I have an old friend, a retired very senior ranking military officer who spent the latter part of his career in the Pentagon planning division, assessing risks to America’s freedom and designing contingency war plans for dealing with them. It’s a critical job—there are more risks to America’s freedom than you have ever imagined. We stay in touch at a minimum around Christmas time and in this year’s conversation he said, “JD, we are living in radically uncertain times.” It certainly confirmed my feelings, and in jolting fashion. “Radical uncertainty” is Department of Defense talk for “unknown unknowns”—unknowns in our future that we don’t even know that we don’t know, the most dangerous kind. 9/11 was an unknown unknown until tragedy struck. Coming from a man more in the know about the dangers in this smoldering planet than anyone of my acquaintance, it has provoked considerable sober reflection on my part.

The unchanging bottom line of my reflection is that there is no uncertainty of any kind in the mind of our Sovereign God, who foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, but he has not endowed his creatures with foreknowledge. He can see the future, which he ordained before the world began, but we cannot. Life is uncertain to us. The antidote for those in Christ is the gift of faith that we reside securely in the palm of his hand (John 10:28) throughout this brief uncertain (to us) life. The life to come is wonderful beyond comprehension and everlasting, in the presence of the One who suffered and died for us that we might live in his presence forever.

Life was radically uncertain when a world of rampant evil felt the first ever drops of rain, but Noah had faith.  It was radically uncertain when Moses and all Israel stood on the bank of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them, but Moses had faith. Panic and radical uncertainty consumed the young man with Elisha when they were surrounded by the enemy, until the Lord opened his eyes and he saw “… the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Jesus said he “…is coming [again, as Judge] at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42). In the last chapter of his Word he said, “I am coming soon.” Jesus’ promise is a certainty, the timing he declared to be uncertain to us, but it’s a “known unknown.” Each passing day brings us one day closer, each beat of the heart, each breath. On that promised day Jesus will abolish all uncertainty, radical and otherwise: Sheep on his right, goats on his left. (Matthew 35:33)

Until then we live by faith in the certainty of God’s known promises:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “Be anxious for nothing … the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). “I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” (Psalm 23:4).

See you in church.


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