by Eugene Higgins
Endless (and Needless) “What ifs … ?”
This morning, I clicked on a web site that gives a quick recap of the news from a conservative viewpoint. (You may feel that conservative news is “biased”; but all news is biased – conservative news just happens to be “biased” the right way.) The reporter quoted medical sources as saying that had the Communist government of China informed the world of events in Wuhan sooner, fatalities could have been cut by 90%. The reporter then shocked me (pleasantly) by closing with the words: “And remember, whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord shall stand.”
“Whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord shall stand.” What wonderful medicine for our troubled hearts in these tumultuous times! Here is the verse to which he was likely referring: “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” (Proverbs 19:21). There is a lot to which you could listen, often slanted for just this purpose: to greatly discourage, if not depress, you. In two instances of alliteration running wild, a former Vice-President of the United States (Spiro Agnew) used a term that was eventually applied to the main stream media: “The nattering nabobs of negativism.” And negative seems to be the soup du jour being served at almost every news outlet just now. Perhaps not wanting the letter “h” to feel left out, Agnew went on to speak about “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”
Christians often find themselves caught between two competing outlooks. Having been apprised by scripture that the trend is downward, and increasingly so as we near the end of the age, we are prone to accept as true every report of lawlessness, sinfulness, and godlessness of which we hear. True or false, these reports can be distressing and depressing. On the other hand, having been assured by scripture that the Lord is coming, and our future is as bright as the promises of God, we ought to be able to look beyond the darkening skies and continue to “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:11).
One of the more enduring (and endearing) characters created by C. S. Lewis is the Marsh-wiggle, Puddleglum, a pessimist extraordinaire. Regardless of how bright the day may have started, his comment was likely to be, “It will probably rain today, I shouldn’t wonder.” (BTW, he had other qualities that made him a delightful and heroic character.)
We, too, can choose to fixate on the fear or focus on the future. Focusing on what are God’s plans does not mean ignoring the present; it means, rather, viewing the present in the right perspective. And here is that perspective: no matter what “man” plans, no matter what devious plots are concocted behind closed doors, no matter what “the news is,” the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. Isaiah recorded that very truth in a grand, sweeping statement from the Lord: “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (46:9, 10). That same prophet heralded this immutable truth: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever” (40:8).
Daniel’s prophecies are breathtaking in their scope. There are words that he constantly used in describing the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms. I’ll list them for your convenience and you can quickly skim over them if you wish:
- Daniel 8:22, Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
- Daniel 8:23, And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
- Daniel 11:2, And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
- Daniel 11:3, And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
- Daniel 11:4, And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.
- Daniel 11:16, But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him: and he shall stand in the glorious land, which by his hand shall be consumed.
- Daniel 11:20, Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.
- Daniel 11:21, And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
- Daniel 11:31, And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.
Then, in speaking of one more kingdom, Daniel adds two words that he could not use in speaking of those earthly monarchs and realms. They are words that can never and will never apply to any other: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).
Forever! Other kings and kingdoms stand and fall. This Kingdom and this King shall stand forever. Nothing will thwart God’s plans to honor His Son in our world. Nothing and no one will stymie, hinder, or even delay those preordained Divine purposes. Micah adds, “And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide: for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth” (5:4). We can preoccupy ourselves with endless “What ifs …” What if China had been more forthcoming? What if travel had been halted sooner? What if predictions had been more accurate? What if responses had been more sensible? But instead of “what ifs” we would be wiser to keep in mind “what shalls.” These are things that “shall be” no matter what conditions may seem like at present:
- Psalm 72:8, He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
- Psalm 102:16, When the LORD shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.
- Isa 40:11, He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.
- Isaiah 52:13, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
- Zechariah 6:13, He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne
- Luke 1:32, He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
- Revelation 11:15, And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.
Will this really happen? So much says that it cannot and will not. “Nevertheless, the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” Just now, it is our responsibility to “stand” as well. Whether we are here for one more day or one more decade, here is our duty as we await the return of the Lord from Heaven: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Linked with the glorious Lord, Whose victory is assured, we can stand fast because His Word and His kingdom will stand forever.
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.