As a pastor I have many conversations with many different people of all generations. I am finding that people of all generations struggle to find hope for the future. However, their reasons for feeling hopeless are very different, yet the same.
For the older generation, I often hear them reflecting on the good ole days. They look back upon their lives and they see how America has changed. They say we used to have prayer and the ten commandments in schools. There used to be some level of morality in the public square. Things are getting bad. Things are evil. Jesus must be coming back any day. They tend to retreat and wait for this wickedness to be over. They have embraced a defeatist gospel.
For the younger generation they are concerned for the future. They have seen their parents commit their entire lives to working at jobs they cannot stand. They don’t want anything to do with that. At the same time they look at the job market and see it in decline and are concerned about how they can make a living. So instead they want to delay growing up. They are worried about the future.
The common denominator with both of these people is they are looking to the world to find their hope and the only thing they find is the work of the Philistines covering up their well. Let me explain what I mean.
The Work of the Philistines
Isaac, the son of Abraham, found himself dwelling in the same land that his Father had lived in at one time. This was an area now occupied by the Philistines and at one time was a place that Abraham lived. When Abraham lived there, he dug a well that would provide water for his people and his cattle. This was necessary for them to survive. This well was a landmark for his people and was essential for life and death. When Isaac returned to this well of life he found himself in a very discouraged position. You see the Philistines did not value Abraham's well like Isaac did and they filled the well in with dirt (Gen. 26:15). Isaac was now there and he needed this well for survival, so he began to dig the dirt out of this well so he could provide life again. The unbeliever buried the well and the believer had to do the long slow work of digging out the well.
The same thing has happened in America and that is why so many of us are discouraged for the future. The Philistines have invaded our land and covered up the wells that our Fathers had dug for us. Our Father dug wells in this land in which God and His word ruled supremely. We have allowed the wells to be filled in though; the Word of God is no longer the rule for the individual, for the family, for the church, or for the government. They have bought into a lie of autonomy -- that they can just follow their own hearts wherever it may lead. This has led us to an unstable economy, broken marriages, and very little hope for the future when we fix our attention on that. What we must do now is the work that Isaac committed to doing. We must begin digging the dirt out of the wells. That is what will give us hope for the future! Only Christ can give us hope. Without Him we are of all people most miserable and are to be pitied!
The Three R’s
In school you learn about the importance of the three R’s: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Today I want to teach you about the importance of maintaining hope for the future. We must take our attention off of this world and fix our attention on Christ. As we are focused on Christ we must focus on digging the well. There are three steps to digging out the well. The first step is to repent of our sins. The second step is to reform our lives to the Word of God. The third step is to pray for God to revive us and the remember mercy in the midst of judgment.
Step 1: Repentance
We must repent of our sins as individuals, as families, as churches, and as a nation. This is the first step to restoring hope. We must acknowledge our sinfulness before God and confess that to Him. We must not only confess that to Him, but we must actually stop what we are doing and change to follow the path that God has instructed us in.
Let me tell you a story about a group of people called the Ninevites. They were settled thousands of years ago and were the capital city of the Assyrian empire. These Ninevites were wicked people and did wicked things. They were a culture of death and loved displaying the victims that they killed as trophies. Yet in the midst of their wickedness God offered them a chance to repent. He did it through this strange figure named Jonah.
Jonah was given a mission by God to go to the Ninevites. Jonah hated them for the bloodshed and havoc he brought upon his people though. He was afraid if he brought God’s message to the Ninevites that they would be forgiven and he did not want that. So, he attempted to run from God, which is impossible, and God brought Him to repentance in the belly of a whale. He then did go to Nineveh and the Ninevites turned from their sin. We can read about that in the book of Jonah:
"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city,[a] three days' journey in breadth.Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Notice how they publicly repented. They mourned their sins and were okay to look like a fool. Do you know that you have the same hearts as them? In your heart you have murdered. In your heart you have committed adultery. You worship other gods and make your own idols. You lie and cheat and steal. Have you lived with an illusion that God will just forgive you for these things? If you continue to live in these sins you will have no hope for the future. If you do turn from them then you will certainly have great hope and God will have mercy on you.
Step 2: Reformation
We must not only repent but we must obey God’s Word. We must seek to conform our lives and our standard of living to His Word and not to the word of the world. That is the work of the Philistines. Let me tell you another story.
There was a man named Nehemiah who was held in captivity when his city, the city of Jerusalem, had been destroyed. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king but felt called to return to his land and rebuild it. Actually his calling was to reform it. He prayed and waited on the Lord for the right time and the king gave him the go ahead to rebuild his city. He began by building the wall and had a tremendous amount of opposition to overcome, but he overcame and rebuilt the wall. That was only the beginning though. The real work began when he turned over the work of the reformation to the priest named Ezra. Let’s read what Ezra did.
"And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,[a] helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8:1-8 ESV)
He read them God’s Word. We need the Bible for reformation. Let me speak plainly to you. If you don’t read and study God’s Word you will have no hope for the future. What role does God’s word play in your life, in your family, and in your church? You need to learn all things that Christ has commanded us.
Step 3: Revival
The last step is praying for a work that only God can do. Only God can revive a people and remember mercy in the midst of judgment. Only God can pour out His Spirit in this way. We, as a repented and reforming people, can pray for Him to do such a thing though. We can pray for Him to come down in power and change a people. Do you know that the vast majority of revivals in history have started primarily with a group of young people? People who prayed to God in heaven to come down in power. The book of Acts chapter 2 gives us a picture of what revival looks like. It gives us a picture of God pouring out His spirit.
"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
God is in the business of reviving people, families, churches and nations. Commit to repentance, reforming, and praying for revival. That is where our hope for the future is found. The best days are yet ahead for the child of God!
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
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