Ivor Harris, Bristol
From time to time most of us harbour thoughts of the future, be it imminent or distant. There is nothing unhealthy in looking forward; in fact this plays a perfectly normal part in our lives, subject to certain constraints.
Our Lord clearly showed that apprehension over the future, an over-anxiety and unease as opposed to a quiet confidence and trust for tomorrow, is not only pointless but positively wrong, Matt. 6. 25-34. (He was not, of course, counselling indifference or carelessness, though at first glance the Authorized Version's "take no thought" might seem to indicate this). Trying to solve tomorrow's problems today is often anticipating a burden that will be removed in good time. The Israelites moved forward in faith, Josh. 3. 14, and as the priests' feet touched the river's brink the floodwaters removed.
On the other hand it is clearly wrong to be "wishing one's life away", longing for and yearning after better and easier circumstances. Paul, who knew wide variety in his life, with far more of difficulty and persecution than of ease and encouragement, professed, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content", Phil. 4. 11. It is all too easy to give today less than its due; this happens when we live dominated by thoughts of tomorrow—a new home perhaps, a life's partnership, a cherished ambition seemingly coming within reach.
The centuries old saying "procrastination is the thief of time" is not without relevance for the Christian. The adversary has seen many a potential servant of Christ remain merely a spectator, by right ambitions being tucked comfortably away in the future. Whilst there is a proper place for training in Christian service, and it is often unwise to thrust young converts to the forefront at a time when their prime need is for shepherding, the danger to which we refer is that of indefinite postponement of a role for God, however modest. Perhaps there are times when we need a touch of the urgency of the four leprous men of 2 Kings 7 who exclaimed, "this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us", v. 9.
We dare not forget the overriding principle in the Word of God concerning the future—we have no claim upon it! The pointed statement of Proverbs 27. 1 shows our limitations: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth". In the New Testament writings, the Epistle of James endorses this, with particular emphasis upon the need to recognize that our plans should be "if the Lord will", James 4. 15. Only too well do we know how the lives of men are frequently marked by unfinished tasks. Sadly some reckon that they hold the reins, but the salutary lessons of Luke 12. 13-21 include a reminder that not even abundant prosperity can give an assurance of "many years". Only the "God in whose hand our breath is", Dan. 5. 23, Knows how much of our lease on life remains.
Clearly then "today" has a prior and demanding claim, and we would do well to ensure it is not wasted or misused, for it cannot be recovered. Once past, the record is irrevocable; no addition, no deletion, no correction is possible.
Having said this, we must now observe that the Christian has a "tomorrow" which is an anchor, a reassurance, an inspiration for today! With every justification he can look forward; present mercies, new every morning, are but a foretaste of the joys of his eternal home. So Paul claimed that even the difficulties that he and his co-workers endured should be kept in perspective; things temporal pale into insignificance against the backcloth of things eternal, 2 Cor. 4. 8-18. How beautifully the Psalmist drew the contrast, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning", Psa. 30. 5. Tomorrow holds a specially glorious promise for those believers whose today is fraught with earthly trials or seemingly insuperable problems.
Elsewhere David derived an illustration from the longings of those who "watch for the morning", Psa. 130. 6. Did he have the watchman in mind? The sentry perhaps, the shepherd, or possibly the sick or sleepless person? Whomsoever he contemplated, his purpose was to draw a contrast. "My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning". Without taking this too much out of context we can surely see an emphasis on hope in God, a singlemindedness which relegates all else to a lower plane of importance. A good way this, is it not?—to live today and tomorrow, a day at a time!
On this note we reflect that our Lord has declared His will for our future; it is that we shall be with Him where He is, John 17. 24. And how reassuring to know that He will always be in our tomorrows, as indeed He is with us today. It was after a night of barrenness and disappointment long ago that a group of early disciples discovered that "when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore", 21. 4. His disciples are still finding Him there.