“FACING THE UNKNOWN OF LIFE” By Pastor YAU
1) Unknown in today’s world: In a 1999 special issue of TIME magazine titled “Beyond the Year 2000: What to Expect in the New Millennium.” It is fascinating to read the predictions made 2 decades ago about what the future would hold. Some general observations were on target, but no one foresaw any of the events and innovations that had radically changed our lives in the past 20 years. The most telling statement was: “The first rule for forecasting should be that the unforeseen keeps making the future unforeseeable.”
2) Unknown in ancient world: The statement in TIME wasn’t a new discovery. Some 2,000 years ago, James reminds us that any view of the future that omits God is proud and foolish. “Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit. Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow…Instead you ought to say: If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) Many people used to begin their statement of plans with, “Lord willing.” The phrase may have become trite, but to acknowledge God’s overruling hand in our life is not.
WHY IS LIFE ALL UNKNOWN?
1) Only God is omniscient: Omni means all or complete covering; and -scient or science, means knowledge. God is the only one who has all the knowledge of the past, the present and the future. This is the bait Satan used to tempt Eve when he said, “For God knows that when you eat if it (the forbidden fruit), your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Wanting to know is part of human nature. We see kids have so much curiosity want to know everything. The fact that we want to know means there are so many things we don’t know, and sometimes, unable to know. Since God is the Creator of the universe, including human beings, He is the only one who knows it all.
2) Man was created finite: Although man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) God did not create man in all His attributes including omniscience or all-knowing. Man was not created to be lasting either although some lived to hundreds of years in the Old Testament. Certainly man was not created to be omnipresent, exits everywhere at the same time. Man was created as a finite being with limitations and one of that is he has limited knowledge, including spiritual knowledge. No one knows why didn’t God create man exactly like Him, and no one is given the right to challenge God’s wisdom and authority to create man and everything else the way he saw fit.
3) Life is a changing process: We change more than in our age, we also change in our mindset, like and dislike, taste of food, colors of our clothing, ways we do things. We also change in our knowledge, perspective of life and things and people. We also change as we grow physically, emotionally and spiritually. Changes don’t just stop on us, the world and people around us are also changing. Many of the changes in us and others are beyond our ability to know much less to understand. God also created us as individuals, different in many ways, even in twins. It is virtually impossible to know even our own life, much less the life of another person in present condition. How much more difficult, if not impossible, to see through the future, things have not yet come or happened. There is a bright side of the unknown in life: it brings us so much fun, joy and excitement in surprises, new adventures we don’t know the day before.
4) The known in the unknown: The known in our life is the never changing nature of God. He was the same yesterday, is the same today, and will be the same tomorrow to eternity. In God, everything is known to him, so, there isn’t anything that happens may surprise God. The wisdom of God in creating us as finite beings is that so we can come to Him to ask Him for knowledge, wisdom and ways to handle all the needs or problems life bring us. May be this is why God created us this way---He wants us to stick with him so we may be fruitful to glorify Him. (John 15:7-8)
HOW THE WORLD FACES THE UNKNOWN? (James 4:13-17)
1) They totally ignore the facts: “Now listen, you who say: Today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city, spend a year there.” (4:13) Just by reading these words, we can easily feel those who said these words totally ignore the unpredictable of the future. This is still the same way people in today’s world look at life and the future. To them there is no such thing as the unknown. It seems that they have all the details mapped out, all the plans been done and life will go as they have planned or want. Many people, including some Christians still live their life exactly the same way as those some 2,000 years ago.
2) They have their purpose in mind: “We will go to this or that city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make money.” (4:13b) The purpose of making money was the focus of life for these people who had all things mapped out. This is almost the same kind of people as the rich fool in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:16-20) People have not changed in this regard: whatever the plans may be or whatever they may do: make money. Making money has been the purpose of life to the point they don’t care about the unknown of life.
3) They forgot the nature of life: “Why, you do not even know what may happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (4:14)When we are so confident of our life, of our plans and our purposes, we don’t know or don’t care about the nature of our life, particularly the fragility and brevity of it. James used the best words to describe life few people want to know or to accept.
4) They don’t see it as evil: “As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” (4:16)Few people, especially Christians, want to offend God in doing their life. They just want to do with their life the way they feel comfortable, good, enjoy and be happy. But James points out that anytime we plan our life without God is an expression of pride or even blasphemy to the sovereignty of God and therefore it is an act of evil. Most of us don’t know, don’t understand or don’t agree with this. The Bible tells us that anytime, anything or anyone who live his life disregard God or outside the authority of God is evil in itself.
HOW SHALL WE FACE THE UNKNOWN OF LIFE? Today, January 5, I receive in email the script of an interview of Rick Warren by Paul Bradshaw. Through the ups and downs in the life of Rick and his wife, Kay, I like to borrow a few things he shared in the interview to be the points for our consideration or meditation as we are facing the unknown of life in 2012 and beyond. Of course these are all in Christian perspectives:
1) Life is a preparation for eternity: When asked of: What is the purpose of life, Rick gave this answer. He continued to say, “We are not made to last forever and God wants us to be with Him in heaven. One day my heart will stop and that will be the end of my body, but not the end of me. I may live to 60 or 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This life is the warm-up act, the dressed rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in heaven.” How often do we think of life this way?
2) God is interested in character: Through the unexpected high volumes of sales of his books, Rick became very rich. But at the same time, his wife is found to have cancer. On this, Rick said: “Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you are just coming out of one, or you are getting into one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than making it happy.” How often do we care about character than happiness? Have you seen or heard any one sent you a card or wrote you a note, wishing you built a better character? Why do we care so much about happiness than character building? In most cases, it is in hard times and adversity we build character.
3) Life is like a railroad tract: Rick said: “I used to think life was hills and valleys, you go through a dark valley then you go to a mountaintop, back and forth. Now I believe that life is like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life (at the same time). No matter how good things are in your life, there is always some- thing bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You have to learn to deal with the good and the bad of life.” Do you get a fresh perspective of life now?
4) The purposes and problems of life: “You can focus on your purposes or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you are going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues and my pain. One of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He is more interested in what I am than what I do. That’s why we are called human beings, not human doings.” How much time and energy do we invest into fulfilling the purpose of God in our lives compare to how much time and energy we spend in solving our problems?
CONCLUSION: Try something new today:
1) Don’t leave home without God: “Instead, you ought to say: If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (4:15) Leaving God out of your life means you are on your own to handle all your needs and problems. Is this what you want to do with your life?
2) In all moments with God: Happy moments: PRAISE GOD Difficult moments: SEEK GOD. Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD. Painful moments, TRUST GOD. Every moment, THANK GOD.