Time and Eternity
Facing an Unknown Future
January 1, 2002 - Unspoiled and unsoiled, the new year lies before us—365 days of golden opportunity. We stand at the dividing of two streams; one called "yesterday," and the other, "tomorrow." We know every bend and every turn in the river Yesterday, but the river Tomorrow stretches out into an unknown future.
A Message by Billy Graham
Today, because of what happened last September 11, we are living in a world that is far different from our world of Yesterday. We are living in troubled and difficult times.
And to many people, this new year will bring suffering, sorrow and untold sadness. Many will be called upon to walk through the "valley of the shadow of death."(1) During this new year, they will stand at the grave, blotting hot tears of bereavement as a minister says of a departed loved one, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."(2)
Some people will be maimed by accidents on highways, and others will be victims of cancer or heart attacks. Some may fall victim to the attacks of terrorists, and others will experience financial disaster.
And millions of people, wandering aimlessly in life's struggles, will be filled with inner fears and frustrations and fail to realize their cherished dreams, hopes and ambitions.
These are cold, harsh, depressing facts. But we need to remember that the new year is a venture into the unknown, and we are going to have to rethink our lives. This new year affords us an opportunity to take spiritual inventory of our lives to see if our spiritual resources are sufficient for the needs and demands of the coming days of trial, temptation and sorrow. In the midst of all this, there is but one hope, the hope that Jesus Christ is coming again. Without that hope, we cannot face the future.
First, as we face the new year, we need to have a new relationship with God. It is imperative that we come into the blessed realization that God loves us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background, and that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord and Master of our lives.
The Psalmist David, outwardly religious but inwardly corrupt, committed crimes of adultery and murder. Realizing that a mere profession of religion could not save him, David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."(3) David had walked with God, but he wandered off the path of victorious living. He fell before God's face and said, "O God, cleanse me, make me a new person!"(4) And God forgave him and God cleansed him.
In an hour when the media applaud impurity, when it is the style to be unfaithful to marriage vows, when men and women of many matrimonial ventures are the idols of millions, I believe that down deep there is a heart-hunger for the reality of Christian experience.
Jesus insisted that we become recipients of this experience with God: "Ye must be born again."(5) Jesus, who declared Himself to be the Truth,(6) eliminated forever the possibility of man saving himself by respectability, outward honor or charitable works.
Not until we admit and confess that we are lost, that our entire existence is warped by deep-rooted sins, that our every imagination is continual evil, can we become conscious of the need of the new birth.
The Bible says, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."(7) The regeneration of the individual is much more needed than the revolution of society. For when the individual is regenerated by the grace of God, that power will be felt throughout the society in which that individual moves, and it will have a continuous chain reaction.
Do you want to change the world? Then accept Jesus Christ as your Savior now, at the beginning of this new year, and live a dedicated life for Him.
Second, as we face the new year, we need a new sense of time's importance. One of the most cherished gifts that God gives us is time. Many a person through carelessness and wasting time has seen opportunities slip away. The Bible says, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."(8) Again it says, "[Redeem] the time, because the days are evil."(9)
Time is the dressing room of eternity. In the few fleeting days of life on this planet we are given the opportunity to prepare for eternity, and the Bible says, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation."(10)
We can waste time by idleness and by unprofitable conversations and excessive attachments to worldly amusements. But we can redeem time by employing it wisely, by attending to character-building, by meditating on the greatness of God and on His Word. Let us take time to pray in this new year, to read God's Word in this new year. Let us take time to be pleasant, to witness to Christ, to help the needy, to spend time with our loved ones, to develop a sunny disposition.
On the sundial at All Souls College, Oxford University, at Oxford, England, there is this Latin inscription: "Pereunt et imputantur," which is translated "The hours perish, and are laid to our charge." Someday we must give an account of our time. What are you going to do with the 12 months that lie before you?
Third, as we face the new year, we need a new appraisal of life's values. Books on the market are designed to restore man's lost confidence in himself. "Believe in yourself" is the message of many a modern pulpit.
But a man who is drowning doesn't need faith in himself, he needs a lifesaver. A condemned man walking to the electric chair doesn't need faith in himself, he needs forgiveness. A man lost in the jungle doesn't need faith in himself, he needs to know the way out.
The Bible says, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."(11) If we are to face this new year with faith only in blundering, floundering mankind, then this year is destined to take us to new lows in human suffering and misery. Christ, indeed, is the hope of the world. At this new year let us ask our Father for a new sense of eternal values and live every day with those eternal values in view.
Fourth, as we face the new year, we need a new power. The Bible says, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."(12) The world has never been more ripe for harvest than it is at this very hour. Our nations are undergoing an unprecedented search for purpose and meaning, which God can use for good to turn individuals back to Him in repentance and faith. But we need a new power, a new infilling of the Holy Spirit. If we are to have that power of the Spirit of God, we need to yield our lives unreservedly to Him.
I believe that God's judgment is falling upon our world, and that there is something about what happened on September 11 that is causing people to think about spiritual things. People want to know more about who God is and if He really loves them. Many people are looking for consolation and hope—for the present and for the future—that transcend the moment-by-moment issues they see on TV or hear on the radio. We need to turn to God as never before. You can do that now by giving your life and your heart to Jesus Christ.