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Looking Forward - 2022

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Looking Forward - 2022

MP3 Audio (74.54 MB)


Looking Forward - 2022

MP3 Audio (74.54 MB)

For whatever reason, when we face some kind of a trial or difficulty, we should learn something from it. If nothing else, we should learn something about ourselves. Also God learns something about us in whatever we face. Reviewing our lives, and examining ourselves through difficulties is part of the process of moving and looking forward.


Looking Forward – 2022, Craig Clark, UCG Freeland, 1-1-22

So last week, my message was about looking back. Not that we should look back and obsess over all of the bad things that happened to us in the past year. Instead, we should look back and maybe consider how we did in reacting to some of those things, whatever we faced, whether they're good or bad.

Did I deal with things in a godly manner? Or did I fail that test miserably? And what have I learned from it? Before we move on, I think I need to explain what I mean by that.

I don't believe that everything that we face is something that God has caused, because he wants us to learn something. Sometimes things just happen. However, I do believe that, for whatever reason, we do face some kind of a trial or difficulty. We should learn something from it. If nothing else, we should probably learn something about ourselves. And I also believe that God learns something about us as well, with whatever it is that we may face. Now, another thing that I mentioned last week is that all of this is especially important, as we start thinking about planning ahead for the Passover. Because we do need to examine ourselves prior to the Passover. As we review our lives, and what we experienced in the last year, how did I handle things? Again, was it in a godly manner or not? If not, have I repented? Or do I need to repent still, all of those things we need to do prior to the Passover. But today, we're going to look at something different. Instead of looking back, we're going to look forward. Now, last year had its ups and downs. Every year does. Sometimes there are more ups and downs. And sometimes the opposite is true. I was going to say that. I'm not an expert. But I guess as far as my life is concerned, maybe I am an expert. And the same can be said for you. But I would say that maybe many of us in the room had more downs than they had ups the past year or two. Or at least it seems like it. But again, enough of the past. The real question is, what do we see in our future? What will 2022 be like? Or is it 2020-2? {joke as in 2020 all over again} Sorry. Anyway, what will 2022 be like?

Well, the reality is we don't really know do we, unless God miraculously reveals that to us. We can only speculate. The truth is that sometimes even when God does give us a prophecy, we still really don't understand, do we? I mean, there's a lot of prophecies in the Bible about what's going to happen in the near future that we're just not really sure about. I think when it all happens, we're going think: Why didn't I see that coming? And looking back, oh, that makes a lot of sense. Why didn't I see that?

But at least in general, we do know what lies ahead. And we see patterns. We know that things are going to get bad. I'm not saying they're good right now, but is this as bad as they're going to get? I don't think that either.

I think you understand. But that's kind of the question that we want an answer to, isn't it? It's one of the things that the apostles asked what will it be like? And when are you going to return?

Same questions we ask every day. And, like I said, While Jesus gave the disciples some answers, answers that we read on a regular basis, and we wonder about, we still don't know all the details. And that's okay. My message isn't about prophecy. I really want to talk about something else. But I think all of these things, if you're talking about looking forward, at least, Yes, we sort of have to address. So that's really all I have to say about prophecy. We don't know all the details, and someday we will. But we still need to look forward. And there are some things that we do need to talk about in regard to that today.

I've been thinking about this message for quite a while. And when I started thinking about it, I jotted down a few things. I'm going to read a couple of those anyway. Like, looking ahead to the new year, where do we go from here? There are lots of things we need to be doing in the coming year. We need to come together. We've been separated for too long. We need each other. Being online is not a long-term solution. Fortunately, we have an option, {Zoom online Church Services} at least most of us do. And while it was helpful, I don't think we should rely on that in the long term. So, those were some things that were kind of going through my head when I started this. But you know, as time goes by and you think about things, maybe even the night before your focus changes, or maybe your focus gets changed. So, things are a little bit different than that. We're really not going to talk about those things, even though there are some good things to think about and talk about and maybe we do need to think about and talk about those things. But I think we're also already addressing some of them. But I think that we've got a ways to go and we might touch on very little bit about that later. But I want to go back to my question. What is 2020 2 going to be like?  I have an answer.  What we decide to make of it, 2022 is going to be, let's face it, what our future looks like is really up to us. I forget if it was while I was away from work for the feast or when I was sick after the feast, or when we were in California. I don't remember, those couple of months are a little bit of a blur right now. But while I was out, my boss bought a book for all of the management team. The book is titled QBQ, the Question Behind the Question, and it was written by John G. Miller. I'm going to read just a small section from well, chapter 1, which is a picture of personal accountability, just a section of page 11.

And this is really what I want to talk about: Personal accountability. And I think that you'll find this quote really is what we've sort of been talking about so far. So, he writes, it's a sad fact that when most of us are faced with a frustration, or challenge of some kind, our initial reaction tends to be negative, and defensive.

And the first questions that occur to us are, what he calls IQs or Incorrect Questions. The good news is this. That moment of frustration also presents us with a tremendous opportunity to contribute. And the QBQ, or the Question Behind the Question, can help us take advantage of it? The moment the IQs pop into our heads, we have a choice. We can either accept them. Yeah, when are we going to get some more help around here? Or reject them? choosing instead to ask better, more accountable questions such as, "What can I do to make a difference? And "How can I support the team?" Isn't that what our Christian lives are all about? Really?

Last week, we talked about looking back, examining ourselves, did I react in a godly manner? If not, where do I need to be? Isn't that really the question behind the question? What do I need to do different to react in the way that I should? We have to accept responsibility for our actions. Too often, we want to blame others. But the reality is that the only person we can change is ourselves. It is no use really expecting others to change. We might encourage them. But we must change ourselves. And we have to change the way that we sometimes react. And that's not easy.

So where do we start? I'd like to turn to James 1. Because I think the place to start, is to ask for help. Now that's kind of ignoring the fact that we have to decide ourselves that we want to change but if we decided we want to change, then we have to ask for help. I think James addresses that here James 1:5-6. He says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with now with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind."

It reminded me a little bit of Clay's sermon of the sea, right? Not always good things when it talks about the waves of the sea. I wanted to start here because now even though James refers specifically to wisdom, his implication is that this applies to everything that we might ask God for, even faith, which James says we need to have for God to really answer. But I think we can also ask for faith using whatever little bit of faith that we have. You might remember the story in Mark 9 about the man who had a son who was possessed by an evil spirit. And when he saw Jesus he convulsed fell to the ground and convulsed. Jesus says Mark 9:23, he says, "If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes."  I think we can relate to how the father responds. Verse 24, Immediately the father of the tribe child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."

Right, I think that's asking for the faith that you need with whatever faith you already have. I know I need more. So please help.

I don't think any of us believe that we have all the faith that we require. But we can ask.

Let's go to the book of John, next. There are a couple of passages that I'd like to look at, in John that deal with "asking". They are pretty familiar passages and, in fact, we're looking forward to Passover, to a certain extent here, John, chapter 14, right there.  John 14, and we're going to begin with verses 12-14. Jesus Christ is speaking to the disciples, and He says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me the works that I do, he will do also. And greater works than these, he will do. Because I go to my father, and whatever you ask, in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything, in my name, I will do it."  Now there's a lot more here than just asking for things isn't there? The whole context of this is in doing the work of God. "He who believes in me the works that I do, he will do also."  It's not talking about asking for that larger house, faster car, whatever it is that you want to have. This is in the context of what do I need in order to do your will. It's not a blank check for whatever you want, but there are those who believe that : "If you want to be rich, all you need to do is ask." I would say be careful what you ask for!

Let's go over a page or so to John 15. We're going to read a couple of verses there that are also related to this. So, John 15:7-8.

Again, Jesus speaking he says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you". This is living in Christ and Him living in us. "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit. So, you will be my disciples."  If you want to please God, if you want to serve Him, and serve his people, and your fellow man, and you need help in order to do that, ASK and God will give you whatever you need, whatever you asked for, in that context. How much is God willing to give you? Eph 3:20-21 How much can God give us? Paul writes this, he says "Now to Him who is able, so to him", he's talking about to God "who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church of Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever." God will give us everything and more than we need.

Turn to 1 John 5. Because John has a bit more to say on the subject of asking, which I think we should also keep in mind. 1 John 5:13-16. He writes, "These things I have written to you, who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now, this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petition that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin, which does not lead to death, he will ask and He will give him life. For those who commit sin, not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that you should pray about that." He's saying that we can ask God to forgive our brother when our brother sins.

The things that God tells us that He's going to give us are things that we asked for that are consistent with His Will. And when we do that, He says, I will answer I will give you whatever you ask and what is God's greatest Will for each one of us that we become a part of His family.

So, if we are asking for help with that, is he going to deny us? What won't God do in order for us to become His children? He's already sacrificed His very own son. If He is willing to do that, don't you think God will forgive you for your sins, when you ask? Don't you think that God will give you the strength you need to go through that trial? When you ask don't think that God will help you with whatever it is that you need? Of course! We started this section in James, let's go back there and, and wrap up this part. This time, we're going to be reading from James 4. And I wanted to finish here because I think that James puts "asking" here in the context of personal accountability. So, think about that, as we read through here, James 4:1-7.

And he's speaking to the church, right? James 4:1-7 "Where to wars and fights come from among you". Wars and fights? How many splits have we seen over the years? "Do they not come from your desire for pleasure, that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war and you do not have because you do not ask? You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?"

See when we seek the way of the world, aren't we committing fornication? God wants us to be loyal to him and Him ONLY. 

"Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the scripture says in vain, the Spirit that dwells in us yearns jealously, but He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

We have to make that choice, don't we?

James is saying that we need to examine ourselves to determine where we are failing to live up to what God expects of us. Now you may wonder how can I murder? "Because you murder and covet and cannot obtain." But consider this what happens if we offend someone in the church to the point that they leave that they might not that be considered murder?

Earlier we read where we can ask God to forgive our brother who has sinned? Isn't this the opposite of that? See where we're asking to forgive. It says you've saved a life. So, how do we put all of this into action? Because that's really what we want to do or need to do.

We've been talking about asking, where do we do that? Well, mostly I would say in our prayers, right? When we're talking to God. So, let's talk about prayer for a minute. Turn to Matthew 6. I want to take a brief look at the model prayer here that Jesus shares with his disciples. And as we do so, keep in mind the things that we've been talking about already today, personal accountability, and asking God for help.

Matthew 6:6. So, we're going to read the parts that lead up to the actual prayer portion. Jesus says, "But you when you pray, go into your room. And when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For Your father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."

 Like I said, we haven't even got to the prayer yet. But there's something I want you to notice here. I don't know that I've ever, I guess, thought of it in this way before. But as I was preparing this message, I realized that this whole passage is very proactive. It doesn't say, "if" you pray, it says "when" you pray, the implication is that you are going to do this, you need to do this. It's not a matter of, if you get around to it, or if you do it. It's when you pray, and not once, but it says that twice. We are also told that before we even pray about it. God knows what we need. Well, that's about as proactive as you can get, right?

There is a lot more to asking than just to ask for the things that we want. We talked about that already. But you might say it's a matter of attitude, a matter of heart. And the fact that we need to be aligned with God in the first place. And I think that's really what the first part of this prayer is all about.  So, let's continue. Fine. It says in this manner, therefore pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This helps us to ensure that when we come before God and before we ask for anything, we acknowledge Who and What God is, how awesome He is, and how small we are.

We need to make sure that whatever else we say, we are putting ourselves in the proper context, aligning ourselves with God's Will. Now after doing this, when we ask for anything, we can do so with the right attitude and with the right desire. (Matt 6) Verse 11, "Give us this day our daily bread." What is it that we need? Right? We're already told that God knows what we need. But do we understand what we need from God? And do we understand why we need what we're asking? What things do we need in order to do God's Will? How do we serve Him and His people? How do we do the work that He wants us to do? Those are the things that we have need of. (Matt 6) Verse 12, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Again, I think this is a very proactive statement. We need to have already forgiven others if we're expecting God, to forgive us. The next statement is also proactive. God, you know, me, and what I can and cannot handle, I need your help in order to be safe from the evil one. (Matt 6) verse 13. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

 And again, at the end, we ensure that we are still aligned with God. And what His plan is all about. This is the way to ensure that God does answer our prayers. And He does give us the things that we ask. And then finally, there is a reminder that we need to be doing our part. (Matt 6) verses 14 and 15. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

 If we have the right attitude, if we have the right desires, if our will is aligned with God's will, our prayers will be answered.

Now there is something that Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 32, that I think we should also keep in mind, Jeremiah 32:13 it says, "Ah, Lord God, behold, you have made the heavens in the earth by your great power and outstretched arms, there is nothing too hard for you."

Right, if we ask with the right attitude, we should expect that God will give us the things that we need. And there is nothing too hard for Him to do. BUT, don't forget that our ways are not always God's ways. And our paths are not His paths. Sometimes, we can't see clearly the path that God is taking us through in order to get us to where he wants us to be. So, I think with that in mind, it might be a good time to read a few verses from Hebrews 11. That I think show us this. So, Hebrews chapter 11, the faith chapter talks about all the men and women of faith in the Bible, well, maybe not all of them, but quite a few. Some that we know some that we may not know who is really referring to. We're going to start in verse 32. Hebrews 11:32. "What more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith, subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, and obtained promises stop the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword out of weakness were made strong, became valiant battle, turned to flight, the armies of the aliens." There were some wonderful things that happened in the Bible. It's been a while, maybe, since we've looked at some of those stories. And sometimes we look at those individuals and say, "How in the world did they do that? I could never be like that."

But you know, some of those stories if you remember, they questioned that too, didn't they? "Women received their dead raised to life again." All pretty positive things, to this point. "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still, others had trial of markings and scourges. Yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in to were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins. And goat skins being destitute, afflicted, tormented."

Did God know what their needs were? Did God answer their prayers? See, we may not always understand the way that God might answer the prayers, the things that we ask. But God always knows what we can handle and what we need. (Heb 11) Verse 38, it says, "of whom all of these, of whom the world was not worthy." They were doing the work of God. They were doing the things that God called them to do. We don't know all the details of the things ahead of us. But we need to be willing to do whatever it is that God calls us to do and know that whatever He puts us through, He gives us the strength to handle it.

"They've wandered in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise. God having provided something better for us that they should not be made perfect. Apart from us."

 I think we like the first part of this but tend to overlook the second part.

Do you think that they always understood why they were going through those things? Certainly not! Think about Job. We talked about him last week. Did he understand why he was going through what he was going through? No!

We looked at several scriptures last week.  I think, you know, we were talking about looking back. But the context in which we should look back I think those same scriptures really apply to looking forward, don't they? We talked about James 1:2-4, where James says "Count it all joy when you suffer or fall into various trials." I think when we have that attitude, and we can go to God in that mindset, that we can do that, we can get there.

I don't want to go through all of those. You can look back at your notes. I do just want to read one part Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

This is part of what we need to ask for at times, right? Give me the strength to deal with this. To handle it. To do Your Will.  Part of what we need to ask for.

So, as we begin to wrap up here, I guess in the spirit of asking and personal accountability, I do have a couple of questions that I want to ask. And some things that I think we need to think about. And they're not aimed at anyone in particular, well, maybe they're aimed at me. But I think that we could all learn from thinking about these things. 

What will 2022 bring? What we decide to make of it!

What am I going to do?  It's up to me. I have to make those choices. I can choose to follow God, I can choose to love God, I can choose to love my neighbor. I can choose to help those who are in need.

I choose how I react to whatever happens. I choose how I learn communicate with others. See, I can choose to be present, whether at service or in other ways. Who do I choose to be with? And do I choose to be with the same people all the time? Or do I choose to spend time with everyone?

Do I know everyone? Do I know their needs?  How do we help others if we don't know what help they need?

Do I always sit with the same people, do I always fellowship with the same people? Do I always spend time with the same people? Or do I spend time with everyone, to get to know everyone, understand everyone?

So, as we look forward, what will 2022 look like? Again, it depends on what we choose to do. One of the things that we've learned in the past couple of years is that anyone can die at pretty much any time. Those who are healthy, those who are not, those who are strong, those who are weak, it doesn't matter. For whatever reason, time, and chance, happens to everyone. Do we live in fear of that? Or do I choose to be ready at any time?  See, I can choose to be ready. But I might need help with that. And I need to ask. I need to know myself so that I know what to ask.

I want to read just a couple of scriptures as we close, because I think that they help us to be confident that our God is always with us and is willing and able and wants to help us with our needs.

He knows even better than we do, what our needs even are, but He wants us to be aware of it, to think about it, to consider it so that we can change. Because let's face it, we have been called to a life of change. And we need to embrace that.  

Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

That is God's promise. That what He has started with you, He will finish it. As long as we allow Him, as long as we invite Him in and ask him for the help that we need. The second thing that I want to read is from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Paul writes, "therefore, we do not lose heart, even though our outward man is perishing, yet our or the inward man is being renewed day by day."

It doesn't matter the circumstance, where we can have confidence: God is with us and will take care of us.  We may die today. But God can bring us back, and He wants to, He will.

Paul goes on to say, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen for the things which are seen are temporary, things which are not seen are eternal".

That's where our hope lies. That's what we need help to reach to know what it is that God expects of us and the help that we need in order to get there.

I think that's what we should be looking forward to this year and every year