Posted by: rcottrill | February 21, 2014

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

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Words: Ira Forest Stanphill (b. Feb. 14, 1914; d. Dec. 30, 1993)
Music: Ira Forest Stanphill

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)

Note: This country style gospel song was published in 1950. William and Ardythe Petersen, in their book, The Complete Book of Hymns (Tyndale House Publishers, 2006) tell the story behind the song (pp. 397-398).

A pparently, as the Petersens tell it, in the late 1940’s, Stanphill’s wife left him and he went through a period of deep depression. He was tempted to give up Christian work completely. But one day the melody for a new song came into his mind, and he started fitting some words to it. Though he wrote about 400 gospel songs during his lifetime, he had gone through a long period where he produced nothing at all. But this song became a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and marked a new start for him.

I cannot judge Mr. Stanphill specifically, as I don’t know the circumstances regarding his wife’s departure. However, in general terms, an absentee father often creates serious difficulties for a family. For example, a man who must leave his wife and children for a tour of military duty discovers that. And traveling evangelists (which Stanphill became) do too.

In First Corinthians chapter 7, the Apostle Paul discusses the benefits of a single life for one who is engaged in the kind of itinerant ministry that he was. He saw the advantages of not having family responsibilities. However, he recognized that not all are given by the Lord the gift of celibacy (vs. 32; cf. vs. 7).

This must be balanced with the teaching of First Timothy that leaders in the church are to demonstrate their fitness for that responsibility by their home and family life (I Tim. 3:4-5). For further thoughts on this issue, check my article Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home, about another evangelist whose wife left him.

As to the song, there are many things we do know about the future, on the basis of God’s Word. We know that, through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we can be forgiven of our sins, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7). We know that those who are saved can have the assurance that God will complete what He has begun in us (Jn. 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6).

Meanwhile, we know that He has provided all we need to live victorious and fruitful lives (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3-4). And we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again to gather His children to Himself (Jn. 14:3-4).

What we don’t know is the particulars of what tomorrow may bring, at the personal level. Nor can we be dogmatic about the day after that. It is folly to cast our plans in stone, and expect that what we have planned will come to pass without fail (Jas. 4:13-15). Jesus’ parable of the rich fool illustrates the point.

He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:16-21).

Rather than counting on material things, as we look to the Lord, we can trust Him to take the “all things” of life–whether of pains or pleasures–and weave them together into something that is ultimately good and beautiful, using them to make us more like the Lord Jesus.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:28-29).

By the sovereign providence of God, nothing will be allowed to touch the believers life that will not accomplish His good purpose. Though the details about tomorrow are shrouded from our own sight in the mists of time, “we know who holds tomorrow,” and we can walk hand in hand with Him, with confidence.

1) I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day;
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies might turn to gray;
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

Questions:
1) What are some plans or prospects in your own life about whose outcome you are uncertain?

2) How will you live in the meantime, as you wait for the future to unfold?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)


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