Planning Your Life God's Way: A Life to be Envied :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Planning Your Life God's Way: A Life to be Envied

Tim Berrey
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There is no better place to begin this blog series than with a real-life example of a man who grasped what God wanted him to do, planned his life to accomplish that task, and then lived his plan. His life gives every indication that his steps were ordered by the Lord!

Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was 25 years old when he decided that defending the accuracy of the Old Testament should become the focus of his life’s work. Estimating that he was likely to live to the age of 70, he divided the remaining 45 years of his life into three 15-year segments, each with its own goal.

In the first 15 years, he would learn every language in any way connected to the study of the Old Testament.

The next 15 years he would study the text of the Old Testament.

The last 15 years would be spent defending the Old Testament from higher critical attacks.

This was the life plan Wilson laid out, and he stuck to it.

Language learning came easily to him. When a typhoid-like illness at age 13 delayed his studies for two years, he “amused himself” (his words) by learning French. He spent one school vacation teaching himself German (scoring 100 percent when later tested on the subject); another, learning Spanish. He taught himself Italian, and then taught second-year Italian as an instructor. He collected languages the way some people collect stamps, and by the time he was done with the first phase of his life, he was fluent in dozens of languages,[i] including Hebrew, biblical Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Babylonian, Persian, Arabic, and Coptic.

During the second phase of his life, he analyzed every consonant (over one million of them) in the Hebrew Old Testament, cross-examining them with the ancient Old Testament translations, such as the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and the Syriac Peshitta.

He then spent the third phase of his life sifting through the higher critical attacks on the Old Testament, rebutting them, and documenting the results of his years of research.

Making the book of Daniel a focus because of critical notions against its historicity, Wilson published Studies in the Book of Daniel in 1916. He followed that in 1922 with Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?, in which he rained down withering blows upon the assertions of those who attacked the veracity of the Old Testament.

Remember, his goal of finishing his life’s work by 70 years of age?

Wilson authored several works, but arguably his greatest masterpiece, The Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, was published in 1926, the very year he turned 70. He accomplished his life’s plan with remarkable precision.

Neither my life nor your life will look exactly like Robert Dick Wilson’s; but when I look at his life, the word that comes to my mind is blessed, in the Old Testament sense of “Oh, to be envied.”[ii]

To be envied is a man who took such a realistic look at life. He openly acknowledged what so many people choose to blindly deny: that we have only a few useful years before our life will end in death. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). He also realized that although one person cannot do everything, he can accomplish something if he will focus his energy on that one thing.

To be envied is a man who took such a clear look at himself and who he was. He realized that his life’s unique contribution to the kingdom of God would surely flow out of the unique gifting, background, and circumstances that comprised being Robert Dick Wilson. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well (Psalm 139:14).

To be envied is a man who laid his remarkable gifting at the feet of Jesus, his Savior, and asked, What shall I do, Lord? (Acts 22:10).

To be envied is a man who disciplined himself to sweat through his life’s plan and who achieved the goal he set for himself, crossing the finish line that he had designated 45 years earlier. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Don’t you envy a man like that? Wouldn’t you like to look back with satisfaction on a life well-lived?

As I write this series of blog articles, I am making three assumptions about the majority of the readership:

  1. I am assuming that, like Wilson, you have come to realize how short your life is and how important it is that you invest it wisely.
  2. I am assuming that you realize that investing your life wisely requires laying hold of the unique gifts, personality, background, and life circumstances God has given you.
  3. I am assuming that you are willing to lay all of that at the feet of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and let Him take the reins of your life.

Given those assumptions, I would like to devote the next four blog articles to four practical, biblical topics that will help you and me to live in such a way that our steps are clearly being ordered by the Lord:

  1. How to pray for wisdom and put feet to those prayers.
  2. How to light your pathway with Scripture.
  3. How to assess open doors that God may bring your way.
  4. How to seek advice in making decisions.

Because the path of our lives is sometimes murky, the final (sixth) part of our blog series will provide advice on what to do when you are not sure what your next step should be.

Here is the good news: your life can be just as enviable and fragrant with purpose as Robert Dick Wilson’s. After all, the same God who ordered his steps will also order yours, if you will allow Him! The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and He delights in his way (Psa. 37:23).


[i] This blog series is adapted from my book Planning Your Life God’s Way.

[ii] Some say he learned twenty-six languages; others say forty-five. My guess is that he learned twenty-six up through his planned language-learning years but continued to dabble at languages throughout his life, until the number reached forty-five. An excellent summary of his life is written by Brian Nicks, “The Life and Work of Robert Dick Wilson,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 19, Issue 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 91-106.

[iii] The Old Testament word blessed (╩żašrê) is one of “envious desire.” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Moody, 1999), p. 80.