when they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. but on taking leave of them he said, “i will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from ephesus. [acts 18:20-21]
i will return to you if God wills
how often do you feel pressured into making a promise you don’t know you can keep? it would have been easy for paul to say, “i’ll come back in a year or two” or “i’ll come back as soon as i can.” why doesn’t he? perhaps he remembers Jesus’ command not to swear by anything but to simply say “yes and no” and stand by that. james explains it more fully here.
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 make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. 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 will live and do this or that.” as it is, you boast in your arrogance. all such boasting is evil. [james 4:13-16]
paul doesn’t commit to anything, because he recognizes that the Lord is in charge of his schedule. it’s not just that God is a priority in how he schedules his time and travels; the Lord is sovereignly and personally present with paul directing his steps. do you believe that God can make you aware of his presence like that? God loved you so much that while you were still a sinner he sent his Son to die so that you could have the opportunity to be with him! God doesn’t save people to put them on a shelf—he saves them so that they can enjoy his presence forever!
Lord, make us more aware of your presence. teach us the joy of submitting to you, and help us to long for you more each day!
~ stephen hall