“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away ... and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17). This morning I was looking at a stock that has really “taken off.” I thought, “If only I had known, I would have bought that stock.” In one of the Back to the Future episodes, a man had a world almanac from the future. From that almanac he knew the final scores of athletic events before they were played. He became wealthy by betting on those games. He knew the future and lived his life by what he knew.
I don’t have an almanac from the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know the future. So do you. I know the future because God has told us in His Word. I know that in a few years (maybe sooner — maybe tomorrow) I will die. I know that when I die my soul will go to be with the Lord. I know that nations are judged by God in space-time history. I know that at some point the United States will be “weighed in His balances” as all other nations have been. I know that history will culminate in the return of Jesus. I know that heaven and hell are eternal realities. I know there is a day of reckoning with impeccable justice. Peter, in his second letter, wrote about the future revealed to us by God. He concluded by saying that we should live today in the light of that inevitable future.
Our problem is that we take our sight off the broad brush strokes of God’s plan and focus on the immediate future. As I write this, I am not sure where I will serve Him as a minister for the next few years. I am leaving the church I have served for more than two decades. Janet and I do not know the house or even the city where we will live. Both of us are anxious to know what will transpire in the weeks and months ahead. We would love to know where our next house is. That is the way it is with all of us. We want to know what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month. That can become our focus to the degree that we live our lives in light of the short term instead of the future we already know. When that happens we should not be surprised that we are crushed by events that take place tomorrow and next week.
Remember Jacob’s son, Joseph? There was a lot that Joseph did not know in the immediate future. He did not know that his brothers would sell him into slavery; he did not know that Potiphar’s wife would lie to her husband about him. He did not know that he would be put in prison. Yet none of those events crushed him. Why? He knew the great broad strokes of God’s providence that lie ahead. He knew that his family had to spend several centuries in a foreign land before they inherited Canaan. He knew that one day his family would indeed leave Egypt. He knew that God was in control of all of these things — even in control of jealous brothers, Potiphar, prosperity, famine, and Pharaoh.
It really does help to know the future. Why doesn’t God tell us what will happen tomorrow? In our materialism and selfishness, we would live our lives according to the short term. We would live by tomorrow’s events and ignore eternity. God has told us the future — the part of the future that is most helpful to our lives right now. He has given us the broad brush strokes. He has revealed the big picture. That is where our focus should be. The events of tomorrow cannot overwhelm us, cannot crush us, because we know the end of the story. But if we do not know the end of the story (if we focus on the short term), then the events of tomorrow, good or bad, will deceive us, and we will be ill prepared for the huge events that are surely coming to this nation, our world, and our individual lives. Knowing tomorrow’s market will not prepare me for eternity, but knowing the significant events of eternity will prepare me to live my life wisely tomorrow.
I love to read of Joseph’s death. In Genesis 50:24–26, we read: “And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” Joseph remembered that God had told Abraham that his descendants would spend four hundred years in a foreign land before they would return and take possession of the land He had promised them. Joseph knew the future. He knew that some three hundred years after his death God would take Israel out of Egypt. He made them swear an oath that they would take his body with them. So when he died they embalmed his body and put it in a coffin.
Joseph not only lived and died looking at the great promises about the future that he knew, he forced the world around him to remember that future. For three hundred years, every time an Israelite walked by that coffin, he was forced to remember the covenant God had made with Abraham. He was forced to remember that he was an alien and sojourner in Egypt. He was forced to remember the future God had promised. May we so live our lives in light of the future God has promised that the world will be affected by the way we live.