STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 3: Pried Out With A Cross
The Pride of Presumption
When they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses….” ~ Acts 1:6-8
There are many times when we get something we really wanted, only to later be sorry that we got it. There are also many times we get something we really didn’t want, only to later be grateful that we got it. This happens to everybody, but not everybody gains wisdom from this common experience. The lessons this is meant to teach us are many, but one of the main ones is this: Just because you really want or don’t want something doesn’t mean you know what it is.
Even if a spiritual guru you revere declares that the new year you want to enter is the Year of Joy, or the Year of Breakthrough, or the Year of Victory, or the Year of Promotion, that doesn’t mean that’s what it is. Generally speaking, we have very little authority to influence or change the nature of things, especially seasons. Seasons are what they are because God makes them so. From the experience of birth to the experience of death, none of us really know exactly “what” we are getting ourselves into. When a pregnant woman’s water breaks and the baby’s world begins to collapse on the inside, there is nothing that baby wants more than to get out of there and come out here. But just because the baby really wants to be born into the world doesn’t mean it knows what it is to be on this side of birth. In the same way, just because death is the terror of the whole world and none of us really want to die doesn’t mean we know what it is to be on the other side of death.
Think about most of the new experiences of your life: going to a new school; entering a new romance; trying a new meal; starting a new job; moving to a new neighborhood; visiting a new country; buying a new appliance. The fact that it was new either filled you with hope and nervous anticipation, making you look forward to it, or filled you with dread, making you wish you didn’t have to go through it. But until you were inside the experience, you didn’t really know what it was you were getting yourself into. Sometimes you don’t even know what the thing was until you are out of it, like the times you don’t realize how toxic a relationship was until you are months past its termination. When a group of Jesus’ friends realized that his rising from the dead meant that they were about to enter a new phase of life in which he’d be leading them through life from a powerful throne in heaven, their imagination went into high gear about what this phase would be like. They wondered and asked if what they were getting themselves into was a time and season for the restoration of Israel’s sovereignty. What kind of year are you going to usher in, Lord? Will it be the year of restoration? His response? “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” So should we not enter a new year or experience with anticipation? Of course we should, but not anticipation of our imaginary ideas of what kind of year or experience it will be, for no matter how much we may want to have a year or experience of a particular kind, it is not for us to know what kind it will really be. What we can anticipate, what we are told is for us in the midst of whatever kind of time we are getting into, is the guarantee of being given both the ability to witness God at work in and around us and the responsibility of telling others about it.
When the new year is no longer new, you may be the one who looks back on it to find that it was a ripe banana, sweet and full of pleasant romances, or promotions, or blessings, or transfers, or invitations, or connections that you now have no idea are ahead. Or you may be the one who looks back on it to find that it was a raw banana, sour and rife with unpleasant rejections, or demotions, or stagnations, or separations, or losses that you didn’t sign up for. Or you may be the one who looks back on it to find that it was an overripe banana, a mixed bag of edible parts and others you’d rather throw away. Whatever the case, for now you want the new year, but you do not know what it is. What is yours to know is who it is that goes with you and who it is you will become when you see him work it all out for your good. It is for God to know what kind of future he has prepared for you, and while he invites you to ask for the kind of future you desire and to participate in creating the kind of future he desires, your true heritage is seeing and knowing him better once you get there. What you are given as you head into tomorrow is not a map to tell you what you’ll find when you get there, but a personal tour guide to lead you through whatever you’ll find if he chooses to get you there. If we have no confidence that God holds us in his hands, we lose the humility to stop presuming that we hold the future in ours.
Keep the Faith