The Future: How to Prepare

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The perspective of age

I’ve been a senior three times in my life: a high school senior, a senior in college, and now in the senior stage of life.

A congregation provided visitors with a card that requested the usual contact information, and also a place to indicate the visitors’ age categories: child, Jr. High, Sr. High, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50+.

Many of us are in that 50+ slot—and have been for quite some time. How should we feel about it?

First, aren’t we grateful that God has allowed us to live this long? So many obituaries I see in the paper are for those who were far younger than I.

Second, don’t we feel an increasing sense of the preciousness of the time remaining? It’s true that the 50+ category may last longer than any of the other age brackets, but we don’t know that it will.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

“. . . you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Soon it is gone, wrote the Psalmist. Just a vapor, says James.

We speak of longevity, but never shortevity. Perhaps we should.

And third, doesn’t it make good sense to make diligent preparation NOW for what lies beyond? “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

The two stages

The future can be divided into two parts:

Future: Part I is whatever time remains for us in this world.

Future: Part II is eternity.

When we die, Part II begins. Part I is temporary. Part II is forever.

Part II is dependent on Part I. How we spend the first part determines how we spend the second (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We have a choice.

Satan seeks to distract us with the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). God calls us to raise our sights and make wise choices (Colossians 3:1-2).

“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

What does it mean to do God’s will?

It means trusting and obeying the Son He sent to be our Savior (John 8:24; 11:25-26; Hebrews 5:8-9).

It means turning from doing our own will to doing His (Acts 17:30-31).

It means being united with Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27).

It means remaining faithful to the end (Hebrews 3:6. 14; 10:35-39; 12:1-3).

“. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

“. . . the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Facing the Future: How?

As I approached the tracks on Park Street I heard a train. My first thought was, if only I had left the post office a little sooner I would have made it across before the train arrived. Shutting off the engine to save gas, I prepared for the wait.

I watched as the locomotive rolled by, followed by a tank car, followed by another tank car, followed by . . . . But that was it! The entire train consisted of only one engine and two cars. I was delayed less than a minute.

Outcome unknown

Sometimes things do turn out better than we had expected, don’t they? Murphy’s Law doesn’t always operate. Hooray!

Life is an adventure. We never know what’s around the next bend. Since we don’t know, can we afford to make big plans without taking the Lord into account? James tells us that people who plan big while assuming they can definitely do what they intended are actually arrogant (James 4:13-17).

On the other extreme, do we tend to worry about how we’re going to have enough to meet tomorrow’s needs? This indicates a lack of faith (Matthew 6:25-34).

If we belong to Christ and if we keep our priorities straight, He promises we will have our basic needs met (Matthew 6:33). What an anxiety reducer!

Avoidable pitfalls

Looking to God as we face the future saves us from two errors. On one hand we’ll avoid pride in our planning—failing to remember that we can accomplish what we’ve planned only if it is the Lord’s will.

On the other hand, we’ll not forget we have a loving Father who takes good care of His children—as we seek His kingdom first.

These two errors have one thing in common: they both fail to take God into account. When we remember Him we’ll be neither arrogant nor anxious.

With Him beside us we can face the future with both humility and confidence—whatever may come down the track.

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What Do We Know?

Here’s a multiple-choice question:

What do we know about the future?

A) Everything

B) Nothing

C) Something

D) None of the above

If you picked C, you’re right! If it weren’t for the Bible, we would know nothing about the future. While much of what lies ahead is known only to God, He has drawn back the veil just enough for us to know all we need to know about the end of the age.

Christ will suddenly return (we don’t know when). The dead will be raised. The earth will be destroyed. Judgment will take place. Eternity begins.

Unlike stock market projections and weather forecasts, what the Bible says about the Day of the Lord is not mere guesswork, a possibility, or even a probability. The End is certain─just as certain as the integrity of God’s promises. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:17-19).

What we do with what we know

And why does God reveal these things to us regarding the future? Certainly not to satisfy our curiosity, but rather to help us know with certainty what to expect so we can be well prepared for it. The New Testament equips us be ready for these eventualities.

We must keep in a state of readiness, always active in His service (Matthew 24:42-51). We must be prepared to give an account (Romans 14:10-12). In view of the destruction of the material order, we must live holy, godly lives (2 Peter 3:10-14). And then help others get ready for that Great Day (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).

Living in a state of readiness, we can look forward to that Day. We’re going home! No more death or pain! We will be with Christ! Reunion with our loved ones! (2 Corinthians 5:6-9; Revelation 21:4; Philippians 1:23; 1 John 3:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Yes, we do know something!

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The God of Happy Endings

What God can do

Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead, but 22 years later they were happily reunited (Genesis 37:31-35; 46:28-30).

With Egyptian chariots in hot pursuit and the Red Sea in front of them, Israel panicked. But God opened an escape route through the sea—then brought the walls of water crashing down on their pursuers (Exodus 14-15).

After losing her husband and sons, Naomi thought God was against her—until she realized He had been working out His wonderful plan all along (Book of Ruth).

On Friday Jesus’ enemies had Him nailed to the cross. But on Sunday His tomb was empty! (Luke 23-24)

And He’s still doing it!

God’s promises to those who suffer for His sake may seem too good to be true (1 Peter 1:3-9).

But just wait!

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Give It Time

When times are hard

After grieving 22 years for the son he thought was dead, Jacob learned Joseph was alive. “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well” (Genesis 48:11).

Embittered by the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi believed God was against her (Ruth 1:13, 20-21). But in time she began to see how God was bringing about a positive outcome, and she acknowledged His kindness (2:20).

Job despaired he would ever see good again (Job 7:7). Fast-forward to the end of the book: “The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (42:12).desert-tagged

Wait for the Lord

God is faithful. It’s too soon to quit.

Hang in there, stay faithful.

Someday you’ll be so glad you did!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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When Ignorance is Good

Educators sometimes joke that they’re “stamping out ignorance.”

Is ignorance always bad?

Ignorance of the future humbles us in knowing we can carry out our plans only “if the Lord wills” (James 4:14).

If we knew when Jesus was coming, the temptation to procrastinate obedience would be intense. “Therefore be on the alert,” Jesus said, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (v. 42).

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22), God stopped him at the last moment. For it to be a real test of his faith, Abraham had to be ignorant of the outcome.

Learning to trust

When we endure trials, we don’t know how it will turn out. Our obligation is to obey—trusting God for the outcome.

In such cases, ignorance may not be bliss, but it is best.  

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Being Content Not to Know

Have you ever felt the urge to open a door marked “Private”? Some things are not for us to know.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

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What we know/what we don’t know

God has revealed some things about the end times. Christ will come, but we don’t know when (Matthew 24:36). Yet that doesn’t seem to stop date-setters.

Regarding our immediate future, “. . . you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow” (James 4:14). Crystal-ball gazing, palm-reading, and horoscopes are out of bounds for the Christian.

From knowing to doing

That which God has revealed was not given to satisfy our curiosity. He revealed it so we could do it.

In doing it we are blessed (James 1:25).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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