Confidence for the Uncharted Way
By Walter A. Maier Ph.D.
We may face the new year with the same confidence that Abraham showed when he, too, went out, "not knowing whither he went"
As history marches into a new year, even the most courageous and optimistic will concede that we are surrounded on all sides by glaring question-marks. Last January no one could foretell that in September the civilized world would tremble on the edge of terrifying war, and in this January no prophet can outline the trends of the coming weeks or tell how swiftly disaster may overtake the world and plunge civilization into unparalleled and hideous miseries.
No wonder that people devote much of their lives and their fortunes to find assurance for the future. A hundred different methods of fortune-telling flourish in our enlightened age, sometimes under the patronage of American wealth and American learning. What have lines of the palm, position of the stars. cut of the cards. formation of tea-leaved, black cats that cross our paths, unlucky numbers, rabbit’s-foot and horseshoe charms, silly frauds and spirited séance-what have all these superstitions to do with the future? Distracted men and women follow the creeds of a hundred false prophets who claim to have invented religious systems that push aside the draperies concealing those things which are to come. What can this maze of man-made cults offer in any crisis hour or in the emergency of any quick disaster?
With men hurrying to the ends of the earth in order to discover the secrets of the coming age, delving into the depths of yesterday’s long history to uncover the means of combating tomorrow’s mysteries, let us remember that among all men, throughout all ages, in all lands, there has been one, and only one, sure guide for the labyrinth called life, one, and only one, assurance for the sharp turns of time, -and that is courageous trust in God for all the unmarked paths. We need that faith by which Abraham "went out, not knowing whither he went."
When the mysterious voice of God summoned Abraham to start his caravan over a road that he had never traversed and on a journey to an known destination, the great patriarch must have set out with the same uncertain feelings that grip us when we pause to envision the new year, with all its untrodden pathways, its lurking dangers, it treacherous pitfalls. None of us has ever gone this way before. With all the provisions that the most prudent may have made for financial security, health security, home security, can we have any guarantee for our personal destiny during the next twelve months? We need the guiding star, the compass, the chart, that led Abraham along his unmarked road into the land of promise-faith.
No word in the entire English language is more vital and essential than this word "faith"; yet few words have been more widely misunderstood and more disastrously applied. "Have faith in yourself," our distinguished "self-made" leaders counsel this generation. "Have faith in yourself," the modern pulpit echoes. Yet can anything be more cruel than this doctrine of self-trust and self-reliance? It would be just as cold hearted and brutal to shout. "Have faith in yourself!" to a passenger in an airplane about to crash. "Have faith in yourself!" whispered into the ear of a condemned criminal marching his last few steps to the gallows, "Have faith in yourself!" as to proclaim this taunting song to a world which has utterly lost its sense of direction.
Or can we say, "Have faith in your fellow-men! What a delusion in an age when avarice and selfish grasping have deprived millions of their right to work and support their families! If we were to face the coming year with faith only in ourselves and in our fellow-men, then of all years this would be the bloodiest and the deadliest.
Thanks be to God, we can have the same faith that led Abraham into his land or promise. Almost everything has changed since his day; for the world has moved on in amazing strides, and we have moved with it; but we have faith in the same God who guided the patriarch when he went out, "not knowing whither he went." There is much talk today about the evolution of religion, the changing concepts of God, a twentieth-century mind. But faith and trust and belief if they are true, can never change. Today as always, the cry goes out, "Have faith in God!" Do not start the new year with any semblance of doubt as to His all-pervading existence! Your own reason tells you that He lives and rules; the world around you declares His glories and shows forth His handiwork; the pages of history bear unmistakable evidence to His controlling the destinies of men and nations. Only the fool, the mentally deficient, the intellectually under privileged, can say and also mean it, "There is no God!" and believe that we are all toys of fate, playthings of cruel chance, bits of humanity that are destined to be crushed beneath the grinding wheels of time.
The faith that guides us over the unmarked paths of the new year must also, is the trust of Abraham of old, firmly believe that God can help us, that, ruling over the immeasurable vastness of this universe, He, in spite of His power, is concerned about us, in spite of our weakness; that we are more to Him than the dumb, driven cattle; that we need not fight the battles of life in our own strength, trusting in our own resources; that, whenever we are confronted by serious problems, deep-rooted problems, we know that they are not too intricate and complicated for the God of all wisdom. What a blessed assurance to know as year piles upon year in the swift flow of time that God can help us!
Yet above this assurance we heed the pledge that God will help us. And here, how richly have we been blessed with His mercies, as one pledge towers over another! Here are those multiplied messages of love, a dozen and more for everyday of the year: "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." "he will not fail thee nor forsake thee." "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting." "Those that seek Me early shall find Me." "Fear not thou, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
To bring that love close to you, to silence that inner voice which objects that you are not worthy of God’s grace, your heavenly Father sent Jesus, His Son and Mary’s Son, to be the atoning ransom for every sin, the payment and sacrifice that would restore the race to the glories of heaven and grant us all our title to the heavenly mansions. Abraham was guided by the promise of this immeasurable grace. He lived, he prayed, he hoped, every day for the seed in which "all the nations of the earth" were to be blessed. It was given to him to see his Christ, but form "afar off," to behold in spirit the day of his Savior, and to rejoice in His salvation. Yet how much more blessed are we since we know that all these Old Testament promises have become "yea and Amen" in Christ! Following the Gospel narratives from the cradle to the cross, we have seen in fulfilment what the great figures of the old Church could behold only dimly in prophecy.
Can there be a greater and more glorious assurance of strength and courage for the new year than the pledge that God loves every one of us and that the coming of our Savior is the unmistakable evidence of this devotion? Only one other glorious truth comes to us as the keystone in the arching beauty of this faith, the blessed assurance, not only that God loves us, not only that He gave His Son for us, but that all these blood-bought mercies for this life and the next are the free, unrestricted, unlimited gift of His heavenly grace. Just as Abraham "believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness," so by the crowning mercy of God everything that you and I need for the forgiveness of sins, for life, for salvation, has been heaped upon us by the full and free love of God.
Can you not see that, if you have this pledge that God loves you, you know He must guide, guard and protect you; that since even the gift of His Son was not too great for the salvation of your soul, no demands upon His divine love and power can be too great for your preservation and strengthening in grace? When "by faith Abraham…went out, not knowing whither he went," the mercies of God watched over him by day and night and brought him safely to the fulfilment of His promises, even though he was sorely tried and repeatedly beset by obstacles, dangers and disappointments. His unmarked path was anything but a smooth, pleasant journey; yet it was always the true path and the right road.
As you begin to travel the uncharted highways and byways of the approaching twelvemonth, with faith in Him who is always "the Way, the Truth and the Life," your destiny, your blessing and the fulfilment of God’s promise in your heart and life are assured. Come what may, this divine love will never fail; this divine direction will never mislead you. You may have family troubles, and you may think that you are on the wrong road, that God has forsaken you, and that your happiness is lost forever; but remember Abraham and recall that repeatedly he was plunged into the sorrows of domestic strife, and through his own sins twice he almost lost his wife. Yet as he, through faith, rose above all these afflictions, so you, too, can triumph over the adversities that may come into your own home.
While others are basking in the warm rays of prosperity, you may be struck by sudden adversity; your business may take a sharp decline; your money may be stolen; you may lose your work, your possessions, even your home. Yet see how Abraham defeated the blows of business adversity that rained upon him in quick succession. He was driven from the Promised Land by famine; he was exiled from Egypt because of his sins; his herdsmen lived in perpetual strife with the neighboring shepherds; his wells were destroyed by the marauding Philistines; one visitation followed on the heels of another. Yet as God blessed him through his faith, so your heavenly Father can turn your liabilities into assets, your losses into gains, if only you trust His guidance implicitly and sing into the midnight of your black reverses, "Whatever God ordains is good."
So may each day bring us to Christ if we stray from His mercy; so may each week bring us closer to Him with contrite hearts and fervent faith; so may each month make us grow in grace, with childlike trust and a Christlike life; so may the entire span of this year prove to us and to our homes a year of unending mercies and unceasing praise, a year of pardon and peace, a year of truth and triumph! With that hope and prayer may every one of us from the year’s first Sunday go out "by faith," not knowing whither we go, but knowing Him in whom we have believed, and exult: "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
W. A. M.
This article first appeared in the January 1939, Walther League Messenger