What Does the Future Hold? - A New Year's Message

I’m sure the years are shorter than they used to be. Have I missed some EU Directive that “All years in Europe shall be reduced in length”?  As we plunge into 2009 many of us will wonder how the new year will go. What will happen? Will it be a good or a difficult year? Will each of us still be here at the end of the year?

Hopefully we can look forward to a great deal of happiness – to a rich experience of life, enjoying this beautiful world and its music, literature, art and drama. Perhaps we can look forward to loving relationships with family and friends. Maybe the new year will bring us success in education, work, relationships, hobbies and the like. But many reading this will have health or financial worries.

Possibly the new year will be a time when we experience a greater depth of spirituality. If we haven’t given God much thought, perhaps we’ll start to do so. If we don’t attend church, perhaps we’ll begin to. If we do attend church, perhaps we’ll increase our commitment.

One of the best ways of experiencing a greater depth of spirituality is by doing the Alpha Course. Check for a course near you (www. alpha.org). Millions of people have found it works for them – why not you too?

Seeking to experience a greater depth of spirituality will certainly help with the problems and pain which we’ll surely experience in the new year. There is an old saying: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”  That’s quite profound. Are you entering into the uncertainties of this new year conscious of God at your side? You can do and the church is here to help you. You may be perplexed but many of us have experienced God remarkably guiding our thinking. You may be fearful but many of us can testify to God giving us a peace that transcends all understanding. You might feel unable to cope but many of us can say we gained an inner strength from prayer.

One thing is absolutely certain: we shall all be 12 months nearer death by the end of the new year – if we survive that long. A question: if we knew we’d be dead by the end of the new year what difference would it make to our life now?

I’ve been thinking about this. Death is a bit of a taboo subject. Sex used to be – but I think we can safely say that’s changed! But we don’t think much about death. We may have life insurance and some people make a will (many are afraid to do so for superstitious reasons). We prepare for all the other important experiences in life. But we don’t seriously prepare for death. Yet it is the one certain thing about our lives.

Sometimes we even conceal from a person that they are dying. I believe that is wrong in all normal circumstances. We all have a basic human right to know we are dying. Only if it is clear that telling a person (gently) would be really destructive to emotion and health could it be justified to conceal the fact.

After all, we shouldn’t just drift into death: we need to prepare for it, and especially for life after death. This doesn’t just mean farewells, wills and putting affairs in order – or even planning the funeral. The fact is that death ushers us into the presence of God and we shall stand before him – alone – as our Judge, to give account for our lives. That will include accounting for bad behaviour. But it will also include accounting for how much attention we’ve given to God. I once put a poster on a church board which stated: “How will you explain to God that you had no time for him?”  It was meant to be provocative, but I don’t apologise for being provocative over such a vitally important subject.

Another way of putting it is that God, who is love, became Man in Jesus in order to die for our forgiveness. How will we explain to God that we had no (or little) time for Jesus?  Solemn thought, isn’t it?

So here’s an agenda for the new year: learn more about God. Make more time for him. Commit your life to Jesus. Attend the Alpha Course or contact a Minister for help.  In so doing, you will be preparing for life and for death and for the time you stand before God. You can have a confidence about the future with all its uncertainties, and also about death and beyond. (See “A Certain Hope.” )

© Tony Higton: see conditions for copying on the Home Page