“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Romans 15:4]
The Song you just heard, “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” by Ronnie Milsap, will act as our audio and mental hook to hang our message on this morning. In spite of Ronnie’s desire and probably most people’s desire to remain ignorant of the end of all things, God does indeed in His Word tell us how the story ends; He tells us what the future holds. And what it holds should give you hope.
What a treasure scripture is in our hands.
With it, we can search through the will of God like a detective searches through his case file, or as a student looks through their notebook, as they prepare for an exam. God gave his people His plan for life. How happy the devil is when God’s people are ignorant or neglect that plan. How angry he becomes when we make faithful use of it. Do you want to frustrate the devil? Keep remembering and proclaiming just how close we all are to the Last Day and to Christ’s judgment over evil, and rejoice in the truth that God is in control.
The Word of God speaks in some places about how, as the world nears its end, children will turn against their parents and parents will turn against their children. Our world is full of examples that this happens and is happening even now. Parents commit the ultimate in child abuse—when they neglect their children’s souls. They don’t care where their children will spend eternity. They’ll spend money for their children’s bodies, education, and entertainment, but they neglect to tell their children the commands and laws of God, to talk about them on the way, to write them in their homes and on their hearts.
But there are also those parts of scripture that declare that as the final day grows closer and closer, parents and children will be talking to each other and turning to each other. There will be good families. God will see to it! In our day when we sometimes feel like despairing because there are no good families left, there are good families. Families do pray together and do stay together through life. This is the greatest turning together of hearts, parents talking to their children about the Savior, children talking to their parents. Their hearts are being touched by the only thing that changes hearts, the Word of God.
In our Old Testament lesson (Malachi 4:1-6), which is the very last book of the Old Testament, the very last Word it speaks is one of prophecy; a Word that tells us how the story ends. But the end will come as a time of hope for God’s children of faith who are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. And this hope will restore families and bring strength to the faithful as we wait for the end of the story. But before we go to the end, we must start in the beginning of God’s New Testament of hope.
In the fullness of time Christ came to our world.
Every thing that had taken place before pointed forward to this singular event. And everything that has happened since finds its meaning and importance through Christ. Even right now, this particular moment in history has its goal in Christ. “He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” [Acts 10:42] Whether we believe it or not, all of us are moving forward to the great day when we shall meet the Lord.
This is why God asks us to believe that there is definite meaning in all of world history. Throughout our history, it has been both God’s command and desire that the Gospel be preached to all people. The great net of the kingdom of God must be drawn through the sea of time, and at last the great catch will be cast upon the shore, where all the evil and the righteous will be separated from one another.
But to say that the movement of history has meaning is not the same as saying that we can understand or discern that meaning. Each of us have grown accustomed to believing as our culture teaches us, that the world is moving forward and upward, and that little by little things will be getting better, and that it will become increasingly easier to live.
Perhaps some of you are fans of Gene Rodenberry’s utopian portrayal of mankind in the 24th century, as described in the various presentations of Star Trek. Within Rodenberry’s fictional account of mankind, through technology, humankind has progressed to a point where there is no more hunger, racism, and economic status; position and status has been nullified, and even war no longer exists on the planet earth.
But the Word of God gives a more realistic view. It is true that technology and science have made incredible strides forward. Man has been given dominion over nature and even over the vast universe. But this does not mean that evil is less active. Evil too has made vast steps forward; evil too can utilize technology and science.
As time moves forward, the battle of evil becomes bitterer against Christ and His church. Wars become more brutal, and the catastrophes of world history become more destructive. The Book of Revelation paints this kind of picture very vividly and also makes it very clear why things do not get better in spite of all the warnings God gives. People simply do not wish to repent! They continue in their former foolishness and sin. As the end draws near things will get worse, says Jesus: “Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” [Matthew 24:12] Our observations after two world wars, two police actions, and now an international war on terror in our generation ought to have taught us how true our Lord’s warning is.
But our hope is not defined by the world around us but by the very Word of God that tells us how the story ends.
Knowing how the story ends helps us live out our part of the story with hope.
Today you have heard it declared that the Sun of righteousness will rise soon above what seems to be dark and ominous skies. This is the very news that gives us hope; it is what we the church, have been looking for and waiting for. There has long been that pre-dawn glow in the sky, and so we know that the Sun is coming. We who once lived in darkness have seen a great light. Now it peeks above the horizon and soon it will leap into the sky in all of its splendor. It brings healing too; an eternal presence that no longer knows sickness, disease, poverty, violence, or even pain. The utopia that so many long for becomes a reality. As this Sun of our righteousness rises we can bask our cold stiff joints, limbs, and hearts in its glow. It heals and restores. It brings eternal life!
Besides this wonderful, warming Sun there is the picture of calves released from their stalls after being penned up all winter. They feel good. They want to run and jump for the sheer joy of it. That’s the way it is even now with Christ’s people, you the baptized who understand and appreciate that Christ’s birth, life, death upon the cross and the empty tomb has set them free.
No sick calf feels like jumping, but we have been healed in the blessed waters of our baptism. The sickness of sin is past! Our spirits feel good! They want to kick and frolic in God’s sunshine forever—and they shall! Nothing can hold us back. We the saints stream into our final pasture. The Good Shepherd has kept his word. All is well and good. And that truth, knowing how the story ends makes all of the difference.
In life as we wait, we wait in hope. We gladly work to love God with all of our being; we greatly desire to love our neighbor as our self, in fact these things have become our passion. We desire to live a life that demonstrates the love of God to others, because in Christ, God first loved us!
The truth is friends, our outlook for the future would seem rather hopeless, if there were no Christ.
But now even this is woven into God’s good plans for us who love His Christ. And these plans, culminate in the victory of Christ and a new world where no sorrow or crying or tears shall be. And so compelled by the Holy Spirit, we confidently live our lives refusing to sink into despair or drop out of life when all the things Scripture warn us of begin to happen. Instead we can lift up our heads. Now our redemption is drawing near. Now the Son of our eternal summer is approaching. And so we remain awake and alert. We remain steadfast, both in calm moments and in the middle of life’s storms. And we also continue to be soberly realistic.
With the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, we will not panic when things seem to be moving toward catastrophe. These moments of tragedy must take place, but they alone do not mean that the end is at hand. But if it does come, if and when the end happens, we simply remember that all is happening exactly as our God warned us it would. Heaven and earth may pass away, but never God’s Word, nor he who believes it and holds fast to it.
May you always cling to Christ and His Word until that very hour… in Jesus name… AMEN!