DOES TOMORROW LOOM TOO LARGE?

Let’s face it. We are a couple of weeks into the new year already and looking ahead to our next day’s journey. The danger is that we can try to live tomorrow before it gets here. Tomorrow looms large to us. Perhaps too large. I am not saying that we shouldn’t  plan for tomorrow as much as our limited life allows. But we must realize that we only have strength for the day imparted and so we cannot live tomorrow on today’s energy (God promised Israel: “As your days, so will your strength be” – Deut. 33:25). But when tomorrow looms large especially when it promises something we dread (I think I have a dental appointment looming on the horizon–get what I mean?), then we find ourselves a bit shaky in the strength & courage department.

I am reading a rather heavy tome called “The Christian’s Reasonable Service” by Wilhelmus A’Brakel. (Just the name intimidated me at first). It is in volume 2 that the author talks about the need for spiritual strength for our journey into tomorrow. He said this: “Spiritual strength is an undaunted steadfastness of heart, given by God to His children, whereby they, while entertaining a lively hope of acquiring the promised benefits, overcome fear of all danger and opposition, unyieldingly engage in warfare, and courageously persevere in obedience toward God.”  Now that is a mouthful. What is he saying that is so helpful to us?

First, he tells us that strength has to have a spiritual source. God has to give it. And He gives it to us in Christ (I Cor. 1:30 – Christ is made to us among other things strength). Only in Christ can I have this strength that  breeds a steadfastness of heart  for tomorrow’s events.  The Psalmist said in 31:34 “He shall strengthen your heart.” The prophet Isaiah speaks assuredly about this to his people as they faced an uncertain tomorrow when he says: “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength” (Isa. 40:39).  A’Brakel really opened my eyes when he observed: “The benefits hoped for are so desirable that they can endure all that is uncomfortable…Hope in the faithfulness and truthfulness of the promising God makes acquisition such a steadfast and unquestionable fact, that the stronger the believer is in this respect, the stronger his courage will be.” Those promised benefits may not come in our time and in our way, and we may have to face some opposition and trial, but they will come enabling us to have steadfastness of heart and courage to persevere. Those promises give us strength for tomorrow. God told Habakkuk he would have to wait for awhile until God unfolded what he had promised in the vision: “…if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Second, he tells us that this spiritual strength is an overcoming kind of thing.  The courageous believer is made so because he realizes that “…everything which is in opposition has no power to conquer him and prevent him from reaching his objective, omnipotent help being on his side.”  I think this is what the Psalmist was talking about when he said in Ps. 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The tomorrow that looms before us in such a foreboding way is no match for the omnipotent help we have been promised by our Lord.  Fear must go away in light of what we have been promised. When we feel our courage slipping away remember what Isaiah said in Isaiah 27:5 “Let him take hold of My strength.” Tomorrow loomed big in David’s eyes as he realized the people were planning on stoning him because the Amalekites had raided his headquarters in Ziklag.  How did he deal with that potential disaster?  The text tells us “But David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (I Sam. 30:6). He counted on God’s strength to be there in his tomorrow!

Third, he reminds us that spiritual strength is maintained by our obedience. God has given us grace to obey. We have to know that something desirable is at stake in tomorrow’s battle and that desirable thing is for us to persevere in obeying our Lord no matter what the enemy chooses to use against us.  We should know our enemy. We are acquainted with the Devil, the world, and our own flesh. On the flip side, our enemies are well acquainted with us too! That is why we need this strength from God. We not only desire to defeat our enemies but at the same time we also want to stay obedient. As we experience God’s strength,wait for it, and rely on its promise  we are able to persevere in obedience. Paul reminds us in II Cor. 10:4-5 of this:  “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power (strength) to destroy strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

David got it. In  Ps. 119:115 he declares: “Depart from me, you evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.”

Don’t let tomorrow loom too large!  Omnipotence has gone ahead of us! Take courage and draw on his strength. Take the psalmists words into your soul:“Be of good courage,and He will strengthen your heart” Ps. 27:14.  Think it thru

 

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DO WE WORK FOR TOMORROW?

Sometimes the routine of our work, the repetition of certain tasks associated with our vocational journey seems, well, non-productive.  What do I mean?

You build a house, and when the last nail is driven, deterioration sets in and you fight disintegration year after year. In my case you prepare and preach a sermon, and when the last word is spoken, people forget and a month later, not only do the people forget, but I can’t even remember what I preached on a month ago. And I do this all over again the next week and so it goes. A mom cooks a wonderful meal, spends hours lovingly in the kitchen, and in a matter of moments, especially if you have teenagers, it is all gone. And she must do it all over again. Or take the task of laundry (ok, let’s not go there). You finish that long, arduous  work project at the company, and just when you feel that sense of relief, the boss dumps a new project on you and you start all over again.  If work is seen only in light of the day to day process, we have much cause for despair.

Paul the apostle sheds some light on this matter when he tells us that our labor is not futile when it is expended for the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Revelation 14:13 speaks of our works following us even after we are gone.  Paul tells us that the people that he invested his life and ministry in were his joy and crown (I Thess. 2:19-20).  These texts made me think about my work as a “tomorrow” thing.  Solomon understood this when he spoke of sowing your seed in Ecc.11:1-6. It is tomorrow that the fruit shows up because we all know or should know that  fruit takes some time to grow. That is why it is called fruit.  I have a favorite saying that has encouraged me many times and that is: “Don’t be discouraged. God is not done yet!” 

So how does this play out practically in our lives as servants of God? I am holding in my hand a book from my father’s library. He has been with the Lord now for over 22 years but I see his notes in the margin and sensed why that passage spoke to him and I realized, though he may not have realized it, he was working for tomorrow, not just today. I am benefiting from his work. I look around at all the “friends” in my library,  most of whom are in glory, and yet they being dead, yet speak! They worked for tomorrow too. These men left a profitable legacy for the rest of us. Their labors live on.

The impact of my life and ministry should be seen to extend beyond today. I witness to my neighbor today yet I see nothing happening. But tomorrow…will that labor of love for Jesus come to fruit? Somehow that puts a fresh perspective on what I do in the here and now.

So just maybe my work by God’s grace and design is meant to encompass tomorrow.  I have today, I don’t have tomorrow…or do I?  Think it thru