Volume 21 Issue 10
“Raving politics, never at rest as this poor earth’s pale history runs, What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns.”
“Vastness” Alfred Tennyson Reading Tennyson’s piece “Vastness” early a few mornings back might have been a mistake. I could not shake its impact. Posting a small part of it here does not do it justice, and I do hope you take time to discover it in its entirety. Tennyson’s expressed despair was that in the end man, without truth, without peace, without meaningful purpose, without redemptive work, without an eternal mission will be left with his own lies. He will be acting out a non-transcendent existence and face the judgment of God as troubled “ants in the gleam of a million, million of suns.” Alone, we are reduced to practically nothing. Without God, horrible indeed is the thought of our relationship to the vastness of the cosmos. Without God, we are left with Darwin’s idea of accidental, evolutional determinism. We are spinning atoms, nothing more. How sad an idea! Without God, our vision, our ministries, our hopes, and our purposes are crushed into insignificance and meaninglessness.
At best, all we have is man’s ennobling of man. As Christians, we maintain that in Christ alone lies mankind’s hope; but in that belief we are forced to acknowledge our frail humanity, because we can only know Him through the revelation of Himself to us, not by the wisdom of men. The Apostle Paul set aside the attempt to know anything among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). And his cry “That I may know Him” (Philippians 3:10) was surrendered to the power of Christ through the sanctification of the Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).Reality apart from God, apart from the knowledge of God through revelation, is one we scarcely want to face. But face it we will if we allow the foolishness of hearts to darken our path. Therefore we must consider what happens to us as Christians when our walk becomes one of uncertainty. We must consider what will happen to our churches when, through loss of convictions, our ministries center on creating doubt, confusion, strife, and “truthless violence” (Tennyson).
We must consider the consequences of adopting the attitude, “Why have any dialogue at all about truth or an absolute doctrine when all ideas are valid?” We must consider the destruction we will inevitably create by embracing the mantra, “If nothing matters, nothing matters.” We must examine what is happening to our spiritual lives, our God-ordered destiny, when in the name of progress, education, sophistication, ecumenism, or the current air of perceived modernity, some feel permission to deconstruct the “old paths,” meaning the Apostles’ doctrine. Should anyone boast of their visits to the feasts of unbelievers, sipping the wine of false religion and doctrines that have crushed Holy Ghost revivals in every generation since the Apostles’? Rather, it is our duty to keep walking in the great light of revelation, “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). It is our duty to lead the next generation without wavering, without reservation, and without uncertainty.
Our day calls for a true faith in God as revealed by His Word, a faith that is a doctrinal position, a truth to be preached, a belief worthy of belief, a word from God validated by a promise kept the mind-transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit. Only one such faith exists, the faith given to us by the one Lord who calls us to one baptism. Otherwise, if this is not true, then dare we ask, who are we? What are we? In Tennyson’s view, we are merely the corpses of our own caskets. The whole matter is the issue of vastness. At stake is eternity. We live bound to earth where most things are beyond our power to know, and where we are required to journey stumbling, falling, rising, dying, amazed by undeserved blessings and shaken by unexpected difficulties all without full understanding.
It is a God thing. We are created to live in the light of the unknowable vastness of outer space filled with innumerable stars, suns, and galaxies. Similarly, we live in the light of the unexplainable force called Pentecost. We can hardly appreciate the full impact of that wondrous rebirth of the heart, which was and still remains the matrix for divine anointing and spiritual revolution. It is beyond our scope, a mystery. “For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Yet it is upon these unsearchable riches we must cling the ultimate test of faith. Man’s power lies in his ability to reason. It is the essential power of man, but it is not his full essence.
Christians should respect man’s greatness, his unconquerable mind; but without God, man remains – in spite of his best efforts, devices, institutions, ideals and courage – lost in the vastness of God. Man’s hope lies in his ability to accept Isaiah 55:8. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” Or, as Paul said in Romans 1, everything we know is His great knowledge expressed by the mystery of life, and the great depth of the heavens. God informs the Old Testament church in Deuteronomy 8 that He caused them to hunger so that He might feed them manna.
The hunger preceded the miracle. The hunger was necessary to expose the need and to force dependency so that the people would trust God. What they needed was not producible in the wilderness by man, but it was available from heaven that they might know that, “man doth not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). God provided for them manna, a substance from heaven they could not define or control.
Like Moses’ people, today’s man cannot live by the fruit of his own labor. The wilderness of the last days is harsh and difficult to endure. Our miracle, our deliverance, our revival, our “whatever” will come when we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit. We will not define it or control it by our intelligence, our abilities, or our programs. We accept His way, His Spirit, His Power, or we accept a life doomed to meaninglessness. The vastness? Yes! A vast resource, a vast hope, a vast wonder keeping us from being reduced to “a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million suns.”