A new year is about to begin and there is a lot of writing and wondering about what the future will be. Nearly everything that is being written is negative. Almost everybody sees the future as very dark.
In the Bible, we see there are two ways to look at the future. The one is to see the future as very dark and negative – worse than anyone can describe. This is for the ungodly who will not repent from their sins. The other way is to see the future as hopeful and bright – yes, better and brighter than anyone can describe. This is for God-fearing people who admit their sins and repent from them and begin to live according to God’s will.
God's thoughts and plans – human thoughts and plans
“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB). It is only when we have faith in God and are obedient to His commandments that we can become part of these plans. There is a big difference between God’s plans and human plans. People have many thoughts and plans, they write books and make plans that almost never work out well. God’s plans have good results even if the whole world is against it.
Therefore, it is safe to be part of God’s will and His plan for our lives. No one can learn to know God’s thoughts and plans with human wisdom. Everything must be given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is given to those who obey Him. “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless.” 1 Corinthians 3:20 (GNT).
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 (CEB).
God destroys the wisdom of the wise, and brings to nothing the understanding of the intelligent people. This is written in connection with the message of the cross. The message of the cross is that we deny ourselves and take up our cross every day - then we say No when we are tempted to sin and choose to do God’s will alone. (Matthew 16:24.)
This is the secret. It is only through the cross that we can get a clear connection with God, and through the cross He can fulfil His plans for us – the plans He had planned for us before the world began. Then God begins to share His thoughts with us. When our own will and plans are “on the cross”, the Spirit will show us things that no eye has seen, nor ear has heard – the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9.) Then it is impossible to be discouraged and see the future as dark and hopeless!
We see from Israel’s history that there were only few people like this – those who gave themselves completely to love and serve God alone. Some did it for a time when they were in great difficulties and suffering. But when the difficulties were over and the enemy destroyed, their hearts turned away from God and back to idols.
This is exactly what will decide how our future will be. God’s thoughts are clear: “… God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7 (CEB). If these wonderful plans of God are to become real for us, the thoughts of our hearts must also be clear: our hearts must be entirely for God, it must be pure before God’s eyes. There must be no idols in our hearts.
The message of the cross makes the future bright
In Luke 9:57-62 we see what Christ wants from us. He wants us to be pure and to make a firm decision to follow Him. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’”
“Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’”
“And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Here we see the narrow gate, and the “cross” that we have to take up if we want to be a disciple of Jesus. All these “buts” and excuses because of worldly family and friends corrupt people’s hearts so God’s clear thoughts cannot come in. Then life becomes heavy and the goal unclear. (1 Corinthians 14:8.)
You cannot, for example, believe the promise that all things work together for our good when you have not fulfilled the conditions. The promise was for those who loved God alone! Let us stand firm in our decision to be a disciple and to give up everything and live for Jesus alone. The message of the cross lives in the disciple’s heart. There it is bright. It’s not always our feelings that make it bright, but faith in the living God, and in Jesus who rose from the dead.
May we keep our heart pure and only for Jesus and be full of faith, so our whole life comes in agreement with God’s Word. Just think of the future Jesus saw when He said: “Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine.” John 17:10 (CEB). This is plain and clear.
Why we can look forward to a bright future
May we go into the new year with pure hearts and with the pure message of the cross planted in our hearts and thoughts!
God could see into the hearts of the children of Israel when He said: “When I bring them into the land I promised to their ancestors, a fertile land, they will eat as much as they want and get fat. Then they will turn to other gods and serve them. They will reject Me and break My Agreement [covenant]. Then when many troubles and terrible things happen to them, this song will testify against them, because the song will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they plan to do, even before I take them into the land I promised them.” Deuteronomy 31:20-21 (NCV). They turned against God in spite of all the goodness God had shown them.
What thoughts do we have? Paul said about Timothy: “But you know all about my teachings, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance …” 2 Timothy 3:10 (GW). They had the same mind and the same thoughts. The cross was working. Good thoughts came up and became actions to the edification of the Church.
Paul’s testimony was: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20. We cannot live a better life. When this is our personal testimony, we can meet all kinds of difficult situations and all the spiritual forces of evil. Yes, the devil himself and every enemy will flee from us and we can overcome in every trial through faith in the message of the cross. God’s plans become reality and Satan’s plans are destroyed.
In this overcoming spirit and with the power of faith in a pure heart we can with great confidence go in the new year. Soon we will meet our Master and our fathers in Christ who laid such a foundation for us! Jesus’ last words are our comfort: "And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” Matthew 28:20 (GW).