Jeremiah 29:11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
John 1:50 – Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
Does anyone remember teenager Marty McFly and the weird scientist Dr. Emmit Brown? How about the Delorian time machine? Yes, the movie was “Back to the Future.” The movie had a great premise: it was that everything we do now affects the future and we know that’s true. And therefore what you’ve done in the past affected where you are now.
In light of that thought that what you have done in the past affects now, it is important this morning that we understand that everything we do in the days and weeks immediately ahead will impact our future. Since it is not possible to freeze time and always remain exactly where we are, what is important is that we know how to make good decisions, and engage in the right kind of actions now so you positively impact the future.
So, today, even as we might want to look back, I want us to focus our attention to the future, BACK TO THE FUTURE. I want this to be simple and easy to remember. I pray that both you and I remember.
Four Simple Truths To Remember As You Face The Future
1. Learn from the past, but you can’t live there.
Philippians 3: 13-14 “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on …”
I loved my dad but in his last few years he developed dementia. He couldn’t remember the breakfast he had that morning or who visited him yesterday, but from about 1945 back he could clearly remember many things very vividly and they looked better than the now. He kept holding onto those old things. He was missing the beauty of the moment.
This is also true when you see a 48 year old woman dressed as a 16 year old would dress, or a 58 year old man going through a mid-life crisis, wearing a toupee, hangin’ at the clubs till 2:00AM and trying to recapture his young man glory days. You see, it’s important that we keep moving ahead. Yes, things will change, but the only thing that doesn’t change is something dead.
Change is scary, but it’s also necessary, and change can lead to new opportunities to see God up-close and personal. The apostle Paul’s early life was impressive: a student of the renown teacher Gamaliel, a leader of the Pharisees, a vigilant pursuer and persecutor of believers, he was on the “fast track” to becoming the high priest or the leading rabbi in Israel.
After he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed for Paul, and he embraced the change. Listen again to his words: one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on. Paul had no desire to live in the past. I challenge you, don’t be a demented believer, “stuck” in trying to live in the past over and over again.
What are your past mistakes? Let them go! Errors of judgment in the past? Let them go! But also your past successes, let them go! Be very careful when you keep on trying to re-create something in the past that you “remember” as a success and wishing to make it as it was back then. Learn from your past, but don’t try to live there. This goes for individuals, relationships and most importantly this Sunday, churches.
INVOLVE yourself in serving others.
Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
Mark 10:45 – “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Our mission as believers will always be the same, even when we’re going through a difficult time. God has left us down here on earth for the primary purpose of telling others about Jesus, and ministering to people in need. I will say that again: God has left us down here on earth for the primary purpose of telling others about Jesus, and ministering to people in need. And it is, in fact, when we’re fulfilling our purpose that we experience the joy and peace that comes from our relationship with Jesus.
When I involve myself in serving others, God helps me see my own problems in perspective, and that they’re not nearly as bad as I thought, and I come away all the more confident that He will meet my needs. I’ve also discovered that I am the one who receives a blessing when I reach out and try to be a blessing to others.
Every time I return from Rwanda, my perspective changes after being surrounded by people with little. Every time I thought I really didn’t want to go to Gibson General 5th floor on a Sunday afternoon for service, I came away blessed in so many ways.
Ministering to others is imperative to spiritual well being. That emphasis should always be ours, each one of us, even when and especially when we face tough times of our own. Our mission from Jesus in the end of Matthew hasn’t changed, we’re still His messengers, His followers, His disciples, His “hands” to help others. Go and make disciples – not sit and see what the church will do for me.
FOCUS your full attention on Jesus.
Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.”
Three verses before when Paul wrote about the one thing he was going to do: forgetting what lies behind and pressing on to what lies ahead, he tells us what has taken the place of his former pursuit for recognition and success: his main ambition and his full attention was given to knowing Jesus, knowing Him better and better.
Want further emphasis? Hebrews 12:1-2 “So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.” Life is an endurance race, where the winner will be the one who ran without baggage; such as focusing on the past, or focusing only on ourselves, or even focusing on what the other runners are doing.
Paul’s idea of “pressing on” has the same emphasis: giving it our best, reaching for the finishing line, looking at Jesus, fixing our eyes of Jesus, giving every ounce of our being to pleasing Him, worshiping Him, praising Him, obeying Him, and following Him. That is a true disciple of Jesus.
To win the race of life, we need to have a single focus, our attention, our focus is to be on Jesus alone.
Our standard of comparison needs to be a single one also, and again, it’s Jesus. It’s not whether we’re better or worse than someone else, but how does our life compare with what Jesus called us to do and be? It’s not about who the minister is. It’s not about how we were, it is about worshipping and exalting Jesus. We’re to learn from the past but not live there, involve ourselves in serving others, focus our full attention on Jesus, but then, finally, we are to…
EXPECT great things.
John 1:50 – Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Jeremiah 29:11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Faith is trusting God to do things which you can not yet see. Did you hear the words of Jesus? Did you just hear the words of the Lord in Jeremiah? God is bigger than you are. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in our lives, but He’s still in control…and He holds the future..when you choose to act and choose to go out, not just sit still.
It will be a grand future, because God has great things in store for us…He’s promised us great things: He’s promised to meet our needs…so long as we’re seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. Philippians 4:19 – And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Our heavenly Father knows what we need, and He’s promised to provide it.
He’s promised to give us wisdom in our decisions…so long as we truly believe, and don’t doubt Him. James 1:5 – If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
He’s promised us a home in heaven…with Him…so long as we’ve accepted Jesus as Lord down here. John.3:16”…for whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
John.14:2-3 — ”In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. I want to encourage you and challenge you to have a great life…
LEARNING from each adventure in life, but never living in and/or dwelling on the past.
INVOLVING yourself in serving others…and in so doing, you’ll be glorifying God and will experience His peace.
FOCUSING your full attention on Jesus…on loving Him, serving Him, worshiping Him, obeying Him, pleasing Him. following Him, trusting Him, being like Him, and allowing Him to mold you, shape you as He desires.
EXPECTING great things…because He’s promised not only eternal life, but life abundantly down here too.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He shine His face upon you and grant you peace. Amen.