The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin ~
I grew up with a bleak view of the future. I was told by men with charts and diagrams and TV shows that the world would become worse and worse, and then God would get totally fed up, beam up the ones who had said the right prayer, remove his Holy Spirit from the earth and expect those left behind to figure it out for themselves before the whole thing went up in a giant fireball. The process involved increased earthquakes, more wars, rebellious children and the inability to trust any miracles or signs and wonders out of the ordinary – or anyone associated with them – because many would be deceived by false prophets.
Then there was the anti-Christ. This horrible dictator was re-identified every few years but had surely already been born and was practising his evil skills on the unsuspecting public somewhere. He was probably a Democrat. Or a Russian. Or a Pope. Or a Jew. In any event, he spoke with an accent. His side-kick, The Beast, was probably the head of the World Council of Churches, or maybe a giant computer in Brussels or something.
I knew people who sold all their worldly goods and moved to communes to await the great zap, when they would all be rescued from this horrid place.
Then they ran out of money. They hadn’t planned on the great zap taking so long. They had to move back into town and get jobs. They hadn’t saved for their kids’ college tuition or made any retirement plans. It’s hard to plan for the future when you think you don’t have one.
I love reading about revivals and great moves of God throughout history when entire cultures changed, addictions decreased, prisons closed, families reunited, and people were inspired to pray continuously. They rose up to take the good news to the ends of the earth – places that now have a higher percentage of followers of Christ than the countries missionaries came from. I began to be curious about why these wonderful events slowed down or ended. Why did some of them go off the rails completely? Why did some become cultish groups who hid behind walls and stored up arms like the people of Munster under the leadership of Jan of Leiden, who called himself the new King David (an incident freakily repeated in history in Waco, Texas under the leadership of a man who called himself David Koresh)?
I’ve noticed something they have in common. They nearly all believed that the end was near, that extreme persecution was imminent, and that these extenuating circumstances justified the neglect of investment in their grandchildren’s future. They began to be motivated by fear and to pour their descendants’ inheritance into their own self-defence. They began to see the world in terms of “them” and “us.”
I began to wonder, since this seems to have been a method that has been successfully used many times by the enemy of our souls to shut us down, shut us in, and shut us up, if my own reading of scripture had been tainted by fear of the future. I prayed to have my eyes and heart opened. Since then the message of hope glistens on every page of the Bible. Yes, there are warnings of consequences of sin, but it’s not the convoluted dismal projection I grew up with. There are many promises that give us a future and a hope, for ourselves and for our great grandchildren.
I see more writers, theologians, teachers, and prophets coming out of their caves to declare the good news. The light shines brighter and brighter.
I believe Jesus will return at the Father’s timing, but when he does will he find us faithfully planting vineyards for the future, or sitting huddled in an overgrown field with our suitcases wondering what took him so long?