How to face the future

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.”

Hebrews 10:24,25 (TEV)

In Scripture, the Day of the Lord is a reference to the day when Jesus Christ will come again and bring justice to the earth.  The early church lived in that expectation.  It will be a day of reckoning, a day of judgment, and a day of victory!  Jesus spoke about this day, and the signs that would precede His return, in the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 and 25. The Apostle John described, in graphic detail, the events that will lead up to the final battle and the end of this world as we know it. Jesus warned us to be ready, to be alert, and to look for His appearing! Does that cause excitement and anticipation for you, or does it cause fear and worry about the future?  In the book of Hebrews, people were living in perilous times of persecution and trial.  Because of their struggle in the present, they needed a hope and a future to look forward to.   In essence, the author of Hebrews said, “If I’m going to overcome worries about the future, I must shift from being reactive to being proactive.”  It’s only natural for us to be reactive.  It’s human nature.  Yet, with the wisdom and grace of God, we can be proactive.  We can face an uncertain future with greater confidence when we trust our lives to the God who is already there.  Here are five proactive responses found in Hebrews that enable us to face the future:

  1. “Let us be concerned for one another…”
  2. “Let us help one another to show love…”
  3. “Let us do good.”
  4. “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together…”
  5. “Let us encourage one another all the more!”

You and I have an opportunity to live out these responses this weekend at home, at church, and in our community. Christ followers in the New Testament recognized the value of believing and belonging.  Faith is more than believing.  It is about belonging to a family of believers that are concerned for one another, who help one another to show love, and encourage each other to do good as they meet together in worship.  If you don’t have a church family and you are in the Houston area, we welcome you to join us.  Every child needs a family, and every child of God needs a church family.  Following the last Sunday morning service on every campus, we are having our Membership Class.  I hope you will consider checking out the Woodlands Church family.  You don’t need to face the future alone.

God cares about your future!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.  He’s the same God who holds you in His hands.  Jeremiah wanted Israel to know that God had a plan for them.  Despite the circumstances of their captivity in a foreign land, Jeremiah said that God was not through with them.  He had a future for them, and it was a hope-filled future.  The problem was that many of them were trying to control their own future.  Others were so worried about their future that they couldn’t live in the present.  So Jeremiah gave them this amazing word from God.  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give  you hope and a future.’”  (Jer. 29:11 NIV)  God wanted them to know that He cared about their future, and that He controlled the big picture.  God cares about your future as well!  Despite the difficult circumstances you may be facing, even when it seems that all hope is gone, God has a hope and a future for you.  God is for you. He’s not out to get you.  When I get discouraged and anxious about the future, I like to look at the back of my Bible and remind myself that, in the end, we win!  When you know that, you can stop struggling to control your future and surrender to Christ’s care and control.  How do you do that?  Jeremiah gives us wise counsel for how to do that in the following verses, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  (Vs. 12, 13)  Are you seeking to know the future more than you are seeking to know God?  When you stop struggling to control the future and surrender to Christ’s care and control, you will come to know the God who holds your future in His hands. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul put it like this, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 4:6,7 NLT)

Living in the now!

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (LB)

Worrying about your past won’t change it anymore than worrying about the future will control it.  It just messes you up in the present.  Worry causes a paralysis of analysis!  It forfeits us from living life in the now!  Because God is not limited by time and space, He is already in our future as well as our present, and He says, “Don’t worry!”  Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matt. 6:27 NIV) Let’s go back to Israel for an example, when Jeremiah wrote them that prophetic letter he was letting them in on what God had planned for their future.  They were living in exile to an enemy in the foreign land of Babylon.  The future didn’t look good.  False prophets were sending mixed messages that this was the end of their nation, while others suggested things would turn around soon and that they would go home.  They were stuck and didn’t know what to do or who to believe.  In his letter, Jeremiah gives them – and us – wise insight on living in the now.  He said, This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.’” Jeremiah 29:4-6 (NIV) God’s message to His people was that they would be there for some time. It would be a time of discipline and would last for 70 years.  It wasn’t the end.  God was saying, “Don’t let your fears about the future keep you from living in the present.”  What about you?  Fear and worry about the future can’t control it.  This is where trust comes into play.  We trust the God who is already in our future so we can live in the now with peace and confidence.  The problem with Israel is that they wanted their way in their time, not God’s way in His time.  We often want the same.  As a result, we fail to enjoy the moment.  All we have is now.  Like Jeremiah to Israel, Jesus told us that there would be trouble and sorrow in this world.  This isn’t heaven.  But He didn’t tell us this to instill fear.  In fact, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled.”  In other words, don’t be surprised when troubles come, and don’t be alarmed by them.  Put your trust today in God, and don’t let fears about the future keep you from living in the present.  I love the way the Living Bible paraphrases Christ’s words in Matt. 6:34, “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too.  Live one day at a time.”  (Matt. 6:34 LB)

Who to believe?

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.  They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 29:8-9 (NIV)

Prognosticators forecast everything from the stock market to the end of the world.  Will the future bring a bear market or a bullish one?  Does the Ebola crisis spell the end? What about my personal future? Who do you listen to?  What do you believe?  Only one person knows the future.  He is the one who has been there.  God is the one who was, and is, and is to come!  He is the God of your past, present, and future! You can trust your future to the God who is already there!  When Israel was in captivity to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem, prognosticators were calling themselves prophets, and they sent mixed messages to the people.  One group of false prophets offered a doomsday message with no hope.  Another group offered false hope that Israel’s captivity in Babylon would be brief and that they would soon find deliverance.  Jeremiah was a prophet of God and his counsel gave them true hope.  He spoke on behalf of the Lord Almighty.  In a letter to those exiled, he warned them in Jeremiah 29:8-9, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.  They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.”   When you are worried about the future and don’t know what to do, trust God’s Word over man’s opinion.  God alone knows the future, and it is a hope-filled future because God is already there!  You can listen to the world and be filled with panic and fear, or you can listen to God’s Word and find peace and confidence.  One of the most unique and colorful prophets of the Old Testament was a man named Amos.  In Amos 3:7 he said, Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”  Just as Jeremiah recorded his prophecy in a letter to the exiled, God has recorded His Word for us today!  His word will guide us into the future with hope and confidence as we follow Him.  Seek His counsel in His Word.  That’s what the Psalmist did in Psalm 56:3.  He said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Future Tense

I am God, and there is none like Me,  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Isaiah 46:9-11 (ESV)

A recent survey showed how people generally view the future of our world today.  Over 60% said that they thought it was going to hell in a handbag.  Only 35% agreed with Bob Marley – “Everything’s Gonna to be Alright!”  Whatever is your view, I’m sure you’re asking as many others are today, “What in the world is going on?”  Between the Ebola crisis and ISIS threatening the Middle East with sites on the rest of the free, or should I say “sane” world, it leaves one wondering what in the world is going on?  There are extremists at both ends of the spectrum, and it’s hard to know who to trust, what to believe, and who to listen to.  The CDC says that Ebola is not a threat to the US and, yet, there are cases just up the road now.  Then, there are the conspiracy groups that claim Ebola is a government plot to end the world.  It all leaves people frightened and worried about the future of a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

As Christ followers, we may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future!  The very God who is with you today is already in your tomorrow!  The good news is that we can trust our future to the God who is already there!  Jesus said, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.’” (Revelation 1:8 NLT) God knows the future, and He wants us to live in peace by trusting Him.  Even when Israel was in captivity to Babylon, exiled from their land of promise and wondering if this was the end, God assured them that their future was in His hands and that it was a hope-filled future!  He said, I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”  In fact, one of the most amazing prophecies in the Old Testament was recorded by the Prophet Isaiah over a century before it ever came true.  Isaiah called King Cyrus of Persia by name over a century before he was born and predicted that he would be used by God to deliver Israel from Babylonian captivity.  He would release them to return to their land and restore their Temple!  Wow!  God is in your future as well!  He is in control!  Put your trust in Him!