What will the future bring? Everything around us is always changing. If there is anything certain about this temporal world that we live in, it is change. This year, some of us may have new jobs, new schools. Some may enter into, or leave relationships. This year throughout the world, earthly fortunes will be made and lost; rulers raised and brought low; wars will start and cease. Lives will begin and lives will end. Wicked men will find new ways to sin. The Gospel continues its journey through the nations, bringing forth its twofold fruit of conversion and disobedience.
But what will 2016 bring for us personally, as we continue on our journey and pilgrimage? As those who hold on to the promises of God, we know that He will lead each one of us through many joys and successes, and also many trials, chastisements and sorrows. Though sanctified daily, and assured that God indeed works all these things for our good, the latter – troubles in life – can be especially hard to bear. Though righteous in Christ,
yet in this world we struggle with sin daily. Though to some it seems that the evil days do not come, and there is sunshine all year round – to others who struggle with great burdens, fears and uncertainty, it may often seem that the night is endless. Like Job, we wonder what will be the end of all these things, and long for the sunshine that God is brewing behind the thunderclouds. So often in our difficult way we want to cry: Lord, how long? What is the purpose of these afflictions in my life? Why, God?
Often we desire to look into the future, and we want to know just what 2016 will bring for us in God’s will and counsel. Yet God often chooses to not to reveal the details, or why exactly certain things happen to us in His providence. To the struggling child of God, this can seem a hard thing to take – why does God not tell us? Why are these things happening to me? Why is God doing this? Very quickly, our “why” questions becoming exceedingly sinful. With these, we imply that we would not have things this way if we could change them. In these questions we chafe at His will for us. We imply that we know better than God and question His wisdom in sending these trials to us.
To all these “Why, Lord?” questions, God indeed answers us, as always, in His word – but perhaps not as we might expect. His answer is given in Job 38-41, and they come in the form of questions to us. Beginning with “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”, God proceeds to ask 77 questions that humble us. Have we perceived the breath of the earth or treasures of the snow? Who makes a way for the lightning? Behold Behemoth and his power! Behold, Leviathan, who I have made. If we cannot begin to understand the least of God’s ways regarding the creation, how can we begin to understand God’s greater dealings with men and with regard to eternal salvation?
How silly then that we demand of God an explanation of His dealings with us! Jehovah speaks to us in these questions – if I can look after the whole of this creation, the least function of which you cannot explain or understand, why do you not trust me to look after you?
God shows us that we do not always need an explanation for God’s specific dealings with us. But He does tell us that rather than ask “Why?”, we need to ask instead – “Who?” In our uncertainties and afflictions, what we do need to know is who God is – the eternal, supremely wise and powerful One. He is Jehovah, who was before all things, who governs all things. In Job 38-41, God shows us that He alone is worthy of our trust by virtue of His upholding every detail of the universe. If He can govern all the things of the creation, cannot we trust Him to look after us?
But that alone is not enough, for while God does indeed uphold everything in the creation including mankind, how do we know that He looks after us in His favour? For God does not uphold the wicked in an attitude of grace or favour, but they like the devils are reserved unto judgment at the final day. And looking honestly at ourselves and into our hearts, we see our own profound and unchangeable wickedness. We see that we wrought the wages of sin—death—with every action we take. How can sinners who have angered the almighty God, look to Him? How can they trust in Him to lead and guide them to anywhere but their deserved destruction and hell?
As children of God and of the Reformation, we know rightly that that answer is not found in any of our supposed goodness, our works or anything we could possibly merit with God, but by God-given faith in Christ alone.
Looking to Christ alone, who bore our sins as the only way that God could justly be favourable to us once more; this is the only way we can see God as the one who is infinitely good and infinitely merciful – and good and merciful for us, we who are bought by the blood of the Lamb. In the blood of Christ, we who are His, justified by faith alone, can confidently express the beloved assurance of Romans 8:28 – that all things indeed work together for good for God’s people. The unrepentant workers of sin and iniquity, those who attempt to be justified by their faith and works, all those who do not believe in Christ as the only way of salvation (John 14:6) – they cannot have the assurance of God’s working in favour towards them. But with regards to even the future, which for now is unseen, Christ’s people have perfect peace.
It is for good reason that God does not reveal all His ways to us, for we must be taught to trust Him for who He is. We must learn to have faith in Him as Jehovah, who upholds everything by His hand, and that He will never leave or forsake His sheep that are His by Christ Jesus. Only as we learn this, do we begin to have peace. Often we learn this only through the way of trial and struggle.
God knows that His people need this peace and comfort along the way, and that we are weak and easily discouraged. As the merciful God, He gives you and I means, and so He gives you and I means by which we may learn to trust him. We are given membership in faithful churches, in which we hear His comforting voice speak directly to us each Sunday. We have the means of godly friendships and church activities by which believers can meet, encourage and pray for one another. And chiefly, we have His Word – a personal love letter to each one of us by which He makes known all His will and His promises for us to take hold of. Are we using these means that God has given us as we ought? If we are not, it is no wonder that we have no peace in the midst of life’s storms. Let us encourage one another to learn to use them and grow in our use of them.
And dear readers, as we enter into 2016 and all its uncertainty, turmoil and struggle, let us look into God’s Word together for comfort and peace. With regard to the future, let us consider a name of hope, that has been given to encourage us and all of God’s people throughout all times and occasions, joy and suffering, light and darkness. It is a name of power, one that we can call upon when we are afraid or doubtful. It is a name of joy that we will sing with all our hearts in praise of when we reach our heavenly destination, when the sorrows of life are past. It is a name of Christ, upon whom all our hope lies. It is a name that calls out to us now in January 2016, calling us to trust Him in whatever may come.
“I am Alpha and Omega”, Christ says to us. Whatever may come; whatever is done upon the creation, it is by my hand – I have declared the end from the beginning. I am the ending and the beginning. You, whom I have bought by my very own lifeblood, trust in me – Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8)!
This is a name that is found unique to the book of Revelation – a name that is found only in the first and last two chapters. No one calls Christ by this name – Christ reveals Himself by this name. Our parents give our earthly names to us, but His name is a declarative description of who and what He is. All things may change, but Christ does not. In this name, which we have on our lips as we enter this new year, we have a rock and a fortress. It is a name that speaks faithfulness, comfort and strength for God’s people through all the ages.
With regard to the future, not asking why, but who – we have comfort and hope. With regard to the “why” – Christ has it all answered. He is the beginning and ending of all our paths, and we shall indeed know the answer to why we have walked the paths we have walked, and how each step truly served our good and was the very best way possible, when we see His face in heaven.
At the beginning of 2016, let us confess and meditate together upon this name of Christ. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. He will feed the thirsty soul and bring us home to our heavenly end. Regarding the future, let us trust in Him.
Written by: Chua Lee Yang | Issue 36