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The Best is Yet to Come

By Brian V. Brown

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NIV For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry." We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Paul is warning the Corinthian Church that even though the children of Israel were God's chosen people, when they stepped over the mark they must suffer the consequences for their actions. Take heed from the examples of previous generations.

Old couple

My wife and I have an interest in our family history, and we've been digging into our past for some time now, primarily because our parents and grandparents were reluctant to speak of our forebears. We have found a few interesting stories, mainly rather sad. But it is interesting following the twists and turns of the places, work, churches, etc where our ancestors lived.

What's the point of looking at what happened in the past? What is the benefit to us now? Is there anything that we can learn from, so that we don't make the same mistakes? Some of the stories that we have discovered of hardships and difficulties that they endured, it might be better not to know about. In our case, following a particularly sad story of a couple of people, led to the discovery of some living family members in Canada, and meeting them was very touching – such is the power of the internet!

Some talk nostalgically about the ‘Good old days'. But were they really better than the way we live today? Life was certainly simpler, less sophisticated, less complicated. But if we really look at the benefits of today's living, I believe that in many ways things are better today. . . .

  • Life expectancy is better, as we understand more clearly how the human body works.
  • Infant mortality is certainly very much improved.
  • Communications have improved beyond the expectations of those who lived at the beginning of the 1900s – the telephone, radio, TV.
  •  We can enjoy the benefits brought about by modern technology.
  •  A much more comfortable lifestyle.
Signs

I know that not everything is rosy, and there are many drawbacks and abuses, but comparing ways of living in the past to how life is lived today, we should count ourselves very fortunate. Of course, there's always room for improvement. But the past is past, and there is a future to look forward to, taking into consideration the lessons from the past.

Every local Church congregation stands at the meeting point of the past and the future. To be sure, we have an inheritance with its faults and victories, but the way we carry that forward depends on us, it's within our control.

That is why it is vital that we claim our whole history, and indeed, the history of the whole Church. Our journey is a single journey with a great company of fellow Christians. The Church in general has a great past on which to build and learn lessons from, as Paul is pointing out to the Corinthian Church.

way in the wilderness
Isaiah 43:16-19 NIV This is what the LORD says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah prophesies, saying that the nations are but a drop in the bucket.

God begins, controls and ends history – history is ‘His-Story'! He foretells and holds the future in His hand. He knows the end from the beginning.

Now He is going to do a new thing, something glorious. Forget what events, the good and the not-so-good, have happened in the past.

Yes, learn from them . . . but something better is coming!

Church

There's a Church which I am often asked to preach in. It's a warm and welcoming congregation, and I love meeting and sharing with the folks there. But there is another reason that I enjoy being there. The Church just oozes history. I have a copy of the early history of the Church, which figures quite prominently in the development of the local town, and just reading the account gives a great sense of the powerful move of God – from a cottage meeting, to a small Chapel, to the building of a small Church, to the opening of a much larger Church in 1890, designed to seat 500.

The congregation, now much smaller than it used to be (in common with many of today's Churches), is justly proud of their heritage. I wonder how many people have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour as a result of the faithful witness of the congregation, and preaching of the Word, down the years. They have been blessed as they have honoured and lifted up the Name that is above every other name.

I rejoice in the goodness of God granting them such a rich heritage. But in looking at the past, they must be careful not to dwell on it – especially when wearing those rose-tinted glasses that makes the past achievements something to be glorified.

But the best is yet to come.

Yes, there were good times, there are also lessons to be learnt. But, as the prophet Isaiah says ‘Forget the former things'.

‘Forget' in the sense that we leave things behind. Do not hanker or yearn after them – it's unhealthy.

There may be hurts and grievances that we have become bitter about, or old scores that need settling. Deal with them, they will do us no good – look to the future. God holds the future in His hands and He has never changed – the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Friends, the best is yet to come.

Our past affects our present and our future. By sunrise tomorrow, our actions of today will have become part of the past. They will have already begun to shape our future. We often face crossroads, where our choice of direction determines our future, some decisions having greater effect than others.

What actions can you choose or avoid that will shape your future in a positive way? For the Christian, this is why we look to Jesus. Our decision to follow Christ affected us the moment we made that commitment, didn't it? Our choices became different to the way we would have chosen before – they affect the way we live now. Not only that, but our future becomes secure.

One day we will be called into the presence of God, to be with Him eternally and receive our inheritance. The choice we made in deciding to walk the Christian path, determined our eternal destiny.

Friends, the best is yet to come.

Do you believe that?

Our past also reminds us of God's wonderful grace. During tough times we may need to remember how God has blessed us in the past, so that we can take heart and be victorious in our present circumstances – gaining confidence and strength. Have you experienced His goodness? Remember, He never changes, though we do!

But in Isaiah's prophecy, he goes on to say ‘See, I am doing a new thing'. As we look to Him, not focusing on the past, God opens up new things in front of us. New things for us to get excited about.

As we direct our attention to the Lord,

as we read His Word,
as we approach Him in prayer,
as we offer our adoration, praise and worship,
as we spend time with Him . . . .

then He ‘makes a way in the desert' and produces ‘streams in the wasteland'. We have a Father who just wants to bless us, to lavish His love upon us, to give us good gifts.

Friends, the best is yet to come.

Do you believe that?

My wife bought a fridge magnet which said, ‘Grow old with me, the best is yet to come'. I think the implication was – as we spend our time together, things will get better and better! Indeed, the longer we have been together, the closer we have become and the stronger our marriage has become.

heart and cross

However, there is a third person in our marriage – Jesus. There's a verse in Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV which is very important to us – ‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.' Three strands in our marriage – my wife, me and Jesus – what a winning combination!

three fold cord

[There is a lovely ceremony which is sometimes practiced in Christian marriage, where the bride and groom plait three strands into a cord. It is intended to symbolize the joining of one man, one woman and God into the marriage relationship. The colours of the strands are intended to be significant – gold, representing God at the centre, invited to the position of authority; purple, representing the groom, submitting himself to the Lord; white, representing the bride.]

But isn't it true in the wider sense? As a Church, if we direct our attention to the Lord,

as we read His Word,
as we approach Him in prayer,
as we offer our adoration, praise and worship,
as we spend time with Him . . . .

then He ‘makes a way in the desert' and produces ‘streams in the wasteland'. Do you believe that the Lord is able to bring this about? His word says that He will, however unlikely the situation appears, for all things are possible with the Lord.

Luke 18:27 NIV Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."

Friends, don't dwell on the past blessings, look to the future, plan for the future, step into the future. We are a privileged people – there are people to be reached with the Gospel . . .

that there is a God who loves them,
a Saviour who died to take away their sins,
and a blessed hope to look forward to.

Go to it, reach them, bless them – the best is yet to come!!!


All scripture quotations on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.
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