A Promising Future

Matthew 24:36-44

It has been said that where there is no hope for the future, there is no power for the present. Hope is a critical element in life. I once read humans can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without oxygen, but only a few seconds without hope.

Pastor Timothy Keller uses this illustration in his book, Making Sense of God.

“Imagine you have two women of the same age, the same social-economic status, the same educational level, and even the same temperament. You hire both of them and say to each, ‘You are part of an assembly line, and I want you to put part A into slot B and then hand what you have assembled to someone else. I want you to do this over and over for eight hours a day.’

“You put them in identical rooms with identical lighting, temperature, and ventilation. You give them the very same number of breaks in the day. It’s very boring work. The conditions are the same in every way except for one difference: you tell the first woman you will pay her $30,000 at the end of the year, and you tell the second woman you will pay her $30 million.

“After a couple of weeks, the first woman says, ‘Isn’t this tedious? Isn’t it driving you insane? Aren’t you thinking about quitting?’ But the second woman says, ‘No. This is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I whistle while I work.’

“What’s going on? You have two human beings who are experiencing identical circumstances in radically different ways. What makes the difference? It’s their expectation of the future.”

This illustration is not intended to say all we need is a good income. It does, however, show that what we believe about our future completely controls how we experience our present. We are irreducibly hope-based creatures.

What is your outlook on the future these days? Is it hopeful? Is it based on a solid foundation?

Today’s Bible text is about having a hopeful future. We’re told in the story that Jesus is coming again. We don’t consider this fact very often. However, in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, we say, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Have you ever given much thought to what this statement means for you? Is it negative in your mind? In the past, Bible teaching about the second coming of Christ was considered doomsday preaching. But this doesn’t need to be the case.

I propose we view it as a ray of hope shining an ever-brightening beam into a darkening, chaotic world. The fact that Jesus is coming again is promising news – hopeful news – for the follower of Jesus Christ because the world can be turbulent and dangerous. It can make us feel afraid, depressed, and discouraged.

Some days it seems like things are just getting worse in this fallen world of ours. Days seem a little darker. We see it on the news – wars that never end, cruelty between human beings, human suffering, corruption in government, environmental challenges, earthquakes, flooding, fires, drought, climate change. We learn certain foods and drinks, always considered healthy, can actually be killing us. The opioid addiction is way out of hand in our country. Looking around, we see immorality and godlessness all around us. Local church attendance is shrinking and secularism seems to be growing in our society.

By the way, Jesus said this would be the case. He knew. Just read the first part of Matthew 24. Living amid the darkness of a fallen world can be more than a little unsettling; it can be downright overwhelming and even cause us to throw our hands up in an air of resignation and despair. We live each day without much power, unplugged, with no hope for the future and no power for the present.

But Jesus has promised to come again. This is meant to be a word of reassurance and encouragement. His return will be in power and glory. This is grounds for Christian optimism and strength. He has the final word. The world is not headed for ultimate chaos and disaster, but the return of the King and His coronation for eternity. His kingdom shall know no end. We can live with the knowledge that history is not a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. History is actually going somewhere. History is HIS – God’s – STORY.

Evangelist Billy Graham once wrote, “History is going somewhere, and we know full well that He who does all things well will bring beauty from the ashes of world chaos. A new world is being born. A new social order will emerge when Christ reappears. A fabulous future is on the way.” A fabulous future is on the way.

God has a plan, a grand finale of sorts, an end to this world as we know it. We will see Jesus again, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. No more sorrow, no more death, no more suffering, no more evil. This is the promise awaiting us in the future. Peace and salvation lie ahead for the follower of Jesus Christ.

Naturally, this news makes people wonder, as those disciples did, When? When? What are the signs we should be looking for? Jesus tells us not to waste our time asking these questions. Even He doesn’t know, only the Father knows.

I want you to think about this statement: the Father knows. Our loving, caring Father is in control. He knows. Even the worst of times is in the best of hands. The Almighty Creator of the universe whom we call Father is in charge. The faithful One who has never turned His back on the world, who keeps His word to those whom He has created in His image, whom He values, has taken care of everything. It’s under control.

While Jesus can’t tell us when, He can tell us how to look to the future.

Be Ready.
• Live expectantly, as if each day is your last, and confidently knowing you are His and He is coming again to take you to Himself.
• Have faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him Christ as your Savior and Lord. Ask Him to take over your life.
• Recognize your sinfulness and your helplessness when it comes to your life and your future. Realize the truth that there is no hope for forgiveness except in the way God has provided – by placing your trust in Jesus Christ His Son, the Lord of heaven and earth.
• Live with Him in His Word daily. Discover and rediscover His promises and expectations of you as His follower.

Live Ready
Obediently serve Him while we wait. Carry out the Great Commission to tell other people about what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Help them grow as we disciple them in the faith. Use the great knowledge of what lies ahead and point people toward it as a witness.

Malcom Muggeridge, a noted British journalist, was a guest at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. several years ago. When he had finished his testimony, he made a number of comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic. One of the Christians present said to the speaker, “Dr. Muggeridge you have been very pessimistic. Don’t you have any reason for optimism?” Muggeridge replied, “My friend, I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone!”

Muggeridge allowed the remark to settle for a few seconds and then he added, “Just think if the Apostolic Church had pinned its hope on the Roman empire.” He pointed them to Christ.

I am Ready as I live out the great commandments to love God and love my neighbor as myself in service. Isn’t it interesting that, in his letters, the Apostle Paul referred to himself as a servant?

I read an article a while back out of Faith & Leadership magazine. It said,

“It is possible to be so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good.” But professor Todd Whitmore from Notre Dame has also observed how being heavenly-minded can lead to incredible deeds of earthly goodness.

After the war in Uganda had dragged on for more than twenty years, Whitmore moved into the refugee camps in northern Uganda to hear the stories of the displaced Acholi people. As he observed the Christians who were working among the Acholi, he saw what he called “what real Christianity looks like.” Whitmore discovered that the most practical and helpful workers among the Acholi were also the most heavenly minded. He called them “reasonable apocalypse,” which means these Christian workers thought a lot about God’s intervention at the end of history. These heavenly-minded Christians believed no human effort could be relied upon to help the Acholi. It had to come from God. As one of the Christian workers in the camp said, “God is tired of this war and suffering. He will intervene.” Because they believed God would intervene, they also believed it was worthwhile to work for good.

In the United States, people who talk about God’s future intervention are often accused of being escapists, impractical, so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. But in the refugee camps in northern Uganda, they were the most rational people. Whitmore discovered they were the ones who kept saying things like, We want to make a difference here and now. We want to help with the orphans. We want to help, in the name of Jesus Christ who is coming again.

I am Ready as I love my brothers and sisters in Christ unconditionally as He has loved me – carrying out the New Commandment, which Jesus gave His disciples in the Upper Room before His arrest. I am a person who values fellowship, a Christian family and serves others.

Being Ready means vocalizing certainty and hope in a darkening world that scares people. This world needs our certainty. They need to see our faith, our hope in the future. It is living out St. Paul’s words found in Romans 8:35-39,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. For I am sure neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Being Ready is to be a person of hope and certainty and living it out before the world that is watching.

Maybe you’re thinking this all sounds fine and good, but how can I be sure it isn’t just wishful pie-in-the-sky thinking? Because this hope, friend, is based on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus once said,

“In the world, you will have tribulation.
But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He certainly has! Jesus overcame the world at the cross and the resurrection. The resurrection makes the future certain for the follower of Jesus Christ. He took the full weight of evil, pain, and death at the cross. It could not hold Him down. God has raised Him from the dead. The crucified and risen Christ has the final triumph! This is the pledge. Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection. Because He lives, I shall live also. We have good news about the future.

Oprah Winfrey writes a column in her magazine, entitled, “What I Know for Sure.” It is about life lessons she has built her life upon. She got the idea for this column from film critic Gene Siskel who surprised her one time during an interview by asking, “Oprah, what do you know for sure?”

If someone were to ask you what you know for sure, I hope this statement would be on your list:
I know for sure that Jesus is coming again to take me to Himself. I am His forever. Of this, I am sure.

Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer