by Stan Mitchell
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will do this or that'” (James 4:14,15).
Sometimes you wonder how much a child gains from sermons. I was a pretty typical kid, and I got up to some outrageous shenanigans during church time. But between spit wads and pulling of faces at astonished elderly members in the pews behind me, some things actually did get through, even to a fun-loving six-year-old. One was a sermon my father entitled, “You Can Smash the Barometer, But You Can’t Stop the Storm.”
Apparently during the Depression a wealthy man on Manhattan Island noticed that the decorative barometer on the mantelpiece indicated that a storm was imminent. Annoyed, the man picked it up and shook it, thinking that the liquid was stuck and needed to go back to its proper place. But the barometer still predicted a storm. Angry now, he shook it more violently. The barometer still pointed to “storm.” This incensed the great man, who was accustomed to having his own way, so he smashed the barometer against the wall. It fell to the floor in a hundred tiny fragments.
That night a hurricane blew in across the Atlantic and destroyed millions of dollars of property, and the great entrepreneur was penniless. Rather than heed the message, he had grown angry with the messenger. Destroying the barometer, however, did nothing to halt the storm. This gave rise to the refrain throughout the sermon, “You can smash the barometer, but you can’t stop the storm.”
I suppose the image of dark storm clouds and ferocious winds must have captured my imagination. Only a very good sermon could have caught the attention of a precocious little boy. I’m sure the sermon was originally intended to point to the Bible as the messenger; it could be maligned and mocked, or even burned, but its message remained true. The storms about which it warned would come, whatever one did to the Bible itself. This is true. But I can’t rid myself of another thought. We can do nothing about the storms that are coming. I can’t control the weather. I can’t choreograph the actions and feelings of others. I don’t even know the future, so there is no way I could control it. How do you micro-manage the response to a hurricane?
We can plan, and we probably should. For the church, and our families, and ourselves, but we should have no illusions; we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. It is presumptuous to think that we could. The only thing that we can do is to commit our plans to the Lord, and seek his blessing. His way will prevail anyway. You can count on that!
And by the way. The next time you see a little person play imaginary tic tack toe on the pew … you never know, he might be listening to the sermon with half an ear, and he might even preach a few himself one day! We don’t know his future, but God does!
by Stan Mitchell