Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Whate're My God Ordains

Since I'm re-posting blogs, I was reminded of what a wonderful hymn text this is for the New Year:

On Sunday, 22 May 2005, I had the great privilege of leading the graduation ceremony for two of my students. Following is a portion of the charge that I gave them:

Over the past several months, one hymn has recurred in my thoughts—Whate’er My God Ordains is Right—a 17th century German chorale. In God’s good providence I was reminded of this hymn before the storms of life gathered, and, as such, it provided a great source of comfort and strength. I shared this text with my class several months ago, but it is worth the repetition. As such, I offer this hymn to you as my charge:

Whate’er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth; And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall: Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path: I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away, And patiently I wait His day.

As we have looked at history these previous two years, studying ancient and modern times, what a comfort it is to know that God has ordained the future as well as the past. His holy will abideth in all things, and no matter how dark the road before us, his holy will is good and for our good.

I know no other way to make sense of history than to understand it as His story: he has set the stage, prepared the actors, and written the script. All attempts to view history from other perspectives fail in their ability to explain events and ultimately lead to hopelessness. Our great hope lies in the fact that God holds history in his hand, that He is good--all of the time, and that we may follow where He guides. He indeed holds us that we shall not fall. Ultimately it is not up to us but to leave it all to Him.

As you see the trouble around you, as you fear for the future and question the stability of the world situation, know that God is in control. As you see the Church struggle to be the Church and neighbors fail to live in community, know that this life is not hopeless. Such a knowledge influences the way that you will live your life. You are called by God to subdue the earth and to take dominion over it. In everything that God has called you to do--washing dishes, mowing the grass, rearing children, learning--do it all for His glory and with a view of spreading his kingdom throughout the earth. Extend the Garden of Eden in your sphere of influence. Do not fall victim to the secular dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical. All of life is spiritual.

As Martin Luther once wrote, if I knew the Lord was returning tomorrow, I would plant a tree today. A proper understanding of God’s providential hand--not only in history but in our own lives--enables you to live your daily life in hope, not fear, and in purpose, not despair.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup That my Physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending, My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm, Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, And pain and sorrow shall depart.

As we face the “whys” of life--pain, sorrow, and death--we should just as quickly ask about the other “whys” of life--why is there health and joy and the promise of new life? Make no mistake, there will be storms in this life⎯and we have faced some of those even this past year. But rejoice in His grace unending, the newness of each morning, and the assurance that He loves you dearly--no matter what the circumstances may be. This is where we rest securely in Romans 8:28, that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Indeed, the cup that he causes us to drink may at the time seem bitter, but the sweet comfort of His good purpose shall cause the departure of pain and sorrow.

In addition, we know that he chastens and disciplines those he loves as a father does the son in whom he delights. Once again, we rest in the arms of his mercy and grace.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall: And so to Him I leave it all.

In the words of Job, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And later Job says, “Why should I put my life in my own hand? Though God slay me, yet I will hope in him.” Indeed, we are not forsaken and our Father’s care does encompass round about us. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, His right hand holds us fast.

I consider it to be one of the great blessings of my life to have spent the last two years with you on a path of learning and to also share that journey with your families. I feel like I am the beneficiary of our discipling relationship, for you two have taught me so much. In God’s good providence we have walked together and shared life, and we will continue to do so in the future.

God is good, and he has blessed our time together. I commend you to His faithfulness, His love, and His great goodness that no matter the circumstances of the coming years, you are not forsaken and you shall not fall. His good providences and hard providences serve to remind us of His sustaining grace and provide the framework through which to live our lives to His glory.

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