The highway stretched out before us!
For a long time I sat gazing out of the car window as we rode along: gazing at the fields still covered with a thin layer of snow, at the trees grouped together on the side of a hill, at the old wood farm houses and the newly painted barns. The thought that filled my mind as we traveled down the highway was that the scene was constantly changing. Telephone pole after telephone pole came into sight and then vanished out of sight. Fields and trees and hills, farmhouses and country roads, appeared and disappeared. A snow fence, a creek partly frozen over, a more prosperous looking country home were brought to my vision and were gone. First the ground was level and then it seemed to grow into a hill which in turn sloped into a valley. I read a billboard alongside the road, “The wages of Sin is Death, but…” and we had passed it.
Never for one moment was the scene the same.
And so it is with life, thought I. Just as the scene along the highway is constantly changing so it is with us. God gives us life, we are young, we are old, and God takes away our life. During that short period, called a lifetime, the scene is never for one moment the same. Our lives are constantly changing. Just as a farmhouse was replaced by a barn or a field along the country road, so our thoughts, sometime peaceful, sometimes troubled, follow one another on the highway of life. One moment we are on the hilltop of hope and buoyancy and the next we are in the valley of despondency and disillusion. And not only that, but constantly we are forced by our surroundings and circumstances to make decisions which mold and make our lives. Sometimes we recognize opportunities and often we allow them to slip quietly by. And when time has taken hold on us and we look back over our course, we see where our judgment has erred, where our perspective was faulty and where our resolutions were vain.
This is the true picture of life. Now we are confronted with the question, “What must we do about it?” We must move along until we reach the end of the highway; our destination. Since we cannot stop, how can we best prepare ourselves to go on; to meet these changes? What means can we employ to best equip ourselves to make the correct decisions, so that we may grow and progress in the right direction?
The wise Preacher tells us: “The excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it.” And also: “The knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom.” And then he admonishes: “Consider the work of God, for who can make straight that which God hath made crooked?”
Amongst the various ways of increasing our knowledge of God and considering His work, is the society life of the church. And it is with this means of Grace that we are concerned in this essay. I shall endeavor to make clear what my society means to me and, of course, hope and believe that these benefits are also experienced by many other society members.
In the first place a society is an organized group within the church. And this group is organized with the definite purpose of studying the Word of God. In the particular society of which I am a member, the doctrine of God’s Sovereign Grace as upheld by our churches over against the three points of Common Grace as adopted by the Christian Reformed Churches is the topic of discussion. A subject of this nature necessarily leads one to a better knowledge of God’s Word. Comparing scripture with scripture, reading texts in their contexts and interpreting in the light of God’s Word as a whole surely will result in a better understanding of God’s Grace toward his own, and also will kindle in our hearts a richer love for him, and a deeper desire to serve him.
In the second place we may look at a society as a social function. By this I mean that it is the communion of the saints over against our constant contacts with the world. At the office in which I am employed, my fellow-workers are unbelievers, that is, unbelievers who reveal themselves as haters of God. They take pleasure in ridiculing and reviling God and his church. This always makes me conscious of the difference between them and myself. It reminds me of the peculiarity of my position in this world, and makes me feel alone and out of place while in their company. It is for that reason that I seek the fellowship and companionship of the Lovers of God, the gathering together of God’s people where God is praised instead of ridiculed, honored instead of reviled and worshipped instead of mocked.
Also, a society is an organization which helps one to develop Christian leadership, responsibility and a spirit of cooperation. Everyone has the privilege to contribute her part towards the discussion. Not only does she have the privilege but it is expected of each one who has a constructive opinion that she give it so that the discussion may follow along proper lines, and may be beneficial to all present. Then too, in the after-recess programs, opportunity is given to use the gifts of music and speech with which God blesses his people.
In order to have a successful meeting, cooperation amongst the members is necessary. I am, of course, willing to concede that often the members of a society do not cooperate, that many are not conscious of the necessary feeling of responsibility and that often the opportunity at leadership is thrown back into the hands of the president, and that therefore, to many, the meeting is of little value. Nevertheless, we can then trace this failure back to the individuals, in other words, to ourselves. I know how it is with myself. If I listen intently to what others are saying, ask questions when I do not understand, and perhaps contribute an opinion or remark to the discussion, take an active part in committee work, I feel that I have done my best, that I have derived some benefit from the meeting, and my conclusion will then be that, for me, the meeting was well worth while and therefore a success. But when I merely sit back in my chair, with my mind preoccupied with a million other things, the discussion will be most disinteresting and as far as I am concerned, the evening a total failure.
However, as soon as we realize that this failure lies with us, and we strive to correct this faulty attitude, we will find that our society does, indeed teach us that we should cooperate and work along with those who are of the same convictions as we, so that we together may be blessed. That it also makes us feel that we are individually responsible for the things which are said and done at the meetings and that in this way we will become capable to lead in prayer and to intelligently and believingly take an active part in discussing the things of God’s Kingdom.
We are swiftly moving down the highway of life. We cannot combat time, we cannot shut our eyes to the inevitable changes, we cannot evade the destination. Let us face the facts! Let us take advantage of the privileges presented by our societies and use this means of living nearer to God and growing in his Grace.
The highway of life stretches out before us; and the command? “Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 10 February 1971