powerful we become, all our best-laid plans remain eternally subject to the caveat of Deo volente—"if God wills it”.

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