President's Perspective

Promises, Not Predictions

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Dr. Philip Ryken '88

Wheaton College President

At a recent board meeting for the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, author Andy Crouch reflected on the difference between promises and predictions.

What prompted this line of thought was an issue of The Economist that Crouch read in December 2019—an issue focusing on predictions for 2020. That magazine proved to be essentially useless, for it failed to predict the global pandemic that has affected us all so profoundly.

At the beginning of the school year, people asked me to make a variety of predictions: “When will campus be open again?” “How will COVID-19 affect enrollment?” “What will be the long-term economic fallout for the College?”

It’s hard to answer these or any other important questions about the future. Predictions are inherently unreliable. And despite the hope that making good predictions will help us reduce uncertainty, by creating a false sense of security they may actually make some challenges harder to overcome, not easier.

Writing this column in August—for a magazine that will be published in December—makes me especially aware of how hard it is to anticipate the future. Will what I write as we finalize our preparations for one of the most unpredictable semesters ever still be relevant when you read these words around Christmastime?

Rather than making predictions, I prefer to trust in promises—specifically, the promises of God.

Trusting God does not take away most of our uncertainties about the future. Faith in Christ may in fact lead us to run greater risks for the kingdom of God, as we sometimes do at Wheaton College. But it does give us the absolute assurance that God will be with us, come what may.

What promises has God given us in Jesus Christ? That our sins are forgiven. That he will never leave us or forsake us. That his power is made perfect in our weakness. That people from all nations will be saved through the power of the gospel. That beyond the sickness and sorrow of this fallen world there is a heaven of health and joy for every one of his precious children.

These are not mere predictions; they are the sure and certain promises of our faithful God. Trusting them enables us to “leave futurity in God’s hands,” as C. S. Lewis once put it, and gives us the fearless hope we need to live for Christ in anxious, troubled times.

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