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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - A Faith for Facing an Uncertain Future

Rick Warren - A Faith for Facing an Uncertain Future

Rick Warren - A Faith for Facing an Uncertain Future
TOPICS: Faith, Future, Uncertainty, A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t

Hi everybody. I'm Pastor Rick, author of "The Purpose Driven Life", pastor of Saddleback church and speaker for the "Daily Hope" broadcast. Have I told you lately that I love you? You know, when the new year 2020 started last January before COVID-19 pandemic spread all around the world, many people in businesses were making announcements about big plans and big visions for the new decade and for the new year. And even in churches, I'm sure many pastors were talking about their 2020 vision for their congregations. But since that time, you know, I've often imagined that God was sitting up in heaven during that time, shaking His head going, "You guys have no idea what is about to happen in 2020".

And of course, within just a few weeks, everything around the world was turned upside down. Travel came to a sudden halt, schools and churches and businesses and sporting events and concerts and all indoor public events just shut down. And most of the plans that people have had for 2020 by now have been tossed in the trash can. If there's any single truth that this pandemic has reminded us of, it is this. None of us know the future. We don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, much less next year or next month, or even this coming week. You know, just months ago, no one could have imagined how different our lives and our world would be with this pandemic. Now to be a human being is to live your entire life not knowing the future. The future is unknown. The future is uncertain and the future is unpredictable. Now, of course, God warns us about this many, many times in His Word, the Bible. For instance, in Ecclesiastes 8:7 it says: "No one knows what will happen in the future. And there is no one who can tell us".

The only one who knows the future is God. That's because He's above and outside of time, He's timeless. God can see both the past and the future at the same time and only God could do that. So I would encourage you to save your money and stop trying to figure it all out where you buy ways to try to discover the future. In fact, let me just warn you. Every fortune teller, every psychic, every horoscope, and every other attempt to know the future in advance is fake. It's fake. God says they're all phony. None of them can predict the future. God says many, many times, nobody knows the future except God. So, you can quickly prove this many ways. If a psychic calls you on the phone, what you might wanna say is, "You know, if you know the future, let me ask you, how much money have you made betting on sports games"? You know, one headline you're never going to see is "Psychic wins the lottery". Or when a psychic calls you and asks for your name and credit card, you say to them, you tell me. You see, not knowing the future creates a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress in people's lives.

Last month, there were several large surveys taken to find out how people are feeling about their future during this pandemic. And the results were not encouraging. In the national surveys last month, almost 50% of the people surveyed think that life for future generations will be worse than life today. 50%. 66% of those surveyed in the national survey said they're fearful about the future. And 71% said, they're angry about the future. Now, when they were asked why they felt angry and why they felt anxious about the future, the number one answer was not the pandemic. It wasn't the COVID-19 virus, but it was the state of politics. Now, I said all that, because today we're looking at James 4. We're going to look at verses 13 to 17. And James tells us how to face the future, an uncertain future, how to face it with confident faith. And he says, you avoid having discouragement about the future by avoiding three common mistakes that people make. And so I'm calling this message "A faith for facing your uncertain future". A faith for facing your certain future.

Now, let me read you the text, James 4, and we'll start in verse 13. It says this. "Now, listen, you who say today or tomorrow, we will go to this certain city and we will stay there a year, and we will open up a business there and we will make a profit. But you don't even know what will happen tomorrow. And your life is as brief and uncertain as the midst of a morning fog. It's here a little while, but then it disappears. So instead you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live long enough to do this or that.' Otherwise you're just boasting and bragging about yourself. And that kind of pride is wrong and evil". And then he says: "But remember, any time, you know to do the thing that is good, the right and the good thing to do, but you don't do it," he says, "You sin". Now in just those five verses, James explains to us how to avoid the three most common mistakes that people take typically make about a future, about the future. And we make mistakes in planning for our future. We make mistakes in presuming about our future, and we make mistakes in procrastinating about our future.

Let's look at each of these and the solution for each one. All right, let's get right into it. Number one, the first mistake we make about the future is this. Write this down if you're taking notes. And by the way, notes are available on the website. You might wanna download them and take notes. Number one, the first mistake we make about the future is this. We make plans without asking God. We make plans without asking God. Now James illustrates this with this conversation that I just read between two businessmen. In verse 13, he says, "Now listen you who say today or tomorrow, we will go to a certain city and we'll stay there a year. And we will open up a business and we will make a profit".

Now at first glance, what I just read doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this plan. I mean, people form business plans like this every single day. It sounds like this guy is thinking ahead. He's an entrepreneur like many of you are. He's a go-getter. I mean, at least he's got a plan. Most people don't even have that for their future. This guy's got a plan and this is actually a thoughtful business plan. When you look at what I just read, he gives six details to his business plan. First, he says, he answers the question when? He says "today or tomorrow". When? Then he asks, answers the question where. "We're gonna go to a certain city", and he has a specific city in mind. Then he answers the question of how long? "We're gonna stay there a year". Then he answers the question, what? "We're gonna open up a business". We're gonna start a business. And then he answers the question why? "We'll make a profit". And finally he answers the question who 'cause he's got a partner 'cause he says, "we".

Now actually every one of those factors are taught in the Book of Proverbs. He says, you need to have a strategy. And as you look at the future, this guy knows his purpose, he knows his plan, he knows his place. He knows his partner. He knows his projected timetable and he knows his profitability. He's got all his bases covered. In the Bible, God says that making an honest profit is smart. So what's wrong with this? What the guy just said in his verse, what's wrong with this? Nothing. There's nothing wrong with what he did. It's what he forgot to do.

Now, did you notice that in this big master plan, this guy has for his future is not a single mention of God in his planning? It's all about self-reliance. And four times he says, we will do this. We will do this. We will do that. We will do this. We will, we will, we will, we will. There's nothing about God's will. It's just about his will. You know, I know a lot of Christian business people who genuinely loved the Lord. But when it comes to planning their lives or their careers or their education or their marriage or their business projects, they're no different than unbelievers. They act like atheists at work. They plan like God doesn't exist. They said, we will do this and we will do that and we will do this, we will do that. And this is not only sad, but they miss out on God's blessing. I want you to write this down right now. If you're taking notes. "To have God's blessing, involve Him in my planning".

If I want God's blessing, to have God's blessing, involve Him in my planning. That's the first principle of dealing with the future that you don't know. To have God's blessing involve him in my planning. Nothing wrong with planning. The Bible has a lot to say about that. How do I involve God in my planning? How do I include God in my goal setting? Okay, here's the first key. Write this down. "Pray as I plan my life or anything else". Pray as I plan my business, pray as I plan my project. Proverbs is full of planning principles, and God gives us a great promise in Proverbs 3. Proverbs 3:5-6 says this: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And don't depend on your own understanding. In all your plans, acknowledge Him. And He will direct your paths".

Now have you noticed that when you do three things, God promises to direct your planning. He will direct your plans. He says, if you trust in the Lord, if you be humble and you don't depend on your own understanding. And number three, you acknowledge God in all your plans. And you say, "Lord, I want your plans for my life. Not mine". The result is He will direct you. That's promise. And he says, I will direct you if you'll do these things. So I need to pray about my planning. You say, well, what do I pray? We ask God for wisdom. James gives us another promise. James 1:5, he says this; if you wanna know what God wants you to do, this is the living Bible, James 1:5. "If you wanna know what God wants you to do, just ask Him. And He'll gladly tell you for He's always ready to give generous supply of wisdom to all who ask".

Now I know in these unique days that we're going through right now, with everything so uncertain during this pandemic and changes happening literally every week that you, along with a lot of other people are probably feeling in limbo. You're feeling like you're unable to make any new plans. You may just feel stuck in a temporary situation. You feel like I'm just treading water, weightless, trying to stay afloat while this pandemic is here. And yet, you haven't any long range plans. You don't have any goals. You're just trying to just get through it right now. But I wanna tell you friends as your pastor, who loves you, this could go on for a long time and you don't wanna waste the weeks and the months that are ahead of us.

So, I wanted to give you some homework this week. I haven't been doing this in this series, but I wanna give you a homework assignment. I hope you remember one of the principles. I talked about a few weeks back in the series. The principle was "Control the controllables and trust God for the rest". That's pretty good principle to be doing in the middle of this pandemic, control the controllables, the things that you can change, change those, and just trust God for the stuff you can't control. There's a lot going on in this pandemic you can't control. But there's a lot that you do have control over.

So here's your homework assignment for this week with this first point. I want you to set aside 30 minutes this week, maybe up to an hour to prayerfully, make a plan for the rest of this year. Okay? Now I'm not telling you what it has to be about. It can be your personal plan for your spiritual growth. It could be a plan for your family. It could be a plan for ministry. It could be a plan for your finances. It could be a plan for education or your career or some next step, but it's a goal setting time. Okay? And what you wanna do in that prayer time is your plan, praying as you plan, as you say, Lord, what do You want me to do for the rest of this year? What do You want me to do? What is Your will, Father?

Now, if you'll email me or text me, I'll send you a goal setting guide with scripture verses that you can use this week, but that's your homework. Take some time to not to stop just treading water and think about what's one thing I really wanna do, get done between now and the end of the year? Psalm 119:32. I love it in the message translation. David prays this. He says, "I'll run the course You lay out for me, if You'll just show me how". This is what David says to God, I will run the course that You lay out for me if You just show me how.

That's the thing you want to pray. And that's the first way you deal with an uncertain future is you pray when you plan. You don't just sit around and tread water, drifting. If you're drifting, if you're coasting, you're always heading downhill. Now, there's a second mistake that we make about the future. The first one is we plan without praying. But the second mistake that we make about the future is this. We presume that we'll have tomorrow. We presume that we're gonna have tomorrow. Now, James 4 the next couple of verses say this, verses 14 to 16. "You don't even know what will happen tomorrow". He says, you know, you make an all plans about we're gonna go to this city and do this and build this and start this business. He says, you don't even know what's gonna happen tomorrow. And your life is as brief as the midst of a morning fog. He said, it's here for a little while and then it just disappears.

So instead James says, what you ought to say is, "If it is the Lord's will". If it is the Lord's will. This is a phrase you need to become very comfortable with. You know that in Arabic they say inshallah. Inshallah mean, if it is the Lord's will. In Spanish, it's ohalla, which comes out of the Arabic actually. But it said if it's the Lord's will, we will live to do this or that. And James says, otherwise, you're just boasting. You're just bragging about yourself when you're announcing your big plans that you're gonna do. And he said that kind of pride is wrong and evil. Did you know that there's a good kind of pride in the Bible and there's a bad kind of pride? The good kind of pride is when you say I'm proud of what God is doing in my life. You're not comparing yourself to others. It says never compare yourself, it says in Corinthians, so that you can take pride in yourself without comparing yourself to others. The moment you compare yourself to others, then it becomes bad pride. But he says here, it's just dumb to presume upon tomorrow. It's sinful to waste my life.

Now I want you to notice with that verse I just read, that there are two reasons we shouldn't assume that we have a lot of time. Two reasons that we shouldn't just be treading water. We should be making the most of the time we've got right now. First, he says, the future is uncertain. Okay? And he starts off that sentence with, you don't even know what will happen tomorrow, much less next week, next month, the next year. None of us can predict what will happen in the next 365 days. The day before 9/11 crisis, nobody could have predicted how it would change our lives. The day before the Katrina, a hurricane, nobody could have predicted that would change lives. So right now, I would like you to write down on your outline. Write down the word life. Okay, just go ahead and write it down, L-I-F-E. All right, write it on your outline.

Now, what I want you to do is circle the middle two letters of the word life, I-F. Have you ever realized that there's a big IF in the middle of your life? There's a big IF in the middle of L-I-F-E. Nothing is certain in this life. The only thing that's certain in this life is the truth of God's Word, the consistency of God's love for you, the dependability of God's goodness and the reliability of God's promises. Nothing else is dependable because it's all a big IF. And he says, you know, life is unpredictable. So he says don't be presumptuous about the future. And then he says, the second reason you shouldn't be presumptuous and certain to assume that I've got a lot of time left is he said, my life on earth is temporary. He said, you really, it's not that long. He said, your life here is as brief as a mist of the morning fog. And it vanishes.

You know, that word mist in Greek is the word atmos in Greek. That's the word we get atmosphere from. He said, it's like breathing on a mirror that you breathe and it fogs it all up. And just a couple seconds later, it fades away. Or it's like here in Southern California in the summer where we come in with a June gloom and the fog covers up everything, but it's burned off by noon. He's saying that your life is like a morning fog. And that journey from hot wheels to wheelchair, it's pretty fast. It's pretty fast. In "Purpose Driven Life", I explained that life is a test and life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment. And so, because it actually comes pretty quickly, in light of eternity, 60, 80, even 100 years isn't very long.

Now, listen, if you're an average human being, you're gonna probably live on average. The average human being lives, 27,375 days, 27,375 days. Somebody figured that out, but you know what? You have no guarantee of tomorrow. And each of us is only one heartbeat away from eternity. So whatever you're gonna do with your life, you better get on it. Saturday morning, Kay and I were a part of Jordan Muchow's funeral. Jordan was a friend from the day he was born. I've known him all his life. He was only 30-years-old. And yet now he's gone. He didn't get his full 27,000 days. He got barely out of his 20s. By the way, if you'd like to watch that service, you can go to

Now the second key to facing an uncertain future. Remember the first key, pray while you're planning, you ought to plan. The Bible says you ought to plan it, smart plan, but you pray while you're planning. So you're not just doing an un-self, you know, self energy and your own willpower. Second key to facing an uncertain future, live one day at a time and make it count. Live one day at a time and make it count. That's the next thing that James says about the future. Fortunately, the good news about the future is it doesn't hit you all at once. We get it in bite size, 24-hour segments. You know, if you got your entire life thrown at you all at once without any doubt, it'd be overwhelming. So God gives it to us in 24-hour day-by-day segments.

Let me give you a couple of verses that talk about this. Matthew 6:34, Jesus says this: "Don't worry about tomorrow". Don't worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own. That's Jesus talking. He's saying, in other words, stop borrowing trouble. If you got something you're worried about, and it's not even gonna happen till next week, why are you messing up today? Worry, can't change the past. Worry can't control the future. All it does is mess up today. It robs you of energy. It's stewing without doing. It's like sitting in a rocking chair. You're rocking back and forth using energy on worry, but it doesn't do anything. It can't change anything.

And he says, don't worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Don't borrow trouble. God gives you just enough grace every day for each day. He doesn't stockpile all that power in your life and say, "Oh, I'm gonna give it to you for the next week or the next month". He says, give us this day, our daily bread, not our weekly bread, not our monthly bread. God says, I want you to take life one day at a time. Now anybody can do that. When you don't know what the future holds, you can still take life one day at a time. There's the old little poem. "Life by the yard is hard, but by the inch, it's a cinch".

So I wanna highly recommend that you start taking life one day at a time. You plan and pray, set some goals for your life. Don't be just treading water during this time, but say, how do I wanna be different by the end of this year? And by the way, one of the things I highly recommend during this time is that you reduce your media intake. Okay? Stop filling your mind with so much garbage, so much fear, so much tension, so much conflict. Don't worry about that. And don't worry about tomorrow, but also don't presume about it either. We don't wanna worry about the future. We don't wanna presume about the future. We don't wanna take the future for granted because we're not guaranteed anything but right now, Proverbs 27:1 and the message says this: "Don't brashly brag about what you're gonna do tomorrow, because you don't know the first thing about tomorrow". That's about as clear as you can get. You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. I don't either, we're all guessing. Now we can plan for tomorrow, but we can only live in today. Okay? You can plan for tomorrow, but you can only live today. Somebody said life is what happens when you're making other plans.

Now, in this little passage of five verses, there's a third mistake that we make about the future. Okay? We make a mistake about the future when we try make the plans without praying and we get all messed up in the future when we try to presume that things are gonna go the way we want them to go, and that we've got plenty of time. Here's the third mistake we make about the future. When we put off doing what's right and good right now. When we put off doing what's right and good right now. In other words, we know the good thing to do, but we postpone it. We delay it. It is the sin of procrastination. And James ends this section by talking about the sin of procrastination.

Now, the fact is procrastination, where you just keep delaying, you know, the right thing to do you just don't do it destroys your potential. It wastes your life. It misuses your time. It misses golden opportunities that God has given you. And that's why in the last verse of this passage, James 4:17, he says this. But remember after he's talked about these other things, presumption, okay. And praying, our planning without praying. And now he's talking about procrastination. He says, but remember anytime you know the right and good thing to do, and you don't do it, then you sin. This is when we all fall for folks. Procrastination is my sin. It only brings me sorrow. I know I ought to change my ways. In fact, I will tomorrow.

You know, I don't know if you've ever thought about this, but you can sin by doing nothing. You can sin by doing nothing. It's not just the sins of commission. It's the sins of omission when you know the right thing to do, but you don't do it. So let me ask you right now to consider three very personal questions. Number one, what is the next step in your spiritual growth and obedience that you need to take right now and you haven't done it yet? What's the next step in your spiritual growth and obedience you need to take, but you haven't done it yet?

Let me give it to you in another way. Here's another question. What do you know God wants you to do, but you're still putting it off and you have postponed it over and over and over? Maybe to reconcile with that person, to forgive that person. Maybe it is to give your life to Christ. And you've been thinking about it for some time, but you haven't yet. Maybe it's take one of the Saddleback classes. Years ago, almost 40 years ago, I wrote a series of discipleship classes to help you mature in your Christian life. One is called "CLASS 101: Discovering My Place in the Family of God". "CLASS 201: Discovering the Habits for Spiritual Growth" "CLASS 301: Discovering My Shape for Ministry", "CLASS 401: Discovering My Life Message and my Life Mission". This weekend, this weekend, Sunday is Super Class Sunday at all of our Saddleback campuses.

Have you finished 101, 201, 301, 401? Have you even started them? Well, this would be a good thing for you to do. Stop procrastinating. These courses will help you grow, set you on a pattern. You'll learn things, you'll use the rest of your life. Maybe you need to get involved in a ministry. You know, who are the happiest people in our church right now? The 13,000 volunteers who are helping in our food distribution center, where 13,000 people have fed over a quarter of a million people, two and a half million pounds of food and led this week, just this week on Friday, we passed over 10,000 people having given their lives to Christ through the food pantry. That's unheard of. 10,000 new baby believers because people just like you are sharing their faith through a car window as we give them food.

Let me give you another question. What excuse have you been using to not do what you know you need to do? Well, one of these days, one of these days, you keep saying one of these days, one of these days is none of these days, or "I'm aiming". I'm aiming to do it, Rick, I'm aiming. When are you gonna stop aiming and pull the trigger? "Oh, when I get around to it". Have you ever seen around to it? And I'll buy you around to it and give it to you because when you get around to it, then you'll actually get it done. What am I saying? As your pastor who loves you, whatever it is that you need to do, do it now. Don't wait this pandemic to be over. Don't wait, don't waste another a week or month or months.

1 John 2:3 enforces this. "We can be sure we know Christ. If we obey his commands and the one who says I know him, but doesn't do what he commands is a liar". He's saying actions speak louder than words. Delayed obedience is disobedience. So whatever you intend to do for God, do it now, whatever you need to do for your family, do it now. Don't wait till this pandemic's over. Whatever you need to do for your wife or your husband do it now. Whatever. You're not guaranteed tomorrow or next week or next month. Some of you, as I said earlier, have been considering for some time, your need to open up your life to Jesus Christ.

Why don't you do it right now? Do it today. It would be my privilege to lead you in a prayer. If you've been thinking about having a relationship with Christ, I can help you begin that today. Begin a friendship with God. We're not talking about religion. We're talking about a personal relationship with Christ. I've known Christ for over 50 years. I've walked with Him, He is my best friend. And you can know Him that way too. Why don't we do it right now? Let's bow our heads. And in your mind say, "Dear God, I don't understand it all, but I wanna get to know You". Just say that, honestly, the words don't matter. What matters is just a humble attitude. Say:

Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus Christ to earth to show Your love for me, to pay for all my sins so I don't have to pay for 'em, to show me the way to heaven. I need a savior, I need you in my life. I wanna begin a friendship with God today. And so humbly as best, I know how I'm asking You to accept me as I put my faith in You and I receive Your gift of free salvation. And I do this today, 'cause I'm not gonna wait any longer. I'm not going to procrastinate. I don't know how many days I've got left, but I want them to be the best of my life, the rest of my life. So I ask you to come into my life in Jesus' name. Amen.

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