I recently received the January 2021 edition of LifeWay’s “Parenting Teens” magazine. The front cover wishes everyone a “Happy Same Year!” The subtitle: “How can we help our teens look forward to a new year, when it feels like we’re reliving the last one?” It is no secret that 2020 will be one for the history books. It was a year characterized by uncertainty, fear, social unrest, division, a heated election cycle, and of course, the COVID-19 Pandemic (just to name a few).
In the past year, Church Leaders have found themselves speaking timeless truth into ever-changing situations and circumstances (which is what we’ve done, even prior to 2020). In a January 15, 2021 New York Times article, Fleur Macdonald noted that many people have found themselves to be frustrated because of the changes and uncertainty, as well as the lack of definitive answers from scientists, physicians, or elected officials. In response to this uncertainty, there has been a growing number of people who have sought the help of Psychics. Though the author threw a shadow of doubt on the “material of psychic readings,” she did acknowledge that psychic “consultations provide comfort for some.” In his podcast "The Briefing," Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) noted that ministers were absent from the list of those who have not been able to provide definitive answers. In fact, he reminded us that throughout history, Christian Ministers have been responsible for giving definitive answers to the biggest questions of life.
Why Christian Ministers? Simply put, it is because of the source of the answers. Christian Ministers have a responsibility to be faithful to God and his Word. That brings us to the main idea. In this time of uncertainty, frustration, and insert your preferred word here God has not changed and neither has his Word.
I began a series with my students last night called Immutable. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the reality that God never changes (which is what immutable means). I began our time by asking my students how they respond to change. Many of them said they are resistant to change (with some exceptions), and likewise, many of them said that experiencing change creates within them feelings of anxiousness, worry, and fear.
You and I, whether we be parents or youth leaders, have a unique opportunity to speak absolute truth into the lives of our students. However, to accomplish this, we must be 1) Intentional about having conversations with them, 2) Willing to listen to their opinions and concerns, and 3) Willing to gently, yet firmly, correct any erring opinions or thoughts that do not align with God’s Word.
The truth is, just as you and I are connected to the never-ending stream of news and updates, so too are our students connected to the same stream. Therefore, just as we find ourselves having concerns and worries about all that is happening in our world, our students experience these same feelings and possibly to a greater extent.
So, in those conversations, what should we say? I would suggest that we begin with the truth—God’s Word (2 Tim. 3.16-17). As we talk about all that is happening, we need to remind our students (and ourselves) that 1) God never changes (Mal. 3.6; Heb. 13.8), 2) He is creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things (Ps. 104.5-9; Col. 1.15-20), and 3) His plans can never be thwarted (Job 42.2).
How do these truths play out in our daily lives?
1) God never changes. Though our situations and circumstances change, we have been saved and called with a holy calling by the God who never changes (2 Tim. 1.9). Therefore, we can rest in unchanging nature of God.
2) God is the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things. Though our lives may seem out of control at times, God is still in sovereign control. We can trust that our Creator and Sustainer is still ruling over all things (Psalm 113)
3) His plans can never be thwarted. Though our plans often fail and while our lives may seem in disarray, God is still at work reconciling the world to himself. His plans will never fail, and so we can rejoice in the continual and faithful work of our God (Isaiah 46.9-11; Phil. 1.6).
In the uncertainty of this life, we look to the one who is immutable…who never changes. And praise be to God for that. In this age of subjective truth, may you and I be the consistent and loving voices (that our students need) as we speak of the absolute truth that is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Has it ever occurred to you, that nothing occurs to God?
If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest.
I’m tired, boss. –John Coffey from The Green Mile
For me, this past week began with COVID-19 Symptoms, climaxed with an attack on the US Capitol, and ended with me in an ER room being checked out because of COVID-19. It’s been a long week…it’s been a long year.
On Wednesday, when I heard of the events in D.C., I called a friend and we talked about all that was happening. I was frustrated, angry, and in disbelief. (No, I am not happy with the outcome of the November 3 election, but storming the US Capitol is no way to solve anything.) We talked about the Capitol, the GA Senate election, President Trump, President-Elect Biden, ourselves, and more. In our conversation, I finally said that I’m tired; my friend echoed this sentiment. I’m tired of seeing the division and hate. I’m tired of the rhetoric and the ignorance. I’m tired of the worry and pain. I’m tired of…well…that’s just it. I’m tired.
As I have pondered this, I have been reminded that being tired of this world is a good thing. This world and its system is not my home or hope. It is but a stop on the Disciple’s Journey. I am learning to walk by faith, and I am pursuing my goal, which is Jesus Christ (Phil. 3.12-14). This world is going to beat us down and we will feel needy and oppressed. The Psalmist declared as much in Psalm 40.17: I am oppressed and needy. Yet, the Psalmist also wrote, may the Lord think of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.
And there, dear friend, is our hope. The God of the universe, who is “very great; clothed with majesty and splendor” (Psalm 105.1). This God is our help and deliverer and he does not delay. He is our hope and he is the one we look to for strength and encouragement and salvation. If we’re tired, we’re in a good place, as we are being reminded of the Kingdom to come. Paul wrote that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Romans 8.18). So, take heart. Better days are head. Our Lord is in control and he is at work in this very moment. He moves in mysterious ways, but ways that are only mysterious to us and not to him.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
-“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper
On the Journey,