The Futility Factor
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun,
and behold, all is futility and striving after wind. Ec. 1:14
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it, in hope. Rom. 8:20
Of late we have viewed to its extremity the covenantal promise with its deeply threatened hope as first seen in God’s call on Abraham to sacrifice Isaac—a call held out as a model to be replicated in every follower of God.
Between the promise and the hope is our encounter with a giant called futility. Futility is the utter sense of meaninglessness that ensues in the face of divine inscrutability over a cosmos beset by death and tragedy, and over a divine Relationship which, though sealed with an eternal life, is yet seemingly victimized by all the same death and tragedy which finally befalls the hopeless world.
A massive, intense contest exists between futility and the eternal life from which faith and hope spring. Only eternal life has the power to defeat futility. The life is in the promise, but the promise is opposed by the futility, necessitating in the extreme “hope against hope.”
Without eternal life or its sufficient exercise, the vision necessary to overcome life’s futility is absent, leading to the casting off of restraint: Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; Pr. 29:18a ASV
We are told that the creation was not subjected to futility willingly, but yet in hope. No writer of God, no knower of God explains why this subjection was put upon the creation against its will. This is the same to say, no one knows why evil was allowed to enter the creation.
In another place, we have advanced that it was actually impossible for the creation to exist without succumbing to futility, simply because no creation is capable of self-maintaining the godly estate and image of its Creator. Futility’s germ was unavoidably sown into creation simply because creation was not nor could be equal to its Creator in stewarding His attributes. Anything God could create outside Himself must necessarily be less than Himself, thus without inherent capacity to maintain God’s innate qualities.
Thus, the subjection of the thing to futility is inherent in the existence of the thing itself. This is the reason for the subjection apart from willingness. So it was impossible to create a heavens and an earth without an eventual war in heaven and in earth. Hope via promise through clash with futility was therefore the only route possible for creation to exist at all. And this was Known from before the foundation of the world.
Twixt Promise and Hope: Standing in the Gap
Such cosmic thoughts aside, we find ourselves inescapably saddled to a futility twixt Promise and hope—a futility first worked out in the earth under death before Moses, then under the Law, and once again now under mortality since Christ, albeit infused with Christ’s eternal life.
In all this, our new Life has been commissioned to overcome the futility by present faith and the hope toward faith’s manifestation. Faith presently declares that which is not as though it were. Hope waits as long as it takes until what faith presently declares presently manifests.
Faith does not deny what is real in this life. It only confesses what is real from the divine viewpoint. (Jesus never denied Lazarus was dead. But He was willing to confess only that he was asleep.) From there, hope maintains steadfast watch for what faith has confessed from heaven’s perspective.
Between faith and hope, the futility of mortal life looms as the great “skandalon,” ie, the great snare and stumblingblock to faith and hope. And it is only by the sovereign grace of the Creator that the faith and hope are imparted to overcome its offense.
The rise of futility and its inexplicability has caused the stumbling of all the world’s philosophers and the masses. Never mind the equally inexplicable mystery of design throughout the universe witnessing to another Reality. People still choose rather to echo the lament of Ecclesiastes. And in the end, they choose atheism. “In this meaningless world, how can there even be a God?” That is the faithless and hopeless conclusion without vision.
Light and Dark
Futility is the measure of what we and scripture alike call the darkness. How do we deal with the darkness we still experience as children of Light?
Scripture says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” In God, there is no futility, period. And yet, it also says that God “dwells in thick darkness.” And this witnesses to what we already know. To get to God, we have to somehow deal with and break through the futility that surrounds Him, this creational veil blocking our way to Him. God does not make it easy for us to find Him. That too seems to be futile in and of itself.
But it is not God who is on trial by our estimation of the darkness. It is we and our faith who are on heavenly trial. So says the faith we already have. From glory to glory, our faith must repeatedly ask, “Am I equal to overcome the next encounter with futility on the road to hope’s realization?”
David or Solomon: Whose Vision Do We Choose?
Both David and Solomon faced futility’s darkness in their walk with God. Each offered a different response. David cried out repeatedly over the insanity he had to deal with over an oft unrewarded faith. The Psalms are a torrent of back and forth despair followed by victory over despair. His hope in God always finally won out, even if barely. David was an overcomer.
Solomon on the other hand yielded to life’s insanity as natural wisdom could only perceive it. Though his gift for wisdom was divine, it never ascended to become the overcomer’s spiritual wisdom. And therefore, he could leave us in Ecclesiastes only with natural wisdom’s conclusion: life is futile. Period.
To a man, we must all make the same choice. Do we like Solomon accept the futility we experience to be the ultimate definer of reality? Or do we with the eyes of grace through faith see through and beyond to the hope found only in our Creator, as David did and as Paul exhorts?
As Christians, we are not immune to the experience of futility. Even though we have been saved from the largest and ultimate implications of this empty life through eternal life’s first impartation, we still struggle with futility’s oppression in various seasons and dimensions. As the Psalms so clearly reflect, there are times when God seems to hide from us, to be silent and absent—even though we yet know the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts.
In those times of divine estrangement, we have still been tasked to overcome the futility that would overtake us. How do we handle it when meaninglessness threatens to wipe out all we have believed for—when despite all of faith’s confessional exercises the loved one is still taken from us, the healing does not manifest, the prayer, the prophecy or the promise appears irretrievably lost in time’s passing corridors?
Though futility threatens our faith, if our faith is real, it has all intrinsic reserve power necessary to overcome it.
A Futility Shared
Though futility was sown into the Creation (such fact being the cause célèbre of the atheist), it is of greatest comfort and appreciation to further know that the Creator did not allow for this to happen without first subjecting Himself to the victimization of this very selfsame thing!
Consider that the One who first imparted our faith in Him did not leave us alone or without witness in the face of futility: Christ Himself was subjected to all the same futility, the Creator as the creation!
Even the Creator cried out under futility’s oppression, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” No glib faith confession here. He lived it all out for us, before us. Truly, this is more marvelously inscrutable than futility is depressingly incomprehensible.
From this marvel, we are able to take the more strength in our war against despair. Our Creator did not leave us subject to futility without sharing its bitter taste with us. And so, for however much we be perplexed over it, the greater knowing that our Maker was unwilling for our subjection to futility without first surrendering Himself to experiencing it with us greatly mitigates its force.
By this we may silently rejoice against despair’s oppression, knowing that have always been in Good Company.
Never has the power of creational futility manifested itself as powerfully as in the present generation. Every cultural value and virtue worthy of esteem has been reduced to rubble. Families are torn and decimated amidst Babylon’s mucky waves. The church’s voices of yesteryear promising and prophesying such great “this” and “that” have been silenced in their graves along with their “moves.” Those remaining ring hollow as a tin cup on polluted airwaves.
Futility has wrought havoc throughout the earth. It has destroyed every cherished hope and dream in its wake. Entire nations have succumbed, and none is immune. In view of the universal muck, the world’s philosophers have penned their ultimate hopeless beliefs in nihilism, atheism, existentialism—the masses following, and the church scorned.
The question is, why? How has this come to be? How has futility come to such dominance in these times even in our own midst as believers?
It is here that the words of Romans 8 come through in their wisdom. Let’s listen carefully:
8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
If you can grasp what I will say here, your hope can be bolstered, kindled and revived in this day.
The simple reality is that the magnification of the futility we all feel and witness now in our lives, our families, our churches and that has overtaken earth’s cultures is itself part of the manifest travail that was prophesied ahead of our glorification. This dominating sense of futility is part of the promised tribulation. And as such, that magnification is actually heralding the nearness and imminence of its own demise by our immortalized revelation as the sons of God and the Bride of Christ.
In a word, the bad news here is actually good news. Understanding futility’s late force to be part of the travail we already understood belongs to our times ahead of glorification goes miles to enable us to endure to its conclusion.
Taken By Surprise
We have always known that life in this world is hopeless. And we have always rejoiced in our first salvation giving hope above and beyond that hopelessness. We have also always known that there would be “tribulation” in the form of “persecution” and “hard times.” And all that understanding was fine in the days when the culture still accommodated a modicum of virtue and we were still able to all get along in the world.
But we didn’t bank on the roll that futility itself would come to play as part of the growing tribulation and the toll that it would take in our midst as believers. We saw the growing birth pangs of distress in terms of suffering, yes, but not in terms of an overwhelming emptiness that could come anywhere close to decimating our own communities of faith or threatening our own faith and hope as believers!
We were wrong. We were misinformed in our expectations of what God would do and how He would manifest Himself against such a thing. We bought into dream upon dream of how God would shine over and against the rising tide of evil in the world. We had the faith movement. We had the kingdom movement. We had the prophetic movement. We had faith in the movements themselves. Amidst all these we saw ourselves as to be somehow marvelously insulated from any sense of the world’s futility, even if we knew we would have to suffer persecution and deprivation. Suffering under an overbearing sense of futility was not part of our plan!
But it is here now—for many, and yet to come for many, many more. We have been taken by surprise. We find ourselves questioning all that was promised and prophesied, and the hope for the church. Our people are being shaken. Children who were believers in youth have departed and are departing to embrace futility as its own raison d’être. They are casting off all the restraints, roaming together in disillusioned packs, hypnotized by their futile gadgets.
The Voice of Encouragement
It is over and against this surprise encounter that the Lord speaks anew to His faithful. He speaks through Romans 8. He is saying to us,
“This is part of the birthpangs. Yes, the futility. It is part of it. You did not count on it. I know. But its rise is good news for you, though it be the worst of news to you and yours. Its rise heralds its demise and your impending revelation as Mine. Soon, there will be no more futility. Do not be further shaken in mind. Look at Me. I am still here. I have not changed. Your world has changed, but I have not. Your generation has passed, but I have not. All that was promised remains true. Stand in your faith, and rest in your hope. I have borne all with you. Glorious liberty is there awaiting you, just on the other side. Look at Me.”
Finding Your Immediate Strength
So now, what about that futile situation you are facing right now? What are we to make of it?
This article will not give you the immediate answer to any bout with darkness you may presently face. It will not tell you what to believe or how to believe over the senselessness oppressing your particular situation. Nor are we burdened to explain or defend our own experience of futility to the unbelieving.
What this word does do is put that sense of futility into perspective for you, no matter what it concerns, no matter how severe, no matter who has left you, no matter what has gone unfulfilled, no matter how distant or silent the Lord, no matter how low the ember of eternal Life seems to be in your hour of darkness.
This article calls to something deeper in you, an internal vision you already know is there, deep in where your faith remains and has been ever since first imparted to you. This article merely provides another anchor to the hope that is already behind your veil.
Remember, the greatest test of faith was over an issue of absolute futility. Nothing was more futile than the command to sacrifice Isaac. And the Lord held this test up to us as exemplary of the kind of faith that justifies a man. Justifying faith will overcome the darkest test of futility we may ever encounter.
No matter then who else’s love may grow cold, let us resist the temptation to cast off restraint and throw in the towel on the Lord. Let us draw on the well of Life that does not run out, no matter how dry, empty, depressing and/or disillusioning the surrounding desert. Let us endure to the end—the end in which “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts,” and is sufficient to cover all the costs of faith on the road to realization.
Be encouraged in every way. Take heart and be of good cheer. Continue to sing to the Lord. Continue to speak to one another in psalms, hymms and spiritual songs. Continue to confess your faith and hope under oppression of hopelessness. And as Peter said, “Do not be surprised” at the fiery trial of faith against futility. Simply know,
Your manifestation as a son of God is in imminent sight!
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Romans 8
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created December 29, 2015