Not Now But Later
The missionary Henry C. Morrison was headed home to America by boat after forty years of faithful and fruitful service in Africa. Coincidentally, President Theodore Roosevelt was traveling on the same ship following a hunting expedition to Africa. Upon their arrival in New York, Morrison became quite dejected when he compared the great fanfare the President received upon his homecoming with the absence of people to welcome him back from the battlefield of world missions. Yet, in the midst of his sulking, God seemed to speak to him in a still small voice. That small voice said, “Henry – you’re not home yet.”
Not home yet; What a good reminder to those of us, who like Henry Morrison, have forgotten that in God’s kingdom it is always a case of suffering followed by glory, crosses followed by crowns, earth followed by heaven, rejection followed by recognition, and loss followed by gain (Rom. 8:17-18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Peter 4:12-13). This biblical truth of “not now but later” when it comes to the Christian’s reward and recognition is a timely correction to those of us who are looking for our best life now. The Scriptures are clear this world is not our home, and it must never be treated as such. To expect to find happiness here on earth will be to the Christian the cause of great unhappiness. Too many Christians have forgotten that there are two worlds, and this life is the short and nasty one (Mark 10:28-31; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Suffering followed by glory, this is God’s order, and this is basic Christianity. Our best life is not now, but later!
This thought of “not now but later” is illustrated wonderfully for us in the life, really the death, of Moses (Deut. 32:48-52). Prior to the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, God takes Moses to the summit of Mount Nebo to survey the land promised to the children of Israel as a divine inheritance. Moses was to view, to see, the Promised Land, a land that he was not permitted to enter (Deut. 32:49, 52; 3:27; 34:4). The text of Deuteronomy repeatedly makes the point that Moses would see the land, but not step foot on it. At first look, this emphasis seems to be a matter of agony. Moses seeing, but not entering is torture. At second look, however, this emphasis seems to be more a matter of anticipation. In Hebrew law to view something communicated a legal implication; It anticipated the future purchase and possession of the land. For examples of this, read Genesis 13:14-15, Matthew 4:8-10, and Luke 14:18! That is why God told Moses to run his eye up and down and around the Promised Land (Deut. 3:27; 34:1-3). What Moses saw was his, even though he was not allowed to enjoy it in the present. He would later stand on it in the company of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 17:1-3). The Promised Land was his, not now but later.
The story of Moses surveying Canaan underscores the vital Christian principle and pattern that not everything promised to us can be immediately acquired. We live in hope. As Thomas Guthrie would remind us, “Earth for work, heaven for wages; this life for the battle, another for the crown; time for employment, eternity for enjoyment.”