Archive for July, 2008

Deo Volente!

July 31, 2008

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:15

This week Robert Novak was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Novak is a Washington insider and a syndicated columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times. According to one news source, Novak said he was suspending his journalistic work for an indefinite, “but God willing, not too lengthy period.” 

We don’t often hear the words “God willing” on the lips of journalists today. I don’t know if Mr. Novak is a God-fearing person or not, but a brain tumor certainly has a way of making all of us recognize how dependant we are on the Almighty.

The Latin words Deo Volente meaning “God willing” were common among the Puritans who came to America in search of religious freedom. Later, the Methodists also peppered their speech and correspondence with the phrase, signaling their dependence on the Lord by often signing their letters with the initials D.V. It was a simple reminder that all plans were subject to the Lord’s sovereign permission. Is it any wonder that the Puritan era and the Wesleyan revivals were golden times when God advanced his kingdom agenda?

Deo Volente is a good philosophy by which to live our lives. However, having the right heart attitude is more important than saying the right words. The last thing we need is another Christian cliché or more religious jargon to print on a t-shirt. We don’t need another bumper sticker to live out our faith. All of that is well and good, but I believe James is getting at something deeper.

“If the Lord wills” speaks to the reality of a transcendent God and to the relevance of God in our daily lives. The absence of it from our lips perhaps suggests we are not as dependent on the Lord as we think we are. We charge ahead with our own puny plans and expect God to bless them. Worse yet, we live like practical atheists, making plans and boasting about the future without acknowledging the sovereign hand of God in the daily affairs of life.

We are also a presumptuous nation, having pushed God to the periphery of our culture, kicked him out of the public schools, and said that he is not welcome in the public square or in our current political debate. If that isn’t enough to provoke the Lord, we have threaten to remove “in God we trust” from our currency and “under God” from the pledge we make to the American flag. No wonder the phrase “God willing” sounds strange to our modern ears.

Try something new this week. Start ending your email correspondence with the initials D.V. and see if it starts at least a conversation if not a revival.


Godly Sorrow

July 29, 2008

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. James 4:9

How strange that James would tell us to mourn and weep and be miserable, especially when he begins his letter with an encouragement to “consider it all joy.” Even the apostle Paul admonishes us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” If James were running for political office, his opponents might call him a flip-flopper.

We Christians are supposed to pack up our gloomies and send them away, aren’t we? For sure, a joyless Christian is an oxymoron. Solomon said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” So why does James tell us to stop laughing and start mourning?

Before we can ever find our joy in the Lord we must experience sorrow over our sin. Jesus had this in mind when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), and “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25b). Before the gospel ever becomes good news to us, we must first receive the bad news that says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is a necessary and healthy part of the Christian life. Paul says as much to the Corinthians who needed to get right with God,

“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us” (2 Cor. 7:9).

Where are the tears? Have you lost your ability to sorrow over sin? Have you become too light-hearted and cavalier with the things that grieve the heart of God? Has godly sorrow led you to repentance?

This attitude is typical of those who have become friends of the world. They ignore the terrifying reality of God’s judgment while they say, “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Shallow is the laughter and joy that presumes upon God’s grace and continues in a life of sin.

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.


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