Ringing in my ears are the words of multiple prophets who are saying, “Get ready, the world is going to change fast, and so is the church.” Some share the message from a more positive standpoint, others from a less positive one. The first kind causes me to anticipate what is coming; the second makes me nervous.
I don’t always like to think about what the future holds from a natural standpoint, particularly when it’s not pleasant and I can’t change it. But I know one thing: Whatever happens, God’s purpose for His people is the same—to reflect His glory. As we do, Habakkuk’s prophecy will be fulfilled and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14, NKJV).
The other day I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in which Paul wrote something very provoking. He expressed his confidence that God, who had begun a good work in the believers at Philippi, would finish His work—that He would complete it, keep at it until it was done, until they were either dead or Jesus had returned (see Phil 1:6). Prior to that day I had not remembered that Paul’s encouragement was being sent to the people while Paul was imprisoned.
The apostle went on to say: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7-8).
Paul was in a seemingly God-forsaken situation, yet he was filled with the very presence and heart of God and was able to speak encouragingly to the Philippians. Later on in the same letter, he wrote: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:18-21).
Paul wasn’t pontificating. A person can’t do that when he is in the midst of a dark, dirty, bug- and rat-infested prison. I may be able to get “carried away in grandeur” imagining how I would respond in such situations when in reality I am sitting in my living room reading my Bible or lying on a beach chair listening to the waves wash up on the sand. But when I’m facing a serious situation, my response is going to come from what’s really inside me.
Like Paul, I have lived in the midst of devastating circumstances. And I could come to the point of saying what he said for only two reasons.
The first is that I know God and trust Him. When you know someone, you either trust him or you don’t, based on your real-life experiences with him. Trust is built; it doesn’t suddenly appear.
In other words, I trusted that my situation was well known to God and that it was His absolute best for me at that point in my history. I didn’t say it was a vacation. But it was God’s absolute best for me because of what He was working in me.
I had that perspective because I trusted Him. There was purpose and intention in it. I was not a victim of the chance clashing of interplanetary astrological signs. My life and all its details are written in God’s scheduling book. He knew I was there, and He knew before I got there I would be there.