What's Next?

     We remember the beautiful line from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Many of us can remember the substance if not the very words of the rest of that section of Scripture. And we all know it is all just as “the Preacher” says it is. But knowing this does not keep us from asking “What’s next.”

     As I write this on Monday I do not know who will win the election for President. When most of you read it we will all know the outcome of that election. Most of us will also be asking “What’s next?” Well, the Constitution of this country was constructed by the founding fathers with three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. If things work like those men planned it to work the branches balance each other out so that a weakness or strength in one does not overwhelm the entire project. So we shall continue to pray that God help our nation.

     But of course there are other instances when we ask “What’s next?” A trip to the doctor is followed by a diagnosis that makes us ask “what’s next?” A visit to the human resources office at work can have us asking that question. We get the news that a baby is on the way and, well, you get the idea. Life is full of times when we ask “What’s next?”

     Solomon used the power of poetry in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to remind us that life is transitory and that we will always be asking our question. From something as simple as a plumbing problem at the house to something as profound as facing the loss of a loved one, a primary constant in this life is that we move from one stage to the next, from this event to that.

     How do we maintain the equilibrium necessary for life in face of all this change from one thing to another? Again, Solomon provides the answer. We go through Ecclesiastes and we absorb his argument that life without God is an empty exercise. We may enjoy our moments but in the end we have to face our demise. The benefit of all our labor will be left behind for someone else to enjoy, be blessed by or perhaps wasted in a few days of frivolity. That’s just the way life goes and we all know it.

     At the end of the book he gives us his conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV). The NKJV has “For this is man’s all” in place of “for this is the whole duty of man.” The two translations together give us the power of the concept. Life is really not all about the moments of change from one thing to another. It is really not all about the moments we all have to ask “What’s next?” It is instead about the child of God continually relying on God and doing His will no matter what the days may bring.

     We are certainly at a place in time when we don’t know what’s next. But we are not without help. I think often of Saul of Tarsus who, of course you know, became the apostle Paul. He had a number of “What’s next?” experiences in his life. We are thankful that he came to Christ and left us his letters that help us see how to apply the will of God in life.

     When he wrote his last letter to Timothy he had a very good idea of what was next for him. He had escaped death in his first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:30-31) but it did not look good this time around. He said so famously, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). We think he died at Nero’s hand sometime not too long after this letter was written.

     With that in mind consider these words as he thought about what was next for him: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (4:18). I am thankful that it is not likely that we will face what Paul faced. But whatever our “next” may be, if we simply trust the Lord, we will likewise be delivered into His kingdom.