When We Think About the Future

So a few weeks ago on my ten-year anniversary trip with my wife, we were in California walking along this trail right beside the ocean, up on a cliff, and we came to a clearing where there was a little beach. And so we climbed down to get closer to the ocean and stand on the shore, and the fascinating thing (to me) about the shore was that it wasn’t sand, it was rocks. There were these tiny, little rocks, like the size of tic-tacs, and they were smooth and round from years of being there. And when I saw these rocks, of course, the first thing I think: I should stuff my pockets full of these things and take them home for the kids.

So I did. 

And I ended up putting them in glass jars, and wrote their names on them, and the date, and I gave them to the kids, and Melissa and I told the kids that in ten more years we’re all going to go back to Carmel Valley, and we’re going to do a big family vacation there and go back to the place where we found these rocks. And that has promise become the thing at our house. Our kids are excited, and we’re excited, and so then I begin to think . . . 

What will it be like in ten years? Elizabeth, our oldest child, will be 19 (which is very different from nine). And Nathaniel, our youngest will be 10 (which is very different from two months). 

And that would be range of our seven children — and then I thought: Would we have seven children? Or would we have more? Or less? . . . Could Melissa not be there? Could I not be there

 

Then I thought about Cities Church (because that’s what I do; I think about my soul and my family, and then I think about you people). And so I thought: What will Cities Church be like in ten years? Or five years? Or two years? Or even less?

And see, the thing that becomes so clear when we ask questions like this is that we do not know. We don’t know. We can’t know. And to think any differently, James says in Chapter 4, is arrogance (James 4:13–16).

 

We, as humans, don’t know the future. And that means we have an option when we look ahead and imagine what will be: We either look ahead to the future full of fear or full of faith. 

We will either imagine the future and terrify ourselves because of all the possibilities of change. Or we will imagine the future, think about the possibilities for change, and remember that no matter what, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). And no matter what the situation is — in ten years, or five, or two, or less — we know Jesus will be building his church; Jesus will be with us, and Jesus will be enough.

 

And I want to be clear and connect the dots here. This is directly related to our church marriage opportunity with FBC because we need to be careful that our concerns, my concerns, the way we imagine things, are not most influenced by fear, but by faith. We want to trust God, not be fearful. But we are fearful, and that reminds us of our need to confess our sins. 

Prayer of Confession

Father, the psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. There will we will not fear” (46:1–2). He says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1) And again he says, “This I know, that God is for me. In God whose word I praise. In the Lord whose word I praise. In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (56:9–11) 

And then it was the apostle Paul who said that you’ve given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7); and that if you are for us, who can be against us? You did not spare your own Son but gave him for us all, how then will you not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31–31).

Father, we recognize that you in yourself are an infinite number of reasons why we should not be fearful, and yet, we confess that oftentimes we are. We confess that so many times when we think about the future, we are filled with worry and anxiety about what could happen. We let the inevitability of change and all of its possibilities become more real to us than you are, and so we ask, Father, for your mercy. Forgive us, please, and cleanse us, for we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual. And so now, in this moment, we confess our individual sins to you. . . . 

Now, Father, we ask that your strength overcome our weakness, that your light would overcome our darkness, that your realness would overcome our doubts. We remember again that the gospel anthem rings true: we are not dead, but alive; we are not lost, but found; we are not your enemies, we are your people — all because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In his name we pray, amen. 

Assurance of Pardon

Church, you have confessed your sins. Now, hear the good news!

When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Therefore, to all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, in Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven.

Congregation: Thanks be to God!