John Adams attended the Second Continental Congress, which began meeting in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776. The next day, the delegates voted in favor of America’s independence.
On July 3, Adams wrote to his beloved wife, Abigail: “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”
He added: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
He was off by two days.
John Adams was a Harvard-educated lawyer who led our nation’s negotiations for peace with Great Britain. From 1785 to 1788, he was minister to the Court of St. James’s in London. He returned to become our nation’s first vice president and later was elected our second president.
He was one of the most brilliant and accomplished men in American history. How could he have gotten the birthday of our nation wrong?
On July 4, the delegates in Philadelphia adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. History would celebrate their decision as the birthday of the new nation, even though they only formalized what they actually decided two days earlier.
(By the way, the delegates did not actually sign the Declaration for another month, but that’s another story.)
We cannot see the future in the present
The significance of the moment can seldom be seen in the moment.
When Noah began building his ark, no one outside his family believed it would be used to save humanity. When Moses demanded that the most powerful man on earth let his slaves go free, few thought it would happen.
Joseph in his dungeon, Joshua marching around Jericho, David facing Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den, Saul on the road to Damascus, John exiled on Patmos, Jesus born in Bethlehem and crucified at Calvary—the list goes on. It’s hard to think of a significant biblical event whose significance was obvious to the world at the time.
As we scan today’s headlines, we wonder how the future will judge the present.
In what the New York Times called “one of Mexico’s most important elections in decades,” Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected yesterday on a pledge to attack corruption and increase social programs for the poor. Of course, no one knows how his election will actually affect Mexico, the US, and the world.
Closer to home, President Trump told a reporter that his next nominee for the Supreme Court could see the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights decided on a state-by-state basis. Millions of lives will be affected by the outcome of his prediction.
And LeBron James is joining the Los Angeles Lakers in a move that “sends shockwaves through NBA world.” Whether he will be able to lead the storied franchise to another title is another question.
No one gets a five-year plan
No one in the Bible received a five-year plan. The Apostle Paul, one of the most brilliant people in history, discovered this fact personally.
He gave up on Mark, the young man who abandoned their missionary team but later wrote the gospel bearing his name (Acts 15:37–39). To his credit, Paul later described Mark as “very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
During his second missionary journey, the apostle thought he should go east when he was called west (Acts 16:6¬–10). His Macedonian call surprised him but changed the world.
Paul’s example proves this point: the best way to prepare for the future is to trust God with the present.
Does something about tomorrow worry you today? Are you facing a decision or dilemma? Begin by surrendering every dimension of this day to your Father (Romans 12:1–2a). He can give his best only to those who leave the choice with him (Romans 12:2b).
Clay in the hands of our potter
Every nation is but clay in the hands of its potter (Jeremiah 18:6).
However, a people can say pridefully to God, “We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart” (v. 12). The Lord must then respond with holy justice: “I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity” (v. 17).
As patriotic Americans, we want our nation to see God’s “face” and not his “back.” We want our Lord’s best for our future. So, let’s pray passionately and work courageously to lead our people to trust him in the present.
John Adams did not understand the future significance of this day in 1776. But he knew how to face an uncertain future with certain faith: “I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.”
Let’s join him.
NOTE: I will be on Facebook Live this Thursday, July 5, at 12 Noon CST to announce an exciting new way to discern the news differently. I hope to see you there.