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Deo Volente

November 2003 | by Timothy Cross

A godly Christian I once knew used to pepper her conversation with the expression ‘DV’. We do not hear this expression very much today, but the initials stand for the Latin Deo Volente – which means ‘God willing’ or, more loosely, ‘If the Lord wills’.

‘DV’comes from James 4:15 — ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’.

If the Lord wills — the phrase reminds us that we are not in charge of our own destinies, but completely dependent upon God for all things. He is the God in whose hand is our breath, and whose are all our ways (Daniel 5:23).

Master of my fate?

As Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, went to the electric chair he claimed: ‘I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul’. How wrong he was!

Who knows what awaits us in the days ahead? Only God. Whether we like it or not, our hopes and plans are subject to God’s overall plan.

‘A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps’ (Proverbs 16:9). ‘A man’s steps are ordered by the Lord’ (Proverbs 20:24).

A Jewish joke goes something like this: Q. How do you make the Almighty laugh? A. Tell him your plans.

We have to agree. We may propose, but God — ‘who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will’ — is perfectly entitled to dispose (Ephesians 1:11).

If we only remember that even our disappointments are his appointments, they will be a lot easier to bear.

God holds the key of all unknown
And I am glad.
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if he trusted it to me,
I might be sad.
I cannot read his future plans
But this I know,
I have the smiling of his face
And all the refuge of his grace
While here below.

Context

Let us put our verse into its context. James 4:13 ff. runs: ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow.

‘What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that”. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.’

The context of the verse is the uncertainty and fragility of life. A man has great plans to go to a certain town and make money. He believes his business project is a winner.

But he has forgotten that Almighty God can thwart his plans. It is God’s prerogative even to take away our life — from a divine perspective, there is no such thing as premature death!

He may see fit to take away our health, our talents and our wealth; to cut us down to size, and give us a right sense of our sinfulness (see Haggai 1:6-11).

Notice that the text emphasises the brevity of life as well as its fragility — ‘you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’.

Who could imagine that, one evening in Paris, Princess Diana would put on expensive clothes and jewellery, go out for a meal, and die an untimely death?

From Princess to pauper, all our lives are subject to the will of God. Saying ‘DV’ acknowledges this fact.

David confessed, ‘Thou art my God, my times are in thy hand’ (Psalm 31:14). Our days on earth are numbered by Almighty God.

Trusting Christ

Our future hopes and plans, then, are subject to the over-arching will of God — ‘for from him and through him and to him are all things’ (Romans 11:36). If we belong to the Lord Jesus, however, we need not fear.

Safe under our heavenly Father’s loving sway, we are encouraged to trust his providence, submitting joyfully to whatever he sends. For we know that he is too wise to make mistakes, and too good to be unkind.

Scripture affirms that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28; NIV).

If the Lord wills. It is a good motto to remember and an anchor for our souls, for all of our plans are subject to the sovereign will of God.

All the way my Saviour leads me,
What have I to ask be side?
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well.