One of the lovely things about the Lord is that he hides the future from us. Most of us would love a sneak preview of the future. We say, "Well, Lord, just give me a glance over the next five years. Let me know how they're going to turn out."
But the longer you live, the more you realize how God is kind to keep the future from us. It's mercy that veils our eyes. How important it is to be able to face that unknown future with absolute confidence and with certainty that while God is working out his purpose universally, he also is working out his program specifically for you and me! Knowing that our times are in his hands is one of the most wonderful experiences in life.
There's no way to find out the future. Jeanne Dixon has everybody brainwashed. Reading the future is just a cheap, easy way of making money. The stars have as much effect on you as you have on them. That's precisely nil.
How much better to know that your life is based on the secure and certain promises of God! You don't need to know the predictions of people, when you realize that God has given us something like three thousand promises in his Word. Most of us don't know more than ten of them. And most of us have hardly experienced six of them.
God gives us promises to keep us from worry
You know what promises are for? To keep you from worry. God knows the way he made us. That's why so many of his promises start with "Fear not." Then he gives the reason why we shouldn't fear. Most of us are marvelous at worry. The Bible says worry is a sin because, at the moment of worrying, I'm not trusting. At the moment of trusting, I'm not worrying. You say, "Oh, I can do both at once." No, you may be worrying at eight o' clock and trusting at eight fifteen. You may be worried stiff at eight thirty and back trusting at eight . At the moment of trust, you stop worrying. At the moment of worry, you stop trusting.
God intends us to live a life of freedom from worry. Not freedom from concern. Not a complacency, where I couldn't care less about anything. That's being irresponsible. There's a world of difference between having a concern and being anxious. To have a concern or burden that you take to God in prayer is one thing, but to be anxious about the outcome is another.
Now, how can we live in a world of absolute uncertainty and yet be certain of our position and assured that our times are in his hand? We don't have to know the way. We just have to walk with God. He knows where we're going, and he will never lead us astray. Knowing that, you face the unknown future with confidence, not in yourself but in him.
That's really what Paul is writing about here to young Timothy. Paul knows he hasn't much longer to go. This is the last thing he wrote. We're not quite sure how soon he died. It might have been a year. In the fourth chapter of this second letter to Timothy, he writes, "I am now ready to be offered, because the time of my departure is at hand."
It's very important to be ready when the time of departure is at hand. Paul is saying, "As I look back now, I want you to know, Timothy, that I have fought a good fight and kept the faith. I have finished the course. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous, shall give me in that day. And not only me, but all them that love his appearing."
He's saying, "I know it's the end of the road. I know that at last I'm going to see him face to face. But, Timothy, you've still got a long way to run. I want you to remember your roots and the road you're traveling. I want to share something of my experience with you."
You never get the spirit of fear from God. Will you remember that? We're not talking about a holy awe and reverence for his presence. That's a fear we should always have. We're talking about the fear that has terror in it, the fear that has panic in it, the fear that takes away faith, the fear that chills the spine. God has not given us the spirit of fear. We may all feel afraid at times. But to live with a spirit of fear, that never comes from God.
The apostle John says, "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear." God has not given us the spirit of fear. But I'll tell you what he has given us. He has given us, first of all, a sound mindclear thinking. That's different from a fearing mind. And he's given us the spirit of power. He's given us the spirit of love. So he says, "Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. And don't be ashamed of me, his servant. I'm languishing in jail. It's not by choice, but God put me here.
We don't know how much faith we have until it's tested
You know, it's marvelous why God put Paul in jail and left him there. When we read the reasons why God does these things, it is easier to handle the things in our own lives. We've got a lot of sloppy preaching going on in Southern California right nowon radio, on television, and in churches. They say if you walk with God, you'll never be sick. And they say God only wants you healthy, wealthy, and wise. God wants you to be a multimillionaire. The richer you are, the more blessed you are. If you've got an old jalopy, get rid of it and get a Cadillac, or a MBenz, or a Rolls Royce. If you're flying a little Cessna, dump it, and get a Lear jet. Your prosperity is a sign of God's blessing.
My friend, if you're following God because you want to be a millionaire, you're doing it for the wrong reason. If you're giving to God because he'll give you back ten times over, then whatever you give might as well stay in your pocket, because you're giving for the wrong reason.
Then they come upon a person like Paul, who finds himself in jail, and they say, "Well, how do we handle this one?" Paul is not living in a nice retreat on the Black Sea. He's not driving around in the equivalent of a Cadillac. He's not living it up in a Hilton or Hyatt. He's languishing in jail. And seemingly God is doing nothing.
These people say, "Oh, all you have to do is pray. If you don't like your situation, just pray. And if it's not nice, God will change it. If he doesn't, it's because there's sin in your Life. Get rid of the sin, and life will be great again. Or, if it's not sin in your life, it's lack of faith."
How do you measure faith? Do you know how much faith you've got this morning? You've no idea how much faith you've got until it's tested.
I always think of Simon Peter on the lake after a marvelous day. The Lord had been preaching and healing all day. Crowds had come and gone, and it was a memorable day. Then the sun was setting, and everybody who came was healed. Peter must have felt great. The Lord says, "Now, let's go in your boat over to the other side." And I know Peter so well that I'm sure if we could have gone alongside him and said, "Peter, how's your faith today?" he'd have said, "Man never better! Absolutely at the top." I'm sure that's the way he felt after the day he'd had.
They go over in the boat. Remember that Peter knew more about Lake Galilee than anybody. He'd been raised on Galilee. He knew all the tides and where all the fish were. He knew the currents. He knew that lake upside down and inside out. And they get over toward Decapolis, where the mountain comes down and you get one of those strong winds like we get in Scotland. The wind comes down on the lake, and many a family has been lost in a Scottish loch. Simply the sheer weight of three feet of water coming at you can sink the boat before you know anything. That's what happens in the boat with Peter.
As the boat is going down, they panic and say, "Master, don't you care?'' The Master gets up and speaks to the wind and to the waves, and he hushes them. The disciples were more petrified with the calm than they were with the storm. They said, "What manner of man is this?" Jesus turns to them and says, "How is it that you have no faith? Why is it you were so filled with fear?"
Peter could have said, "What do you mean, no faith? We've left home. We've given up everything. I left my job and my family. What do you mean, no faith?"
Of course they had faith. Jesus is saying, "How is it you don't have it when you need it?"
You don't know how much faith you have until it's tested. You'll probably discover you've got a lot less than you thought you had.
Have you ever gone to God and said, "Lord, will you do this?"
God says, "Well, how much faith have you got?"
You say, "Well, I measured it this morning, Lord, about a pint and a half."
He says, "Well, I'm sorry. You're going to need a gallon for this lot."
How do you measure faith? Who says whether it's enough? Where can you find in the Bible that Jesus ever said to anybody, "Go back and get enough faith?" How do you measure faithyards, feet, and inches? I measured my faith this morning. It's three feet six. God said, "I'm sorry. It's going take about six feet nine for this one, but work at it." Did you find Jesus sending away the poor man who said, "Lord, help my unbelief, and strengthen my weak faith" ? It's not how much faith you've got. It's in whom your faith is invested.
These people do the greatest disservice to us, whoever they are, when they start talking about this man and this woman who have a wonderful, staggering, amazing, glorious faith. All you're doing is taking the glory from the Lord and giving it to people.
We don't need wonderful faith, we need faith in a wonderful God
Nobody has a wonderful, amazing, staggering faith. I'll tell you what they have. They have faith in a wonderful, amazing God. It's God who's wonderful, not our faith. I don't need wonderful faith in God. I need faith in a wonderful God. My faith may be very small. It may be very big in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of God, it's small. But the Lord said, "You have faith as a grain of mustard seed." And don't you ever get up and preach and say, "Jesus said you have faith as small as a piece of mustard seed, or as big as." He never said that. Size has nothing to do with it. It's speed that he's talking about, not size. The thing about a grain of mustard seed is all the time you've got it in your hand, it's a grain of mustard seed, and it'll never be anything else. Put it in the ground, and, before you know where you are, you've got a bush. That's what the Lord is talking aboutthe speed.
Faith is like that. You may only have faith in him. You say, "Well it's very small." Put it in the Lord. You'll be amazed what a small faith will do. You've got a big God.
Have you ever wondered why God had Paul out of jail in hours at Phillipi, but left him for two and a half years in Rome? The same God, the same apostle, and the same people prayed. What's it got to do with faith? If you've only got enough faith, he'll get out? Did any man on earth have more faith than Paul? Then why was he in there? For the simple reason that in the economy of God, he needed Paul out to do the preaching, so he was out. In Rome, he needed Paul to write half the New Testament. He needed him where he could have quiet. There was no better place than jail, and so God kept him in jail for two and a half years to give us the epistles that we have. Paul didn't know that at the time any more than anybody else knows it, but we know it now.
Remember we're not here to manipulate God. God is absolutely sovereign. God's purposes will be worked out. God doesn't give us faith to change the will of God. He gives us faith to accept the will of God. He doesn't give us faith to understand, because we don't always understand. He gives us faith to accept what we don't understand. That's what faith is for. He is so absolutely faithful. He is reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. "Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."
Our confidence that God is able, keeps us from worry
"I know the one in whom I am believing, and because of that," says the apostle, because I know him so well, "I know the one in whom I am believing, and I am persuaded."
I like the way that King James translates the "I am persuaded." But what it means today is much more like "I am convinced." Are you absolutely convinced of this truth that Paul is convinced about? Paul says, "I know God so well. I've trusted him through the years. I've come to such an appreciation of him, that I know now without any doubt that he is able."
If I could have only three words out of the Bible, if that's all I was permitted, they would be these three words: he is able. That's all you need. You see, it's present, it's continuous. It doesn't say he was able, or he will be able, or he might be able, or he could be able. He is able. He's not incapacitated by time. He hasn't lost his touch. He's just the same today.
With us, once we were able, and now we're not. You know what you used to be able to do. I remember somebody at the Sunday school picnic who had been quite an amateur baseball pitcher in the early dayslittle league champs, you know. He hadn't played for about ten years, but he knew how to pitch. All the kids are playing, and along comes Father. He shows how he can still put them in low and away and still get in a few curve balls. Oh, he finishes in triumph. All the kids think he's great. "I showed the kids a few things. The old fella hasn't lost his touch."
Then he wakes up the next morning, about seven o'clock. He reaches up his arm. "Ahhhhh!"
His wife says, "What's the matter?"
"Don't touch me. Don't touch me. My back's gone. Uh, it's my spine. It's broken. Get the doctor, the police, the ambulance. Call 911. Bring everybody. I can't move."
"What's the matter?"
"I think I'm paralyzed. It's my back. It's my shoulders. It's my neck."
Then the wife says lovingly, "It's probably the baseball."
"Don't be silly. I've played baseball all my life."
"Well, you know, dear, you did go out pretty strong."
"I pitched six innings once without a break. O, don't touch me." Then eventually he crawls out of bed, and the wife's right. You see, there was a time when he was able, but the body is just telling him he's not able now.
The marvelous thing with God is that down through the centuries he was able, he is able, he will always be able. I may be disabled, but he is able. I may be incapable, but he is capable.
Paul says, "I know him, and he is able." As far as Paul is concerned, what is he able to do? And this is where I would like to finish today. God is able to "keep what I've committed." What you give him to keep, what you ask him to keep, what you hand over to him to keep, he is able to keep.
May I remind you there is nothing in Scripture saying he is able to keep what you haven't committed. You will discover this in life, if you haven't discovered it already. What you give, God takes. And what God takes, he cleanses. And what he cleanses, he fills. And what he fills, he uses. You will find that what you hand over to God never becomes an area of worry. Never. But what you hold on to and don't commit to God will always be an area of worry.
Suppose you say, "I'll give all my life to God except my finances. I want to handle the finances myself." I tell you, all your problems will be in finance. If you say, "I'll hand over to God everything in my life except my business," you can look for trouble in your business. If you say, "I'll hand over everything else in my life, but I'm going to run my family my way," you can look out for family problems. Whatever you choose to hold on to, you mark my words, that will be the area of your problem. Whatever you hand over to God, you'll find he will take through, over and over and over again.
And that's why Paul doesn't urge partial commitment or a bit at a time. But he urges, "that which I have committed," not "which I'm going to commit, which I ought to commit, which I should have committed, which I'm thinking about committing." It's the perfect tense. I've done it. I have committed. Paul committed everything: his life, his future, and the lot. Then he says, "I rest happily. I don't know what the future holds. I don't have to know. I don't have answers to all my problems. I don't know what difficulties there may be. I don't need to know. But I do know this: Whatever the difficulty is, I'm not facing it alone. Whatever the problem, I don't face it alone. Whatever path I go on, I don't travel alone. I know he will be with me to the very end. I know the One in whom I am believing. I'm convinced. I'm persuaded. He's able to keep that which I've committed unto him." And, my friend, you can face the future with confidence, real confidence in the Lord.
As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I say, "Lord, it's morning. Thank you for bringing me through. This is another new day." And before I put one foot on the bedroom floor, I pray something like this, "Lord, I'm just trusting you now to give me all the grace and all the strength and all the power I need to get through this day." Then I get my feet on the floor, simply believing that God has heard that prayer and believing he will answer it.
In that strength you can live one day at a time. I know the One in whom I am believing. I'm convinced he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day. And as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Stanley Collins was of Forest Home Christian Conference Center in Forest Falls, California.