“X-rays will prove to be a hoax,” predicted Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, in 1883. “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction,” stated Pierre Pachet, professor of physiology at Toulouse, in 1872. “Everything that can be invented, has been invented,” proclaimed Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the US Office of Patents, in 1899.
Even Albert Einstein got the future wrong. In 1932 he stated, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”
Now we’re on the brink of a new year and a new spate of predictions. Forbes thinks that Democrats will fail to win the House or the Senate this year, but the Republican Party will continue to splinter. The markets will continue to do well, but a 10 percent correction will come at some point during the year. Clemson will defeat Oklahoma for the NCAA football title, the Patriots will defeat the Vikings in the Super Bowl, and the Yankees will win the World Series.
I have no idea if anything I just typed will come to pass. But I do know this about the future: it comes one day at a time. And the safest way to prepare for tomorrow is to be right with God today.
A surprising way to win a war
In 1 Chronicles 14 we find the newly crowned King David facing his nation’s arch-enemies, the Philistines. Their troops staged a raid on Israel in the “Valley of Rephaim,” just west of Jerusalem (v. 9). In a day when kings were supported so long as they could protect their people, a loss to the Philistines could turn David’s people against their new monarch.
So the king “inquired of God, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?'” (v. 10a). And God responded, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand” (v. 10b). With the result that “David struck them down there” (v. 11).
However, the Philistines made another raid in the same valley (v. 13). This time, when David “again inquired of God” (v. 14a), the Lord changed strategy: “You shall not go up after them; go around and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then go out to battle, for God has gone before you to strike down the army of the Philistines” (vv. 14b–15).
Once again, “David did as God commanded him” (v. 16a), with a similar result: “They struck down the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (vv. 16b–17).
Here’s my point: David chose to “inquire of God” each time he faced the Philistines. Even though he fought the same enemy in the same location, he did not presume to know God’s will for the specific challenge before him. Because he sought the Lord’s leadership for each battle as it came, he won great victories for his people.
The key to knowing God’s will
When we consult God before we serve him, he is able to lead us according to his “good and acceptable and perfect” will (Romans 12:2). He is a real-time God who reveals his will in the moment.
No one in the Bible gets a five-year plan. When Joseph received dreams of power and authority (Genesis 37:5–11), he did not know that he would travel through the pit and the prison on his way to the palace. When God called Abraham, “he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). Paul thought he should go east when he was led to go west (Acts 16:6¬–10).
“Yesterday” and “tomorrow” do not exist. They are concepts, not concrete realities. The only day that exists is today. That’s why God’s will is first and foremost a present-tense concern. He will give us leadership for the future when we need such guidance, but he is primarily focused on our relationship with him today.
The key to knowing his present-tense will is present-tense surrender to his will. Sign a blank check and let him fill in the amount. Give him each day as it comes, trusting him to lead and use you as he wishes. There can be only one driver behind the wheel of your heart, only one captain of your soul.
If you would defeat today’s Philistines, you need today’s strategy from your King.
You cannot dedicate the coming year to God, but you can dedicate each day of the year to him as it comes. Just as you can dedicate this day to him now—wherever he leads, whatever he asks, whatever the cost. Jim Elliott was right: “God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.”
Can he give you his best today?