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How to Face the Future in Times of Uncertainty, Part 2

From the series Facing The Future with Confidence

What is it that causes you to fear? The wars in the Middle East? The economy? Your job? Well, if you want to know how to face your fears with confidence, and the peace that comes only from God, join Chip as he shares God’s prescription for living in uncertain times.

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Message Transcript

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is being scared to death, and saying, “Well, I tell you what, to give the way I used to give now is a scary thing.” Sure it’s scary. And do it. “To take a stand, publicly, at a time like this is pretty scary.” Well, sure it’s scary. And then you do it. “To make Christ the number one priority in my life, in my school, in a way that lets people know it’s not about just going to church, or being religious, but it’s about what I think, and how I act with the opposite sex, what I put in my mind, and what’s important to me.” It takes courage.

See, courage is going beyond knowing what’s right, and having the sheer guts to get up, and pull the trigger, and do it. And I would daresay, without being judgmental – because we all struggle – the Church of Jesus Christ, in America, is in a courage crisis. We’ve got twenty-five percent of the population of America saying, “I’m born-again. I believe in God. I believe in His Word. I believe in Jesus.”

And we’ve got the highest divorce rates in the world, highest murder rates in the world, and the average evangelical believer gives two point five percent of their income. We’ve got a major disconnect.

You know why? We’ve got millions of people who understand, in their head, This is true, this is right, and I say I believe this. But when it gets right down to having the sheer courage to get up, and live, and speak, and align their priorities in a way that reflects Scripture, they go back to the dugout, and they never have a real at-bat.

It’s when you’re courageous that it’s risky, but it’s when you’re courageous where you see the hand of God, and the Spirit of God.

I want to spend the next portion of our time talking about: how do you experience that? How do you get that strength and how do you get that courage?

And here’s what I want to tell you.

This passage I’m teaching it and I’m down here trying to listen to me and say, God, will You help me put this into practice? Because I’m in over my head. And I’ve been gettin’ up early in the morning and talking with God and saying, Lord, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? And you know what He’s saying? Trust Me. Am I with you? Yeah. “Is this my agenda or is this Yours? It’s Yours.” Okay. You know what I expect you to do Monday, Chip? What? Be strong. Okay. What does that mean? Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t whine. Don’t cry. You can cry out, but don’t cry.

And I expect you to be courageous. And I expect you with your words and with your time and with your money and your life to model what it looks like to be a courageous man of God. And tell you what, you do that, I’ll take care of the rest.

Now, the big question is: how?

God didn’t bring you in this building on this day, for just like no reason. And He didn’t bring you here so that, at the end of the day, you can say, “Well I know how God helped Joshua during an uncertain time. It’s in verses 1 through 9.”

Now, that’s fine. He brought you in this building, on this day, to speak to your heart, so that you would understand how you could be strong, and you could be courageous, so that you’d be like a spiritual salmon, swimming upstream in the wave of other Christians – particularly, an entire world – that are biting their fingernails, and mostly worried – not about what’s going to happen to the world, but what’s going to happen to them. Because at the end of the day that’s really what’s going on out there.

Let me give you three principles, where, now, we’re going to see, out of Joshua, the very things that Jesus told His disciples. And what I want to do is give you a to-go package, all right? I want to give you something that, all during the week, you can say, “This is how to be strong and courageous.”

And, by the way, as you listen, I want you to think of the whiteboard, of the one or two top fears, and I want you to go back to that whiteboard, in your mind, while I’m talking, and ask God the Holy Spirit to show you what it looks like to be strong and courageous with your fears. Okay?

With that, let me give you the three principles, three ways God gives us, from this passage, to live confident lives. That’s where we got the title. This is how you face the future with confidence.

Number one, it’s believing God’s promise for our future is the key to overcoming our fear of the unknown. It’s believing – and by that, I don’t mean “intellectually.” Believing, to the point of action, that God’s promise for our future – it will give you the power to overcome the unknown.

We get that here, in verses 3 and 4, and Jesus spoke very familiar words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” He said to the fellas, the last night He was on the earth, right? “Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and I will take you to be with Me that you may be where I am.”

You know, those early apostles – what was their fear? What was their fear? Wasn’t it the unknown? “How’s this going to pan out? The Romans, they’re chasing us as it is. The Jews – they’ll probably kill us.” That’s why they went and hid.

What did Jesus say, the last night? “Your future is secure. It’s a done deal.” Jesus said it over here. God said to Joshua, “Look, Joshua, yes, the Jordan is at flood stage. It’s wider than ever before. It’s deeper than ever before. It’s impossible to get across. I want you to know, on the other side, it’s a done deal.”

Here’s what God helped me see. Chip, do you believe in heaven? Oh yeah, I teach it all the time. Oh. You do? Yeah. So, if I would choose, since I’m God and I’m good and I’m sovereign and I’m in control and I love you and I always have your best, even if I would choose to take your wife home and take her to heaven, do I have the prerogative to do that? Well, yeah.

So, worst-case scenario, let’s play out the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is I take your wife to be in heaven, you live out your life, I give you strength with your children, I do an amazing thing in your life, and then later on, you die and you’re with Me and you’re both with Me in heaven. Let me get this right, Chip. That’s the worst that could happen. That’s right, Lord.

Then what are you afraid about? Unless, Chip, you’re really not concerned about Me and you don’t have an eternal perspective and it’s not about Me and it’s not about heaven and you just say you believe that and it’s just a little intellectual game you play. If that’s real, it’s a done deal, right? Can you trust Me?

And when you start doing that, it produces a strength, and a courage. Until you die to this world, until you really die to this world, you’re really not worth much to God.

I remember being in China – Pastor Lam – twenty-five years in concentration camps, and then, another twenty years in prison. Seventy-eight years old. We went through backstreets – and he has an underground church of about a thousand people – and we spent some time praying and talking with him. He said, “Yeah, two nights ago, they came, and they roughed me up again. And they got in my face, and they tried to threaten me.”

And he said, “I just laughed at them. I said, ‘You put me in prison – the church grows. You put me in concentration camp – the church grows bigger and bigger. Go ahead and kill me. Watch what God does.’”

You know what Pastor Lam knows? Worst-case scenario: He’s going to heaven. You know what? I meet some Christians who think going to heaven might be just the worst thing that could ever happen. The way they prioritize their time, their money, and their focus – you would think the worst thing that could happen is they could die and spend eternity in the presence of God with Jesus. That old little hymn, “This World Is Not Our Home” – we could use it to get introduced to that, at the heart level.

And until you draw the line on that, and believe it, you will be paralyzed by fear, and you will spend all your life trying to hold on to that which, Jim Elliot said, you cannot keep, and failing to give that which you cannot lose.

The key word here is hope, and it is a biblical hope. We hope it will be sunny tomorrow. At least, I do. We hope the economy will bounce back. That’s the way Americans use the word hope. That’s a fine word. We mean, “wishful thinking.”

When the Bible uses the word hope, it is about a future event that is unchangeable, and that will happen because God said it, based on His Word, and His character. The fact that Christ is returning – biblical hope, anchor of your soul. The fact that, if you are in Christ, you can know, one hundred percent of the time, any moment, that when you die you will be with Him – that’s hope! That’s hope! That changes your perspective, and how you live.

The second key to developing strength and courage is appropriating God’s power for victory to overcome your fear of failure. We see it in verse 5, verse 7, verse 8. God said “I’ll give you power. You go into battle – no one’s going to be able stand against you.”

Did you notice how God told Joshua to learn to appropriate it? “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth.” Do you know what He was telling him? He was giving him the means, the “how-to,” of gaining spiritual power.

See, I believe, with all my heart – because I’ve been there – that the average Christian really wants to break that habit with their tongue. The average Christian who has an addiction with alcohol, or drugs – they don’t want to do it, but they just keep going back. The average Christian who has been sucked over to porn on the Internet, and finds himself, when no one’s looking, really checking out the magazine stands as they walk out of the grocery store, or logging on late at night – they don’t want to be there.

The average Christian, who’s having all kinds of conflict in their marriage, and outbursts of anger, and just, Oh, I’m tired of living this way. They don’t want to live that way. But the average Christian does not know how God gives them the power to live the life they already possess.

Now, I found it out by an accident. Now, it’s all through Scripture – I just didn’t know about it. I was a Christian about two, two and a half years, and I came to a conclusion. Somehow, miraculously, God cleaned up my language.

I didn’t open a Bible until I was eighteen, played basketball, and baseball in high school and college. And so, I ran with a group of guys, and we talked in a certain way, and we lived in a certain way. And, wow, I just started reading the Scriptures in the morning, and at night, and God cleaned up my mouth! And I saw multiple changes, but there was one, about two and a half, three years into my faith, that I realized – I just came to the conclusion, I guess: you can’t lick this. You have it forever. And then, I got around some older Christians, and some older, Christian men, and I would poke around, to try and find out, and I realized, Huh, they’re faking it, too.

And most men, whether they’re fourteen, or twenty-four, or eighty-four, will tell you that the battle of your life, in your spiritual life, is to overcome lust. We are bombarded by the media – and it doesn’t mean we don’t love our wives, and on, and on, and on.

But I’m telling you, and I’m a Christian, and I’m in the Scriptures on a regular basis, and I don’t like what I’m thinking, and I don’t like how I’m looking at women, and I don’t like the guilt, and I don’t like the condemnation. I promise, God, I’ll never do it again, and I do it again, and on, and on, and on. And I can’t lick it.

And so, I just realized, I’ll be like all the other Christian men I’ve met, and I’ll fake it. You just be nice. You feel guilt when you pray, and there’s no sense of power, and you just live this double life.

I had my roommate going to a parachurch camp, and he was going to live on a college campus. And he had to memorize sixty verses. The Navigators’ Topical Memory System. He had to have them memorized, know them flat, cold, completely, before he could get in. And at that time, being the loving, committed, pure-motive roommate that he had, I decided, for absolutely no reason, other than if he could memorize sixty in four months, I bet I could do it in two. My motives were one hundred percent carnal: I’m going to show him up. In fact, he spent five dollars back then, and got these little cards.

And when he left the room, I took all of his cards, and I wrote down all the verses. And I thought, Two or three verses a week. Hey, I’m going to memorize one every day. And by day number four, I’d already forgotten verse number one. So, I thought, Okay, I’m going to memorize all these, and I’ll review them every single day, so I get them down cold.

Well, I had a psychology professor, who God placed in my life to really help the sanctification process bloom. He was so boring. I had almost an hour, every other day, to review my verses behind my psychology book. And so, at day twenty-eight, I had twenty-eight verses down cold – and I’ve never memorized a verse in my life.

I don’t know anything about your mind being renewed. I don’t know how God takes the Spirit, and the Word of God, plants it in your heart, and transforms your life. I don’t know any of that stuff. All I know is, I was on my way to where all the basketball players ate lunch: below the girls’ dorm. It had five or six-hundred girls in it. And we would sit, as a basketball team, and they would file by, and we’d rank them, from one to ten. And I’m ashamed of it. I mean it was just…okay?

And so, I’m on my way over to the dorm, and this verse comes to my mind. “Make no provision for the flesh.” “Make no…make…make no…make no provision…” And then, I’m sitting here, and, “Love not the world, the things that are in the world: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life…”

And I decide, I’m not going to go to that dorm.  And I start walking to the other cafeteria. And then, I meet this co-ed. who’s a very, very lovely, godly, committed, and beautiful girl.

And the long and the short of it is, I had about a fifteen-minute conversation. And I looked her in the eye, and I wasn’t thinking about anything else, and as we parted, God did one of those “aha.” I didn’t lust.

And I found there’s a correlation. You know how God makes you strong? It’s not by trying harder. God takes the written Word of God, by the Spirit of God, as you meditate on it, and He makes it the living Word of God, and He gives you power to think, and to act, and to love, and to respond in ways that only Jesus could if He lived inside you. And He does that by way of the Holy Spirit.

And my experience is, the reason we’re not strong and courageous is that the average believer is tipping God, when it comes to Scripture. And it’s like a little bit of this, or a little bit of that.

You must be men and women who live under the Book. And you don’t read two or three chapters, so you don’t feel guilty, and it’s not a chapter a day to keep the devil away. This is about a heart relationship, where you want to spend time with God, and you carve it out. And you get a cup of coffee, and you read, and you think, and you pray, and you pray verses back.

And you struggle in this area, and you find a promise about that area. And then, you memorize it, and then, God brings it to your mind. And He breaks the power of sin, and He changes you. And you go, Wow!

You’re transformed, because everyone who’s in Christ is – what? – a new creature. “The old things pass away. Behold, all things” – present tense, continuing – “are becoming new.” You don’t have to fail. God doesn’t want you to fail. He wants to use your life.

The first key has to do with hope; the second key has to do with faith. Biblical faith isn’t believing a set of ideas. Biblical faith is believing God to the point of acting on the truth. It’s going from believing God to acting on the truth. God’s Word says this. I don’t feel like it. I’m afraid. The implications are this, and you step out, and the moment you step out – whoo! – you get grace.

And He’ll give you courage at work. He’ll give you courage to take risks with your time. He’ll give you courage to let go of finances. He’ll allow anger issues to dissolve. Because God is looking for a people – regular, ordinary, not superstar people – who will believe that there is an unshakeable hope, and so life and death can’t touch them. People who believe that the same power that raised Christ from the dead literally dwells in them, and, by faith, they choose to live on the basis of Scripture, and they experience transforming grace.

And then, finally, if we want strength and courage, we recognize God’s presence with us is the key to overcoming this fear of abandonment. How many times, in those nine verses, did He tell Joshua, “I’m with you. I’ll be with you, like I was with Moses”?

And do you remember, in John 16, what Jesus said, remember the disciples? The very last night, what’s He say to them? “It’s better that I leave you.” Right? “Because when I go, there is another, another of the same kind – a paraclete, a comforter, the Holy Spirit.” And what’s He going to do? “He’s going to come, and He’s going to reveal all truth to you. He’s going to guide you, and He’s going to lead you.”

And back when, it used to be where, if Jesus was over by the fire, and Peter, James, and John wanted to talk with Him – if He was talking to Bartholomew, they had to wait their turn.

Jesus says, It’s going to be better. I’m going to come in and not only be with you, but by the Holy Spirit, I’m going to dwell in you. And He will reveal the truth to you, and I will guide you into all truth, 24/7, three hundred and sixty-five days out of the year.

The Spirit of God – the moment you pray to receive Christ – will come into your life, seal you with the Spirit, adopt you into His family, and He will be with you. You can pray in the car. You can pray at church. You can pray as you’re walking. You can pray during a meeting. You can talk with God every moment of every day and practice the presence of God. You will never be alone, ever again.

And once you begin to experience that, there’s strength. There’s courage. Hudson Taylor was right: God, plus even one, is a majority. And what this is really talking about is love. It’s the final key word.

Isn’t it interesting, dads – remember when you were trying to teach your kids to swim? Remember that? I did it in some not very smart ways. I had my kids get on boards that were way too high, early on. It’s a joke in our family.

But you know what I learned? I learned that if I would get them on the board, and I would jump down into the water, and say, “Come on! Honey, come on, it’s okay. Son, go ahead.” And if they could see me, even though they were fearful of the water, if they knew I was there – I’m four for four. Every one of my kids did this.

And when they did, they went under for just a second, and then, I put my arms around them. Why? I’m their dad. I love them. I will be with them always. I will never, ever leave them, or forsake them. And I’m just a human dad.

There are some of you that God is waiting for you to jump into the water of ministry, to jump into the water of impact, to jump into the water of obedience, to jump into the water of taking a high-risk adventure at work for His kingdom, to jump into the water with your heart, and your life, and your soul, and all that you have.

And here’s what He says, I’ll catch you. I’ll catch you! I love you. I’m for you. I died for you. The same power that raised Him from the dead not only dwells in you, but, “He that spared not His own Son, how will He not with Him freely give you all things?”

You see, when you have a hope that can’t change, and you live by faith that’s acting on God’s Word, and there is a God who’s all powerful, all knowing, sovereign, and you’re the object of His affection, you can be strong, regardless of your circumstances, and you can step out, when you’re scared to death. And as you do, you will meet God.

And my premise, when I think, what the truth of the Scripture is – the Lord is waiting for a generation of Christians – beginning with the person who is sitting in your seat, since you have one hundred percent control of that person’s thinking – to step out, and believe that He wants to fulfill divine purposes, first in you, and then through you.