Nov. 15, 2015
“What Does the Future Hold?
How much would you give to know the future? What would you give to know what is coming in the days ahead? Many of us would give quite a lot. If you like to put some money on sports, if you play daily fantasy, if you have money in the stock market, it would be nice to know what is going to happen next. Imagine if you had bought Apple stock when it first came out. If you read the Steve Jobs biography, there was a guy named Ronald Wayne who cofounded Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Wayne had a ten percent stake in the company. But he got cold feet, sold his share for $800.00 and later accepted $1500.00 to forfeit any claims against Apple. If he had kept that share, in 2013 it would have been worth forty billion dollars.
Knowing the details of the future could be profitable. Just ask Marty McFly. The problem is, this can lead people to the wrong things, like horoscopes and psychics, fortune tellers and garbage like that. Of course, our interest in the future is not just a matter of simple curiosity. Many of us have legitimate concerns for the days ahead. We may ask: Am I going to find the right person to marry? What will my children become? Is my job going to be there down the road? Will my health hold up? Today we ask the question, “What Does the Future Hold?”
The only One, who knows the answer to this question, is God Himself. And therefore His Word is our guide in this matter. Our lessons today speak about the future, though not in specifics. No stock tips, or anyone telling us who will win Super Bowl 50. Rather, the lessons deal with the future of God’s Kingdom and the future of God’s people.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel for today reveal that whether or not we stand on the brink of the very end, the last days have begun. Do not misunderstand me here. I am not saying “The end is near” like so many preachers like to do. I do not know when Jesus will return. Jesus doesn’t know. But we are in the last days, from Jesus’ point of view. The end times began when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, and that was almost two thousand years ago. Many of the signs Jesus mentions have taken place. Jesus tells us, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” We have seen wars. Wars are still to come. We have seen earthquakes and famines. More are still to come. Jesus said many would come claiming to be Him, and many have. In the last two hundred years, false prophets and false messiahs have come and deceived many, with groups like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Moonies, just to name three. There are also those in the Christian churches who dismiss Biblical teachings, leading people away from Jesus within the church itself. Jesus said this would happen.
We need to remember that the worst kind of distress is not physical but spiritual oppression and suffering. The worst disaster is the loss of the Gospel. I think we would all agree that the climate in this country is changing. (And I am NOT talking about Global Warming.) You have heard me (Pastor) go off on this before. Our ability to express and share our faith in public is being limited. Movies, TV shows, and pop songs more and more are ridiculing what we believe and what we know to be true. The federal government has attempted to limit our religious freedom, and it is my expectation that they will continue to do so. You may think I am wrong about this or it isn’t that bad. But Satan’s best work is done in secret, without people realizing what he is doing or that he is doing it. Jesus’ words are sharp and to the point: “Watch out that no one deceives you.”
At the same time, Jesus does not want us to be fatalistic or doom mongers. He does want us to know we are fallen, sinful people in a fallen, sinful world that will be judged some day. But because of what Jesus did, because He died and rose for us, we belong to Him. With God-given faith in our hearts, we will not go to hell.
When it comes to the prophecies Jesus gave us, God does not give them to us to get all excited, hot and bothered. His purpose is to calm our hearts and assure us that with faith in Jesus we are forever safe in His loving hands, regardless of what is to come. He reveals to us ahead of time some of the catastrophes and troubling things that will happen, so that when they do occur we will not be surprised or think that God has lost control. He also comforts us by showing “the big picture” of how things will in the end turn out gloriously for us who trust in Jesus. Knowing how things will end up in the future gives us the strength and the confidence to live in the midst of whatever uncertainties we deal with today.
All of the Scripture readings for the day focus our attention on the comforting, fear-destroying, joy-giving Good News of the final victory won for us by our Savior. The Lord Jesus has secured for His people an eternal home that will far outshine any suffering or troubles we will experience here. The message from God is Good News of triumph and gladness. Though we may not always realize it, as Christians we have “friends in high places.”
Let’s close today with this. There was a story I/Pastor read a few years ago. There was a church that was doing a Sunday School Easter program, not Christmas. There was a little boy who was to play the role of the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb. He had one line to say: “It is I, be not afraid.” According to his teacher, the boy took his part seriously, and he practiced that line. He practiced it to make sure it would stick in his memory; he practiced it with different inflections so as to maximize its impact.
In spite of his practice, the day of the service the boy was a basket case. The teacher tried to comfort him even as his stomach provided a great deal of discomfort.
Finally his moment arrived; boldly he walked out on the stage. From that stage, past the lights, he could see hundreds of faces looking right at him. The boy’s mind went blank, and his tongue took on a life of its own. Rather than saying, “It is I, be not afraid,” he said, “It’s me, and I’m scared to death.”
Now all of us have our things of which we are afraid. You may be afraid of losing your memory, losing your job, losing your spouse, losing your health, losing your license. When you see the polls, the unemployment numbers, and the economic statistics, you may have a lot of fears of where this country is headed. You have fears.
And what can be done to help you with those fears? Some say, “Look those fears in the face and you can conquer them.” Some would encourage you to desensitize yourself by approaching your fear slowly. St. Peter says we should cast all our cares upon Jesus because He cares for us (see 1 Peter 5:7).
Of course, Peter’s suggestion would make no sense at all if the crucified and buried Jesus had stayed buried. A dead Messiah is no Messiah, which is why the angel’s resurrection message is so critical. The news that Jesus lives means we can believe Him when He says He is with us always when He says we can come to Him with our burdens and fears. It means we can relax. After all, anyone who has conquered sin, death and devil, can easily handle our fears too.
When we ask the question, “What does the future hold?” God does not give us all the details of the months and years ahead. He does not tell us all that we might like to know. But He does tell us how our story is going to end. And it will be a happy ending! Having such a certain and bright future with our God gives us the confidence to know that He will work things out for our good in the meantime, even in these troubled and troubling times. Trusting His promises, we declare with the Psalmist (31:15), “My times are in your hands,” the same hands Jesus once stretched out on a cross. JESUS is on His throne, and everything will be ok.