Is Your Future Set by Destiny?
IF YOU were to escape a fatal accident, would you feel that you had been favored by destiny? Or would you instead be grateful that you simply happened to be in the right place at the right time?
The wise man Solomon said: “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) How often the unexpected happens! A favored athlete is injured, and the underdog wins. A freak accident brings financial ruin to an honest businessman, allowing his shady competitor to become rich. But did Solomon attribute these anomalies to fate? Not at all. These are simply the effects of “time and unforeseen occurrence.”
Jesus Christ made a similar observation. Referring to an event that was apparently common knowledge among his listeners, Jesus asked: “Those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, thereby killing them, do you imagine that they were proved greater debtors than all other men inhabiting Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4) Jesus did not blame these fatalities on some mysterious fate or on the will of God, nor did he believe that the victims were somehow more blameworthy than others. The tragic accident was just another example of time and unforeseen occurrence at work.
Nowhere does the Bible espouse the idea that God has predetermined our time of death. It is true that Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 says: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens: a time for birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted.” Yet Solomon was simply discussing the continuing cycle of life and death that afflicts imperfect humanity. We are born, and when the time comes, when normal life expectancy is reached—usually after 70 or 80 years or so—we die. Still, the exact moment of death has no more been predetermined by God than the moment when a farmer decides “to plant” or “to uproot what was planted.”
In fact, Solomon later shows that a person might die prematurely, saying: “Do not be wicked overmuch, nor become foolish. Why should you die when it is not your time?” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) What sense would this counsel make if one’s time of death were unchangeably predetermined? The Bible thus rejects the notion of fate. Apostate Israelites who adopted this pagan concept were severely condemned by God. Isaiah 65:11 says: “You men are those leaving Jehovah, those forgetting my holy mountain, those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck and those filling up mixed wine for the god of Destiny.”
How foolish it is, then, to attribute accidents and mishaps to fate or, worse yet, to God himself! “God is love,” says the Bible, and to accuse him of being the author of human misery directly contradicts this fundamental truth.—1 John 4:8.
God’s Purposes for the Future
What, though, about our prospects for salvation? Does the fact that no inevitable fate controls our lives mean that we must drift aimlessly? Not at all, for God has determined the future of mankind in general. The Bible speaks of the creation of “a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
To accomplish this, God will directly intervene in human affairs. Unknowingly, you may have prayed for this to take place by reciting the prayer that says: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) This Kingdom is a real government established in the heavens. By praying for it to come, you pray for that Kingdom to take over control of earth from present-day governments.—Daniel 2:44.
Securing Your Own Future
How these dramatic events will affect your future depends, not on fate or even on time and unforeseen occurrence, but on the course you choose to follow. Recall that tragedy of the tower of Siloam. Jesus used that sad event to teach a profound lesson. The victims of that tower collapse were unable to escape what befell them. By way of contrast, Jesus’ listeners could avoid the destruction that resulted from divine displeasure. Jesus warned them: “Unless you repent, you will all be destroyed in the same way.” (Luke 13:4, 5) Clearly, they could choose their own future.
The same opportunity is extended to us today—to work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12) God desires that “all sorts of men . . . come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) And though each one of us is affected to some extent by inheritance and background, God has given us free will—the capacity to determine how we want to use our life. (Matthew 7:13, 14) We can do what is right or what is wrong. We can gain a favorable standing with Jehovah God and gain life, or we can turn against him and die.
Many choose to live independent of God. They devote their lives to the pursuit of material things, pleasure, or fame. But Jesus warned: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) On what, then, do our lives depend? At 1 John 2:15-17, the Bible explains: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. . . . Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”
How can you be sure that you are truly doing the will of God? Jesus declared: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Accurate knowledge from the Bible provides the basis for faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The knowledge that you need to acquire is readily available. Jehovah’s Witnesses have helped millions to gain it through a regular study of the Bible.a
In order to please God, you will have to make some changes. There may be some bad habits that must be overcome or even immoral practices that must be ended. Do not give up, as if it were impossible for you to change. The idea that things cannot change is just another carryover from the false doctrine of fatalism. With Jehovah’s help, it is possible for anyone to ‘make his mind over’ and to acquire “the new personality.” (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-24) Your efforts to please God will not go unnoticed. He stands ready to bless those doing his will.
Admittedly, learning the Bible will not solve all your problems. Genuine servants of God are subject to accidents and adverse circumstances, as are others. However, God can give us the wisdom to cope with adversity. (James 1:5) There is also the joy of knowing that one has a good relationship with God. “Happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah,” says Proverbs 16:20.
In the restored Paradise under God’s Kingdom, we will no longer feel threatened by time and unforeseen occurrence. Indeed, God will remove all things that presently mar human happiness. “He will wipe out every tear from [our] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore,” promises the Bible. (Revelation 21:4) Countless accident victims will experience a resurrection.—John 5:28, 29.
Will you inherit this glorious future? When the Israelites were about to go into the Promised Land, Moses told them: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.”—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
No, we are not helpless pawns in the hands of a merciless fate. Your future happiness, indeed your eternal future, is in your hands. We urge you to choose life.
a Such a study can be arranged by writing to the publishers of this magazine.
[Blurb on page 5]
Apostate Israelites who adopted the pagan concept of fate were severely condemned by God