Summary: The first in a four-sermon series about the Biblical response to uncertain times.
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1. When the fasten seatbelt sign comes on, it means one of three things: You are taking off, landing, or experiencing turbulence. All three are critical times during a flight. Why? Because all three are transitions. In the case of taking off, we know what to expect. Landing, we know what to expect.
2. But in mid-flight, when the fasten seatbelt sign comes on, you just don’t know. The people I know who don’t like to fly have a turbulence story to tell.
3. And when the captain turns it off . . . whew.
4. Since 9/11, for us as a nation, the captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. Trouble ahead. It could be a short, small bump. Or it may be time to pull out the little bag in the seatback in front of you.
5. First quarter of next year, the economy may surge ahead, the war may end, and terrorism may be a thing of the past. Or we may be in for several quarters/years of uncertainty.
6. It could be that the fasten seatbelt sign has come on for you personally: your daughter is pregnant; the doctor called; your job is at risk; your marriage is at risk.
7. Whatever the case . . . as is the situation in a jet . . . we are out of control. Actually, we have never really been in control. But it sure is fun to think we are. And when the reality of the situation is staring us in the face personally and nationally, it is frightening.
The good news is . . .
I. Most of what we are given in the Scriptures was written in an environment of uncertainty.
A. This book is not filled with feel-good messages for a world we don’t live in. Here we find God speaking directly into uncertain times. Maybe more comforting, we see God’s hand in the midst of uncertainty.
1. Joseph found himself in a pit while his brothers debated whether to sell him or kill him . . . and we discover that God was with him.
2. King David was awakened one morning to the rumor that his own son was conspiring against him, but he had no proof —many of the Psalms reflect the uncertainty of those days.
3. The apostle Paul thought God had called him, but found himself bound and dragged to prison—and with the future a blur. He writes to us about what to do when God’s promises don’t seem to be coming true.
4. One afternoon an angel appeared to a teenager and announced that she . . . the Bible says Mary was perplexed. What did this mean? The future was completely different.
B. This book is filled with stories of people facing uncertainty and discovering that not only is God not absent, but he is often diligently at work accomplishing his will in this world and in the lives of those he loves.
C. This is a book about how very much God is in control and how very much we are not.
1. And that is exactly why we will not like some of the answers we find here when it comes to responding to uncertainty.
2. I want the answer to be that if I will do three things, life will be back to normal, and I will be back in control.
3. What we find in Scripture seems much too passive. It leaves us too vulnerable and dependent.
4. I don’t want to fasten my seatbelt. I want the turbulence to go away.
5. I don’t want to be guided through it. I want to be led around it.
6. I want to find something in here that will guarantee my safety, the end of terrorism, a cure for smallpox, a booming economy, and a sustained rally on Wall Street. Where are those verses?
D. As frustrating as some of the answers might be, the options are worse.
1. Worry? Panic? Overreact? Fear?
2. I’ve never known any of those things to be productive.
3. They generally make things worse:
• Relationally–nobody gets our undivided attention. We get very self-centered.
• Financially–we make decisions based on our ability to predict the future. We shop to kill the pain.
So as we begin this series, don’t underestimate what God says about times of uncertainty. This is not new to him. This is not an instruction manual about how to get back into control or how to get life back to normal. It is about learning to follow through the valleys with confidence that God is in control and that his purposes personally and nationally will not be thwarted.
So what do we do? We are going to talk about four terms—four things to do. And the first one is probably the most predictable: PRAY.