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About this series
Facing The Future with Confidence
In this information age, it seems the more we know, the less we are really sure of! Experts tell us our families are disintegrating, our global economy is tenuous, and random violence is on the rise. Is it possible to live confidently in such confusing times? What does God's Word have to say about our future and our fears? Learn how you can face tomorrow and each day that follows with confidence and strength.More from this series
We put a little teaching handout if you’ll go ahead and pull that out, we are in a series called Facing the Future with Confidence. And if you have a pen you can pull that out too because we’ll be doing a little work together.
As we get there, I’d like to try and help you think back of when the first time you felt that emotion of confusion – when you got paralyzed, when so many things were coming into your mind, and you just didn’t know what to do. I prayed this week and thought about the most vivid time I could remember: It was late elementary school, maybe it was junior high – I’m not sure. But I was really struggling in math.
And I worked, and worked, and worked, and – remember this? Remember in school? And the teacher – back then, they would come, and they would give your papers to you. And she graded them in the big red letters – they’re right there. And I had worked, and worked, and worked.
And I got my paper, and I thought I really nailed it this time. I had really worked hard. And it was placed on my desk and you don’t want anybody to see it, especially mine. D-minus. Have you ever thought for sure, I’ve really got it down? I thought I got either a high A or a low A. You’ve been there? And I know I was old enough that it’s not a good time for a boy to cry in school. That’s how I felt.
And then, I covered the grade, and I just looked. Everything was marked off – wrong. And another student, or my teacher, I can’t remember who it was, because I did all the work, and I reworked them, and I still thought I got them right. And then, someone came, from the outside, with a second set of eyes, and said, “Watch very carefully. On all these problems, you have to invert before you multiply.”
I was confused, because I needed one person to give me one piece of information that would bring perspective to my situation, because as I sat, I was convinced I was the dumbest kid in that class. And I was convinced I would never do math again. Little did I know, later in high school, it would be one of my favorite subjects.
Now, that’s sort of a light way to start off, isn’t it? I remember another time I was confused – because I loved my wife very much, and she loved me very much, and she was making me crazy, and I was making her crazy, and we were very confused. And what we needed was another set of eyes.
And it was a very humbling thing, during seminary, to go to a marriage counselor, and say, “You know what? I don’t know what background she came from, or what I came from, but I know she loves God; I love God. I love her; she loves me. But we do this all the time.” And we spent about ninety dollars a session, for twelve sessions, for a second set of eyes to help us get clear, and to remove the barriers.
And what I want to suggest is, you need another set of eyes. You need a wise counselor, you need a mentor, you need a teacher, you need a coach to take the confusion that you have in your life. And whether it’s spiritual, or emotional, or financial, or the world situation, or God’s will, or a big decision, we’re going to get to a counselor who will help you see, maybe like never before, perspective in your situation. Notice that the problem with being confused is it immobilizes, it paralyzes, and it demotivates.
If you have some of those feelings, it might be because you literally are confused. And to be confused means that intellectually or emotionally you feel mixed up, things are jumbled together, they are in a sense of disorder or chaos, and you can’t think in an orderly, coherent way in the midst of complex problems, relationships or decisions.
Now, what I’ve learned is, the cure for confusion is twofold. Whether you go to consultants, or great coaches, or a counselor, two things you have to do to eliminate confusion.
Number one, you have to reduce complexity. Right, men? When the Falcons quarterback goes down, the first thing the coach does is do what to the playbook? Make it thin! Because this quarterback doesn’t know all the plays.
A few simple plays, executed well, is the best chance towards success. When your life is getting confusing, you’ve got to get your playbook, and make it thin. You’ve got to get all the extraneous things, and use the old business adage, right? K-I-S-S: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” That’s what you’ve got to do.
The second thing, however, is another acronym that – I don’t know if I made up, but I’ll take credit for it: GBTTB. You won’t find that in the Business Review at Harvard. But you’ve got to reduce complexity, and then, you’ve got to increase clarity. You’ve got to get clear: Where am I? What’s the situation? What do I need to do, and why? And this acronym stands for, “Get Back to the Basics.”
My college coach was a great friend of John Wooden, who won the ten national championships. And John Wooden started every year the same way, with the greatest athletes. And he would take a white sock into the locker room, bring the UCLA team, take his shoe off, take a white sock, and show them how to put on a white sock – back to the basics.
Vince Lombardi would take a football and say – what? “Gentleman, this is a pigskin. This is a football.”
And what John Wooden would do, he said, “Look, men, if you put your sock on wrong” – down to the little things – “it might wrinkle. If it wrinkles, you might get a blister. If you get a blister, you might miss a game. If you miss a game, we might lose a game. If we lose one game, we may not win another national championship.” His point was: You go back to the basics.
One of my heroes is Peter Drucker – I’ve read most all of his stuff. The first two questions he asks of any business, regardless of what they’re in, or what their problems are: What business are you in, and who are your customers? His point? Get back to the basics.
Now, turn the page, if you will, because we’re going to get back to the basics, spiritually. We’re going to get one of the greatest counselors, the best teachers, a better consultant than anyone else. He lived a hundred and twenty years. His name is Moses. And he comes well qualified to give us all the information that we need. He lived for forty years in the lap of luxury in the greatest wisdom of Egypt. He lived forty years in silence and solitude.
Ecclesiastes says great wisdom comes from the house of mourning. That group that he led was not real cooperative. And so, I figure – just the math, in general – he did about one point two to one point eight million funerals in forty years.
Do you remember the last time you were at a funeral? Or you went to the ICU with one of your kids, or a close friend? Do you remember how the peripheral stuff didn’t make any difference, and you got really clear about life? Imagine doing about one point two million funerals.
And what you have in your hand – it’s in your Bible, in Psalm 90, and I put the text there. What you have in your hand is the only psalm written by Moses. And if we wanted to take the collective wisdom of all that Moses learned in that one hundred and twenty years, I believe he’s giving us the CliffsNotes, right here, about how to live, how to get back to the basics.
And as I’ve studied it, I saw very clearly, there are at least six basics when Moses looks at all of life in complexity. If Moses was here, and we could put him in this chair, and, well, he’s probably pretty old by now, and we’d let him sit down. And we could do Q&A and give him a microphone. I think Moses would tell us the truth of Psalm 90.
And we would say, “Well what about the down economy? And what about one of my kids who’s having a struggle? And, you know, my marriage – I’m really struggling in that one right now.
And I think Moses would say, “You know what? Life can be very complex. You can really get your ball lost in the weeds. So, let me put my arm around you, let’s step back together, and let me paint the big picture about what life is all about. Let’s get back to the basics. And when you see the basics, you’ll be able to come out of your confusion, and make wise decisions.”
Are you ready? Basic number one comes right out of the first verse of Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”
Basic number one: God is great. We need to remember that. God is great. He’s greater than the United States. He’s greater than military operations. He’s greater than economies. God is great. And you say, where do you get that? Look at the text! Lord – the word is Adonai. It’s a title for God. It’s His sovereign creatorship, Ruler of the universe. He is above and beyond. He’s transcendent. He’s great.
But notice, also, He’s eminent. “You are our dwelling place.” If you have that pen, jot down, above that, Deuteronomy 33:26 to 29. I can’t develop it, but the exact same words used for dwelling place here, are used when God tells the children of Israel, “I will protect you. I will carry you. I will be your refuge. My loving arms will be around you, and in the midst of all the storms, I will take care of you.”
Moses is saying, after one hundred and twenty years on the planet, after living in the lap of luxury, after seeing all the false gods, after being the instrument that crushed the pagan religions, “I want you to know, number one, God is Creator, and number two, He is a close, intimate, loving Father.”
And if that’s not enough, it’s not just for now, it’s through all generations. “And before the mountains,” the word literally, “before the mountains were birthed, before God brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting.” That means all eternity. He is – the word is El. He is God.
That doesn’t mean a lot to us, but there was a huge god in the Promised Land that people believed in: Ba‘al. And the Canaanite religion believed that there was a god named El somewhere. And his son had a coup, or rebellion, and he was stronger, and deposed El.
And what he is saying is, “There is only one God.” And he’s calling God by this name, and saying to the people, “There is one God superior to all other gods, because He is Creator, sovereign, Ruler, holy of the entire universe. The very first basic in life is remembering who God is. He’s big. He’s powerful. He’s real. He’s personal.
And what I’m going to give you are six diagnostic questions to help you work through your confusion.
Number one, Am I rightly related to God? Am I rightly related to God? If God is great, if He is the center or the infinite reference point of all of life in the universe, here’s the question stated another way: Does God hold the same place in your heart and your life that He holds in the universe? If so, everything else will come into order. If the infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, eternal Reference Point, who has revealed Himself personally, through Christ, is at the center and the vortex of your life, then everything else falls into order, and not into confusion. If a person, if money, if a job, if a child, if a future, if anxiety is at the core of your life, then your life will be confused. It’ll be jumbled.
I had a chance to hear a fellow – about a year ago now, maybe two – and he works in a ministry, and so he keeps it kind of down low, because he works with a lot of people at MIT, and in the military. And he had a chance to be invited by the skipper of one of our big nuclear subs. And he said, “We had dinner, right there in the control room, and all the controls were covered, except one little area. And the guy let me ask questions about it,” he was sharing the story. And he said, “Do you know that this sub can only stay down ninety days?” And so, the fellow who was sharing this said, “Oh, could you run out of water?” He said, “Oh no.” “Do you run out of food?” “Oh, we could stay down a lot longer.” “Why do you have to resurface after ninety days?”
He said, “Because on this sub, we have missiles that, if they were off even a fraction of a degree, we shoot them out from this sub, they go out, and, with pinpoint accuracy, they need to land – if we ever needed them – right where we want them to land. But after ninety days underneath the ocean’s surface, what we know is, the magnetic forces of the earth begin to affect our equipment. So, we have to surface, put up an antenna, and we lock onto the North Star. And then, we lock onto the satellite system. And then, we recalibrate all of our equipment, based on reality.”
Do you get it? Do you need to recalibrate? Is God the center point of your heart? Is He your North Star? Does your time, and energy, and money, and decisions all go back and revolve around: God is great, He is personal, He is powerful? Is He your Reference Point to all of life? If He’s not, if you’re even off a few degrees – confusion.
The second basic Moses is going to pick up is, not only is God great, but he’s going to say life is short. He says, “You turn men back to dust” – quoting Genesis 3. “Return to dust, O sons of” – Adam, literally, or adam – “men.” And then, he gives us three quick pictures of why life is short.
He says, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night,” which was four hours. “You sweep men away in the sleep of death.” And the word sweep there is a picture of a torrential flood that pours down rain, and goes right through a valley and just wipes everything out, instantaneously.
“They’re like the new grass of the morning – though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it’s dry and withered.” And there are places you can go – I’ve been in Israel – and it’s interesting that it will grow up green in the morning, and then, these hot winds will come up, and by the afternoon – in different seasons – whoo – brown. But what’s his point? His point, very simply, is the brevity of life. You are mortal. I am mortal. Life is short. God is great. Life is short.
If you wanted to put a key word next to number one, where: “I’m rightly related to God” – write the word perspective. When you understand God is great, you’ll get perspective instead of perplexity. And if you wanted to put a keyword under number two, because here’s the question: Am I prepared to die? – put the word priority.
See what Moses is saying? “I’ve done all these funerals, all these funerals, all these funerals. I’ve done the deal where I had the money, I had the position, I had the power. I was a king of Egypt! But when I look at it all, I understand it all begins with God – He’s great – and then, I’m going to live my life, evaluate my relationships, and make my priority decisions based on something that I’m going to remember: Life is short. It’s brief.”
We are all guilty of what? The great “P” of “procrastination”: I’m really going to get close to God, later. I’m going to get my priorities in order, later. I’m really going to get serious about those important things, later. And what Moses would say is, that produces confusion. You’d better do what you need to do, and you’d better do it now.
Can I ask you one of those provocative questions? Let’s just pretend. Next week, exactly at this time, you knew for sure that your heart will have its last beat. Okay?
Bom-bom-bom-bom…bom. You’re done. Is there anything you would do differently this week than you did last week? You knew for sure you’ve got seven days. Anybody make any phone calls you need to make? Anybody write a will out – you’ve been intending to do that? Anybody think, Maybe I ought to go ahead and make that call and apologize to so and so? If you had seven days to live, would you watch as much TV this coming week as you did last week? See, once you understand life is short, you think differently about how to live. Moses said it will bring unbelievable clarity to your life. And don’t get – I’m not trying to be morbid. Here’s what I’ve learned: Until you face death boldly, you will never live life powerfully. Most of us play a game that we’re not going to die. Shh. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. And if some of you are thinking, That made me very uncomfortable; I can’t believe that guy talked about my heart stopping in seven days, I was being generous! I can’t guarantee you seven days.
You may only have seven minutes! You might check the mail and get hit by a milk truck! I don’t know, I could, too. I don’t have seven days. I’ve got today. And when I begin to live like God is great, and life is short, not only does it give me perspective, but it totally rearranges my priorities.