The Gift of Anticipation
We live in a time of fast-moving, swirling events which are coming upon our world with the kind of intensity and rapidity that takes ones breath away. Most of the people of America check the morning news with an attitude of What has taken place during the night that will further destabilize this world of ours? They are usually not disappointed, because more notable events are occurring in a day than once took place in weeks or months in the slow-moving history of our world. Indeed, history itself seems to be moving faster, which movement, of course, brings us ever closer to the consummation of all things. Because the world senses this, apprehension is certainly the characteristic attitude of the secular mind in our time.
Apprehension, however, should never be the attitude of the believing Christian. For us, life in our time is turning into the great adventure. The heart of the Christian should be filled with delight in that God has called us, privileged us to live in this very provocative generation.
We are advised, therefore, in the world, to be filled with faith, to be anxious for nothing, to walk with the confidence that only the presence of Christ can bring. By contrast to the troubled spirits of our present age, the Christian should be a towering figure of foundational stability and great purpose. These characteristics will be especially noted and jealously respected by an envious world, which has forgotten the Lord who is, alone, the Author of stability and serenity. Rather than give way to apprehension, the Christian must have a heart filled with anticipation. Indeed, he should be breathless with anticipation in times like these.
Anticipation means to look forward with delight. What then does the Christian anticipate? In our time especially, he looks forward to great opportunity. To the Church of our time, Christ has already said, Behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it (Rev. 3:8). Quite obviously, that open door, that opportunity is coming upon us as never before. More and more, the world is saying, Who can I trust? What can I believe in?
From the world of academia, or politics, or business, or education, no answer appears to be forthcoming to these pressing questions. The answer, of course, can only come from the Word of the living God. That Word, articulated from the lips of the witnessing Christian, can do so much in a time like this. The purpose of the believer in our time, as in all time, is to hold forth the Word of Life. By so doing, the Bible teaches that he will even be instrumental in influencing the course of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom he shines as a light in the world.
As the world moves into the gloaming of the afternoon of its history, the shining light of a Christians testimony will be more apparent, more illuminating than ever. Above every other emotion in life, the Christian should anticipate opportunity.
He should also anticipate challenging problems. This is true because the world of our time is not a simple place in which to live. Its mental health is daily disturbed by new awesome considerations. Its very crust is troubled upon occasion with ever-increasing earthquakes. Its leaders meet in pathetic summit conferences to make empty, dangerous promises to one another. Its financiers wonder what they will be worth by noon tomorrow. Its industrialists count their gold coins and newly submit to the lie that these pieces of metal will not, one day, melt and run away.
How shall the Church conduct its ministry in a world like this? The answer is not simple. This means that the Christian leaders of our time must be more thoughtful, yes, more intellectual, more theologically oriented, more doctrinally sound, more perceptive, more prescient, more analytical and more earnest than ever. The pathetic promises of the phenomenalists, the empty charade of the exhibitionists, the hopeless delusions of the liberationists will no longer suffice as credentials for Christian leadership. The unctuous, torchy song and the vain repetitions of the pulpit will not be adequate to ministry in these days to our perplexed society.
Rather, the challenging problems inherent in the world and which are now facing the Church can only be met by the careful teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The revival we need today is not one of hypocritical emotion or crocodile tearsit is the revival of sound doctrine. It is the Word which lives and abides forever. The advent of perplexing difficulties should not distress us. Rather, they should press us to levels of prayer and perception which will then lead to greater accomplishments than ever.
Breathless with anticipation thats what the Christian should be. His anticipation, however, is not for this world alone. It is also anticipation for the glory which is to come. Speaking about this world and the next, the Bible says, Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). This world, at its best, at its brightest, at its most fulfilling, is but a passing scene. One day, we will slip away from this human scene and one day, the whole world itself will be consumed and done away with. It is but the stage, the backdrop for the adventure of living this life within it. Then, we are translated to the glory of heaven. Then, and only then, will we see the final fulfillment, the ultimate perfection for which our hearts long. Then we will be with Christ and then we will fully understand why it is that God led us through the problems and perplexities of this life.
But remember, then we will also have the opportunity of hearing what may be the greatest words that we shall know in all of eternity. These are the words of Christ in which He speaks of His servants who have represented Him well in this world, saying, Well done, good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy lord. What a day that will be! It is that anticipation that must become the surging motivation of the lives that we live today and every day for Christ.
There are, in fact, untold millions of Christians in todays world who are waiting for God to work and quietly rocking their lives away in the meantime. In the process of waiting, the eyes close in quiet slumber; should opportunity then knock at the door, that sound would not be heard. Quiescent Christians fill our churches and their immobility (sometimes called spirituality) becomes a great limitation to the working of the Lord.
To all who name the name of Christ in our time the Scripture extends the earnest call, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. 5:14). An even stronger word is heard from the Bible, saying, How long will you sleep, O sluggard? when will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall your poverty come as one that travels, and your want as an armed man (Prov. 6:9-11). These are earnest words which come from our Lord, words of which we need to take note not once but many times in life. They are at least a reminder that we need to wake up, arouse ourselves, gird our armor on, and seize the spiritual initiative, lest we sink down into a slumber which is very similar to death.
This is the problem that James faced in his epistle. He addressed a unitarian idea of a distant and unassociated God when he said, You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:19,20). Here James reminds us all that our faith, unless it is characterized by spiritual initiative works is dead. Here, James used the word dead in the sense of being unable to reproduce itself. Paul used the dead in the same way when speaking about Abrahams faith: And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarahs womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God (Romans 4:19,20). Abraham, being beyond the age of fatherhood, was unable to reproduce himself. His body is called dead. In the same sense, the Christian who has only faith, but does not work to propagate his faith, has a faith that is dead, i.e.: unable to reproduce itself. Just so, that deadening influence can come upon any of us who only believe, but who do not seize the initiative to reproduce our faith in the lives of others.
We can lose the spiritual initiative in many ways. Christians can lose the initiative out of fear. Too often they ask, What will people think? Will I be thought a fanatic by taking the spiritual initiative? If they fear the opinions of others because of their overt spirituality, they will soon diethey will lose the initiative.
We can lose the initiative also because of neglect. The things of this world can reduce the thrill of learning new things from the Bible, communicating with God in prayer, and anticipating with joy the opportunity of leading another to Christ.
In these, and a hundred other ways, the initiative has been lost by the ecclesiastical establishment down through the years. Christianity has been in the world for two thousand years and still, more than half the world needs yet to hear the Gospel.
To lose the initiative leads to impotence, boredom, frustration, the sleep of the depressed, spiritual death.
Many individual Christians speak not at all about the Savior, nor seek at all to win others to Him. They give with reluctance, labor little or not at all. The initiativeand along with it the thrill, the joy, the adventureis gone. Their faith, being without the attempt at spiritual accomplishment, is dead.
Mind you, we are not speaking about salvation, but about living, working, gladiating for Christ in this world. The admonition is Dont lose the spiritual initiative! To do so is to die of boredom, which is the worst way to go.
The motivation of our lives must not be money, fame, aggrandizement, fulfillment in the narrow scenes of time. For the Christian, there is something infinitely better! It is heaven, it is eternity. The Apostle Paul committed everything that he had to Christ, against that day (2 Tim. 1:12). That day, the day when eternity supercedes forever the scenes of time that day may soon be upon us. May we all be ready.
From the writings of Dave Breese
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