Looking Forward—Doing God’s Will
What brings success, particularly in a world turned upside down by a pandemic? When businesses, organizations and even sports teams face dramatic change and upheaval, new opportunities appear. New strategies and focus are developed and put into action. Core principles remain unchanged, but tactics—how things get done—can be refreshed, re-energized and put forth with renewed power.
We in the spiritual Church of God are no different. While holding fast to our core spiritual principles, we prayerfully and effectively use the tools that God gives us. We continuously look for ways to improve.
This is even more so when we see dramatic changes in how people perceive the authority and relevance of the Bible. People who believe and follow biblical principles have declined, especially in the pre-COVID-19 times. As the Bible predicted, scoffers replace believers in greater numbers. As a result, what we teach and how we live will stand out more and more! (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×)
What does this mean for us in the United Church of God? As we commemorate a quarter of a century of learning, growth and progress as a fellowship, it remains absolutely critical that we continue to individually and collectively surrender ourselves to God. As a body of disciples, we must continuously develop and lay our plans before Him (Proverbs 16:3 Proverbs 16:3Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts shall be established.
American King James Version×). We must always be seeking to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20  Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×) in the most effective way possible.
Now, as we move forward—as a fellowship humbly seeking to know and do the will of God—we have an opportunity to rededicate ourselves through God’s precious Holy Spirit living in us. It is time to deeply consider what Paul wrote: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).
Consider these lessons from history: ironically, in the Cold War days of the 1950s-80s, the Bible was held in much higher esteem. The widespread testing and exploding in those days of some 1,700 nuclear weapons by the United States, the former Soviet Union and other nations deeply frightened people back then. Many had just lived through a devastating world war that gruesomely killed more than 75 million people. Those people experienced firsthand how close the world came to being enslaved, even extinguished.
People wanted answers, and many believed that they could be found in the Bible.
In those days, the Bible widely held deep respect. And the voices of the Church of God thundered across the globe in multiple languages. Millions listened. Some took it to heart.
But then events changed. Fear of nuclear war faded. Today, even as we deal with a globe-girdling pandemic, leaders foolishly dare to mock God openly. As deadly COVID-19 cases begin to decline, we heard a major American governor presumptuously declaring, “God did not do that. Faith did not do that.” An astonishing indifference toward the Bible has grown.
It is in this world that we must do the work that God has given us.
As we collectively look forward beyond our first quarter of a century as a vibrant fellowship, what is next? We know that God has blessed us, and that God is with us.
Throughout the nearly 2,000 years of the spiritual Church of God, disciples of Jesus Christ have experienced the full spectrum of highs and lows, growth and apostasy, division and unity. But thank God that Jesus Christ, our Standard and the living Leader of our fellowship, is “the same yesterday, today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×). When we follow God and put Him first, we grow together in unity.
In the immediate days ahead, this world faces tremendous uncertainty about national economies, about the potential lasting impact of the coronavirus, about increasing tensions and conflict. This world needs the truth of God more than ever!
With that in mind, consider this fact: in the days before A.D. 70 and the calamitous destruction of the Second Temple, the 1st century Church of God faced tumultuous times.
Back then, Jude, a younger brother of Jesus Christ, had to warn brethren “to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 3, NLT).
Toward the end of the first century, the multi-national assembly of God shrank to small groups, but—as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 16:17-19 Matthew 16:17-19  And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.
 And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
 And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×)—the spiritual Church of God continued, as it will until the day Jesus returns to this earth!
So, fast forward some 1,900 years. To the shock of thousands in the early 1990s, belief and teachings that had been carefully researched, gleaned, recovered and restored from the Bible and safeguarded for decades AGAIN came under attack.
The United Church of God, an International Association, was then humbly founded as a fellowship to follow and safeguard these teachings, holding high the banner of the Bible. Today we are linked together in unity, bonded by these precious truths.
Now, as we look forward, as much of humanity turns its back on the precious truths of God—even in the midst of pandemic—we all need to be filled with zeal for God’s truth. We must again yield ourselves to God and renew our choice to “think differently,” to repent, to be zealous and on fire for the truth of God. It is time to renew and re-energize ourselves.
Think on this! Each one of us holds personal responsibility in supporting and fulfilling the Great Commission. Because of who and what we are, we will naturally stand out. Sometimes that can make us uncomfortable—but we must courageously embrace that feeling of discomfort!
We understand the incredible human potential of God and Jesus Christ bringing sons and daughters to glory in the Kingdom and family of God! (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×)
The first true article of faith is to believe that God exists, and that God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×). We in the Church understand that salvation is a gift, that by grace we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version×). But we also hold the enlightened understanding that real faith energizes and produces good works! (James 2:21-26 James 2:21-26  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?  See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
American King James Version×)
These good works must include fulfilling the Great Commission, with our deeds being a living example of God’s way of life in action.
As we seek to rededicate ourselves, we must honestly examine how we can do things better. As an organized fellowship, we must examine the formats and platforms that we use to teach. Our messages—from personal example, to television, to the pulpit—need to be convincing, compelling and challenging. While our core truths cannot and must not ever change, we can change how we conduct our lives and our outreach to effectively and decisively preach the gospel.
We must proclaim the truth to a world going mad, and we must ask for the strength and insight to do it boldly with conviction, commitment and courage!
As we embark toward the next quarter-century of our fellowship, let us truly rededicate and re-energize ourselves by drinking deeply of the Word of God, by daily repentance—thinking differently—and by getting in alignment with His divine will!