On the Edge of Tomorrow
August 27, 2005
The unseen is a powerful motivator to human lives, normally in a negative direction.
The unseen is a powerful disincentive to most of us, to our lives and to our development.
As we look back at human history, almost every advance of human society has been resisted, including the understanding of the round earth, the fact that the earth rotates around the sun rather than the sun and other bodies around the earth, the steam engine, penicillin, the incandescent light, flight to the moon, and the list could go on. Yet, in all cases, at least some good has come, often begrudgingly admitted by former detractors and resisters, and often they have become, over time, ones most enthusiastically embracing the development.
Change is threatening, even while exciting. Change is disturbing, even while energizing. Often the benefits are not clearly seen for some time, but once they are, we wonder why we were not enthusiastic earlier on.
Christians are experts at change- or, at least, are supposed to be.
2 Pet.1.5-11- Peter speaks of ongoing development that is to occur in our lives. This is not something to attain once and then come to a point of simply being content. But, Peter is writing of a process that occurs over time, and that is circular, so that change in one area brings further change in others that touch it. Growth requires change. Change requires risk, though, and most of us are very risk averse. We see this at camp, among other places. In water skiing, many have to be seriously coaxed to take the risk of success. Some never make it up on skis, but the fact that they have tried is success by itself. We had one young man, now recently married, who tried year after year and only got up two years ago, I believe it was. He took the risk over and over again. Each time was not failure but took him closer to the goal of ultimate success. This year, one young man, a more seasoned skier, succeeded at something he had tried before and wanted to succeed at- bare foot skiing, and another succeeded at trick skiing. When I was first in ministry, as a summer intern in the summer of 1974, in Prince George, BC, with Danny Banham, we had a family camp and he taught me, what I did not know, that water skiing is one sport fairly easy to succeed in, and one that boosts personal confidence immeasurably. He was right and I had no idea how that ‘spiritual information’ could come to play, in my ministry, 25 years after it was given.
The point is that going forward takes change. You can’t stay where you are and go forward. We’d all prefer to be able to do that. We’d all like that. We’d all like to never have to change. But the reality of life is that we’re always changing. As scientists explore the human body, they continue to amaze me with facts about the internal changes that happen naturally and normally, as organs change and grow constantly. This gives us God’s pattern for growth and change- it’s constant and it’s normal.
Think about Jesus- on his last night of physical body ministry, as he faced a tomorrow unlike any you or I have every faced, yet so much like what you and I have faced and face right now.
Matt.25.36-46- Here is Jesus Christ, on the edge of tomorrow (sermon title for today). What example did he set us as he faced something difficult, something not done before, something meant to have a positive impact? Please focus on this, and allow this example to quiet the apprehensions, anxieties, expectations, and fears you might have right now as we sit ‘on the edge of tomorrow’ in our church’s development here in Montreal/Cornwall. As we are on the edge of tomorrow and great change in our church, can we not identify with Jesus, and can we not learn from Him, the ultimate teacher? We are His disciples, which means that we’re to be learning from Him and responding to Him. Please, let us do that.
v.37-38- Jesus knew anxiety and even fear. Do you feel nervous? I do. Do you feel anxious, fearful, and do you have second thoughts and even doubts? I’ll tell you that I do. Jesus did, too. He knew what was ahead. He knew the benefit, the need, the holiness of it, yet He knew, too, the pain and the horror that lay ahead for Him.
You and I have known the same, at many times in our lives. Think of a major decision you have made- maybe to buy a house or a new vehicle- and the nervousness you felt- even the sickness in the pit of your stomach as you signed papers, wondering whether you would be able to fulfill what you were signing, or simply recognizing the impact of what you were signing, as you signed, perhaps, marriage or divorce documents. Men, remember your anxiety before a Spokesman Club speech. Or remember how you felt on the eve of a major interview for a job or some position you wanted somewhere, or facing a first day of school, or a first date.
I’ve now performed 50 weddings over the past 30 years. In most cases, when we’ve had a rehearsal the day ahead of the ceremony, bride and groom have expressed some measure of anxiety and fear, even when they knew their decision was absolutely correct. (This is different from one man we met some years back who had to be completely inebriated to make it to the front of the church- something that I think his wife still held against him up to a few years ago, when we last saw them, at any rate.)
We know anxiety. Sometimes it proves to have been too much. At other times, it was justified. No matter which, we’ve recognized it as a necessary part of the process we were in. That’s the same now. That was the same for Jesus.
v.39- Jesus’ First Prayer- in this state of extreme anxiety (another gospel says that he sweated blood- that’s how anxious He was), nevertheless, he came to this prayer filled with impact- ‘nevertheless, not my will but yours’. Not my will but yours.
We are will-filled beings, and we pander to our will. We are supposed to use our will to serve God- that’s His aim, and He speaks of our need to choose and to grow and the like. But sometimes we let our will get in the way of what God/Jesus/Holy Spirit want done. Sometimes, we give in to our anxiety. Sometimes, we give in to many things that are not of God. Like Jesus, we have to be able to pray ‘nevertheless, not my will but yours be done’.
v.42- Jesus’ Second Prayer- he was strengthened by this time- Luke records that an angel had come to strengthen Him. His focus was fully on the Father this time. ‘Your will be done.’
v.44- Jesus’ Third Prayer- He went to God with the same words and feelings of submission to the Father’s will. ‘YOUR will be done.’
One thing we’ve all seen about the leadership of God is that it, and He, takes us inexorably toward ends He desires. The leadership of God to take us inexorably toward ends He desires is beyond compare. I know that it’s easy for us to stop at what we can see and to speak of personal agendas or desire. But, in a church, seeking to please Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and recognizing His ability to lead us places we’ve never been, we need to be ready for high adventure and surprises. He’s given us many of them and continues to do so.
Before He got to Gethsemane, in speaking with His disciples during the final meal together, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit and the role of that wonderful Spirit.
John 16.13- He will lead us into all truth. Who is truth? Jesus is. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Remember that truth is not a belief or a group of beliefs or something written on a wall. Truth is a person- truth is Jesus Christ. Truth is not doctrine or beliefs or feelings (certainly not that). Truth is a person- Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us closer and closer to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us places that are not clear in scripture sometimes, as Jesus leads us into a different environment. We know this on the whole matter of the worship day for the Christian church- the Holy Spirit led the church to see things not in scripture, having to do with the resurrection of Jesus, primarily, and that is enough. What more do we really need? The Holy Spirit, sent to bear witness of Jesus, as He bore witness of His Father, guides us into truth- guides us closer and closer to Jesus.
So, you feel anxious, worried, ill at ease, and even upset about developments in our church? All of us do. However, are we to allow those feelings to prevent following Jesus? We dare not. Tradition, what we’ve always done, habits, and the like cannot be our guide. The Holy Spirit and Jesus must be our guides. Jesus, facing a difficult ‘tomorrow’ shows us how to react. Let us pray, as He did, and respond as He did, ‘not my will but yours be done, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’