Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
I have been recently blessed with a contract that enables me to travel extensively. While enormously exciting, because I never had the opportunity before, it can also be a little daunting. Setting off on my own into an entirely new landscape armed with my GPS isn’t all that bad in a rural and quiet setting. I found that the cities, with their complex freeway interchanges and any number of possible exits have been the most challenging. It’s the uncertainty that emerges strongest – the real possibility that I may take the wrong road, and the reality that I really have no clue where I’m going and am totally dependent on the GPs. This has reminded me of a peculiar characteristic of Christians. Certain uncertainty may seem like a contradiction in terms, but today’s verse very clearly highlights this as a Christian reality.
God actually intends that we live in this world, through His grace, in a perpetual state of certain uncertainty.
It’s often the most difficult thing for us to accept and to adapt to in our daily Christian walk. The world promulgates goals and visions, careful plans and a future mapped out right to the smallest details. We have short term, medium term, and long term visions, and we have a plan of action to achieve them, so we can measure our progress and make adjustments or refocus when we go off track. Like a city interchange, life presents us with limitless possibilities, and we get to choose the one we will follow, carefully mapping out our route and what we will need to get there. The world view, focused as it is on success, achievement, and control of our own destinies, denies the spiritual truth of certain uncertainty.
Certainly, the world agrees that change is inevitable. It will even go so far as to agree is that change is the only certainty in life, that sooner or later, one way or another, things will change. But the focus is always on ‘managing change,’ making it ‘work for us not against us.’ Self-help teaching focus on regaining and maintaining control. The acceptance of change is simply a step in defining our own destiny. Change becomes a tool we can use to achieve our own purposes. There is no place in the worldview for the grace required to live in a condition of certain uncertainty.
The other issue is that lack of control over a situation or over our future leaves us feeling vulnerable. It’s a little frightening, because it’s out of our hands. We seem to be able to cope with anything so long as we ‘know,’ so long as we are able to make the decisions and implement a course of action that will keep us at the help. This is a kind of ‘safety net,’ and instinctual response in every human being that immediately raises self above the purposes of God. Uncertainty is one of our most frightening experiences. The very concept of certain uncertainty is guaranteed to challenge us on a deep and powerful level.
This powerful spiritual principle, however, is an integral part of our faith. It would be so easy to trust God if He presented us with a detailed project plan, highlighting problem areas and our strengths and weaknesses, and providing comprehensive solutions that we can apply to avoid the pitfalls. But Christianity doesn’t work like that. It requires us to not only step out in faith into uncertainty, but also to do so in certain uncertainty. To understand, we need to look at this two-part ‘contradiction.’
The uncertainty we face is, without doubt, the future. We have no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring, let alone next week, month, or ten years from now. We cannot possibly know the full purposes of God for our lives. The only thing we can be absolutely sure of is that we won’t ever know. He will never provide that project plan we all long for or even a roadmap of our current location. The only GPS we have is God Himself through the guiding of His Holy Spirit. This could be regarded as the ‘negative’ certain uncertainty – the certainty that, in our journey with Him, we will constantly face uncertainty.
The other side of the uncertainty coin is, of course, the reality and inevitability of change. Today’s verse reminds us that change is the very nature of our walk with God. This is another rather daunting side to certain uncertainty. We can be very sure that change is guaranteed. The Word tells us over and over that part of our salvation is being changed, transformed, and renewed, being changed ‘from glory to glory,’ being made new into the very image of Christ. This is massive. It’s a complete ‘remaking,’ not a little tweak here and there. It’s a complete, inside-out change that will ensure that we will never be the same again.
It seems that God has made up His mind to make the two things we fear most – change and uncertainty – the particular focus of our Christian walk. Wow. That’s an entirely uncomfortable and unwelcome reality. But His grace is a wonderful thing. Remember, He intends us to be a ‘peculiar’ people – to stand out from the rest of the world like a light shining on top of a hill. What could be more peculiar in today’s world than people who walk with grace in certain uncertainty?
The reality of – and the purpose behind – certain uncertainty is not only that we live as a witness to Jesus by being changed into His image. It’s to grow our faith and draw us closer to God. The real truth is that, human nature being what it is, if we were given the project plan we would respond contrary to what God desires and intends. Self remains our greatest enemy throughout our lives, and pride a persistent irritation.
The first possible response is always pride, which works very closely with our human expectation and need to achieve and to be successful and in control. The project plan may be God’s, but human nature will very soon assume the credit. If we knew every step along the way, we will quickly turn things around to our personal glory. God will take a back seat to self-gratification. Certain uncertainty will no longer have relevance in the face of absolute certainty. And absolute certainty requires no faith.
The second response is complacency. It’s very easy to ‘trust’ when there are no problems, but this kind of trust or faith is self-anchored. We have faith to move forward not because we are depending on God but because we are confident in the outcome because we are certain of what and how. We do not need to rely on God at all. Even though He may have provided the plan, the steps, and the solutions, we will very quickly lose any need to rely on God to effect it. Not relying on God means relying on self. Certain uncertainty is not possible unless we rely utterly and completely on God for everything.
I also believe that one of the reasons God does not reveal everything to us is His mercy. I believe that if we were instantly confronted with the full magnitude of His plans for us, we would be incapable of handling it. It would scare us witless. Remember, He is the God of ‘exceedingly, abundantly, far more than you can ever ask or imagine.’ Nothing God does is ‘small and manageable.’ It is always way beyond our limited human expectation or comprehension. His solution to these things is the grace of certain uncertainty.
If we can be assured of uncertainty – which, from a human perspective, is naturally frightening – what is the good in certain uncertainty that the Bible teaches? Is there any, and how to we take hold of it? Today’s verse reminds us that our certainty is Christ. He, through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is our spiritual GPS to help us negotiate those unknown areas and confusing choices. This is the grace that is inherent in the principle of certain uncertainty – that God Himself is our focus, our strength, and our faithful guide, no matter what.
As Christians, we have innumerable promises in the Word that assure us that God’s purposes will be fulfilled in our lives, that He will never leave us, that all things work to our good because we love Him. This is the very crux of our faith, the ‘certain’ in certain uncertainty that by far outweighs all other certainties. Yes, we can be sure we will face change and will always live in uncertainty, but we can do it sure and certain faith. The nature of God is unchanging. His Word is unchanging. His faithfulness is everlasting. His mercy is eternal, and His grace is ever-constant.
Moving forward in faith doesn’t ever mean stepping blindly off a cliff. It means walking close to and holding onto our God. It means listening for and hearing His voice. It means knowing Him so well that we recognise when He speaks and act only on His wisdom and guidance. He won’t ever reveal the whole plan, but He will reveal what we need for this moment. He may well provide us with a vision, a long-term sense of what He has planned. But the details remain His alone, and as we walk with Him in certain uncertainty, He will teach us, guide us, and direct us in each small step.
The final and greatest certainty is that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is our greatest ‘goal,’ the totality of everything we go through in life. Do we pause to reflect on the awesome privilege of the God of the universe transforming the blackest of sinners into the image of His perfect, spotless, glorious Son? This truth alone is beyond what we could ever fully comprehend. This is the grace of God – the grace that enables us to walk in certain uncertainty. What does it matter that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring or that change lurks on the horizon? We can be absolutely certain that we will one day be utterly transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
Our faith is never based on our own abilities or on the expectations of the world. Faith, by its very nature, defies social conventions. It lifts us out of the ordinary and establishes us as a peculiar people – a people who walk not in the ways of the world but in the ways of God. A powerful evidence of our faith is the grace to walk in certain uncertainty, the quiet acceptance and joy of knowing that we don’t need to fear change or the uncertainty because our God knows all and will perfect His purposes in us.
Thank You for Your grace, Lord, which we need to empower and enable us to walk with You in absolute faith. Help us to fix our eyes on You rather than on uncertainty and change. Help us to see Your faithful guidance and wisdom, and to walk close to You always, so that we can live as Your peculiar people, outside of the conventions of the world and the demands of self, and so bring glory to You.