Tomorrow . . .
Why, tomorrow we will do this or that and we will go here and there.
In such a way we make our plans. We all plan, whether we are young or old. However, as youth in the church of Jesus Christ one has much for which to plan. “When I leave high school I will go to this or that college. At the college of my choice I will take these subjects so that I can take up this or that vocation. And if I do not go to some institution of higher learning I will have plans for my immediate vocation.” So we go on, making plans for every sphere of our lives.
We must make plans for we must prepare and make provision for the future. One who does not is a fool.
But as covenant young people we must not divorce our plans from the Lord our God who directs all things by His almighty will. James in his epistle has something to say on this matter.
Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
But now ye rejoice in your boasting: all such rejoicing is evil.
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
James has taken this picture of what was characteristic of a Jewish merchant. The Jews went all over trading in all of the cities of the world. Now here we have this merchant sitting at home with his family with a world map spread out over the table. He is explaining to his family how he will take a few trusted servants and will go to this or that city. Then he will do this and that. There is no doubt in his mind as to what is going to happen. He does not foresee anything wrong taking place. The voyage will be safe. He will make so much money and return exactly one year from today. There is no room for frustration—all is very definite.
What is wrong?
That he made plans?
No, but he divorces all his plans for the future from God. This is the heart of his sin. He ignores entirely the truth which he claims to believe—that God controls everything. His very certainty denies that God controls all. He is a member of the church, but from his practical life you would never know it. He denies that his life and calling is fundamentally that of a pilgrim.
This basic sin is characteristic in the church, a sin against which we must guard with our whole being. As children of God we must not only be listeners and hear the Word of God, but we must also be doers.
We must face reality. That, in the first place, means that we do not know what shall be on the morrow. God is in control and He does not reveal to us His purpose for the morrow. In fact it is a mercy that He does not reveal the future to us. If we knew what the morrow would be like we would not have the courage to go on. Christ knew with respect to His life, but that only added to His suffering. We must learn to live in conscious dependence on Him, bearing only the burdens of the moment.
This stands to reason, for what is our life? “It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Yes, like a mist; you see it, then you do not. That is our life. We must realize that we are dependent creatures who receive our life from outside of ourselves.
Reality, in the second place, is that God controls all things by His counsel. This counsel is the living, active will of God which has power to carry itself out. No man is able to frustrate His purpose; His will is done on earth as it is done in heaven. Unless we hold to this truth it is absurd that we even say it. In addition to being efficacious the will of God is also all-comprehensive. Every minute detail which takes place in the course of history takes place only because God willed it. The Belgic Confession in Art. 13 explains this truth very beautifully.
“We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father; who watches over us with a paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power, that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow, can fall to the ground without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded, that he so restrains the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission, they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance.”
This counsel has as its very center Jesus Christ our Lord. In fact it has meaning and purpose only as it relates to Christ. God’s purpose is to glorify Himself; but this glory is realized through Christ. Further, all God’s counsel is realized through the salvation of the Church in Christ. Applying this to ourselves this means that our final blessedness in Christ is the ultimate goal of this infinitely wise, supremely blessed will of God.
Thus, all things serve the salvation of the elect of God. All that God determines to do is for the sake of His people. This is the supreme truth of the gospel that shines undimmed and catches at our hearts with its astonishing blessedness. No wonder that Scripture constantly extols the greatness of God’s will. And no wonder that the songs of the Church are eternally raised in praise to God for His glorious works. And again, no wonder that Scripture again and again tells us that all things are for our good, that nothing can be against us if God is for us, and that all things are ours even as we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
However, in the face of this glorious truth, what do we do? We boast.
Yes, that is right, we boast!
By nature we are no different from the Jewish merchant. This is especially true of a young person. Apparently he has a long life ahead of him and he boldly makes plans accordingly: Very typical that is of a high school graduate. “Now I have acquired a diploma; the world lies before me, and I am going to become this or that and accomplish great things.” However, when one makes such claims for himself he is boasting because he does not have the ability to determine the morrow. In reality this is rebellion against the will of God. Swagger and strut however you please, but it is all empty boasting. God alone determines all for both the elect and the reprobate.
All this kind of boasting is evil, rotten, morally unsound evil—an active, vicious evil that destroys. And, lest we forget, we must be reminded that this sin is a sin of commission, not omission. It is not merely a matter of forgetting to bear in mind “If the Lord wills. . . .” Rather, it is a willful exultation against God and an attempt to destroy Him. For when we talk as if we control the morrow, it is boasting which is evil.
But, youth, all this is not meant to discourage you. I know, there are times when we wish we could control our lives. We are not satisfied with the will of God and we want badly for things to be different. But deep down we know that this is not good. For if we were given the direction of our own lives, we would surely never arrive in glory.
“If the Lord wills. . . .”
That is a confession that only the child of God can make, a confession that is worked by grace, implying a particular attitude of the heart. “Thou wilt guide me by Thy counsel.” This portrays an attitude of humble dependence, of absolute reliance.
Moreover, this confession is a comfort to God’s people. It is not a sigh of resignation, a simple acknowledgement of the fact. No, it is rather a testimony of the fact that we are led by our Father’s hand. He seeks our good; He knows our place in glory; and He knows the best way to lead us there. Guided by His counsel we shall arrive safely on the shores of eternity. We say: “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
“If the Lord wills. . . .”
O, I know what you are thinking. “Must I include that phrase every time that I say something? I will appear as some pious fuddy-duddy.”
An over-emphasis will cause this truth to become trite and meaningless. However, we must always be conscious of this truth whether we express it verbally or not. The absence of this expression reveals a sinful nature whereas its presence reveals the inmost longing of our heart, namely, what God wills, for His will is realized in Christ unto the salvation of His people.