Sermon title: LOOKING AHEAD WITH 2020 VISION
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 29, 2019
As the year draws to an end,
and a new year approaches,
people are making plans for the coming year.
And a key element of planning
is to take into consideration what the future holds.
Will next year’s circumstances be the same as this year,
or will things be different?
Are there opportunities to take advantages of?
Are there dangers that need to be faced?
Proverbs 22:3 tells us,
Sensible people foresee trouble
and hide from it,
but gullible people go ahead
and suffer the consequence.
Planning ahead is important.
And in order to plan effectively,
we need to see clearly what lies ahead.
Politicians try to evaluate the changing political climate
before laying out their campaign strategy.
Investors try to foresee what the financial climate will be like
when planning out their investment strategy
for the coming year.
And ordinary individuals
need to consider what lies ahead
when making plans.
Will my job be secure?
Or, are there layoffs around the corner?
Will the company I work for stay in business?
Will my health hold up?
Even retired people need to consider things like,
can I keep coping with my home’s stairs and yard work,
or do I need to move to a ground floor rental unit?
The New Testament writer James reminds us that,
when we plan ahead for the future
we need to do it looking to the Lord
rather than with a boastful reliance on ourselves.
Our best laid plans go nowhere
without the Lord’s blessing.
At James 4:13, he wrote,
13 Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city,
spend a year there, carry on business,
and make a profit.”
14 You do not even know what will happen tomorrow!
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while
and then vanishes.
15 Instead, you ought to say,
“If the Lord is willing,
we will live and do this or that.”
So, we need to make plans
that will have the Lord’s blessing.
And, in order to plan,
we also need to see clearly.
That’s why, with the year 2020 about to dawn,
are talking about “20-20 vision.”
They use the optometrist’s terminology for perfect eyesight,
when discussing how businesses,
governments, churches and individuals
can see clearly what lies ahead.
But, as Christians, we need to go beyond
just seeing literally with our physical eyes,
and also see spiritually with spiritual insight,
in order to really have 20-20 vision.
That can completely change what we see around us.
If we open our Bibles to 2nd Kings, Chapter 6,
we’ll see an outstanding example of that.
We may see obstacles all around us—
obstacles that appear insurmountable.
But if we open our eyes spiritually,
we can see how we can overcome those obstacles.
In 2nd Kings, Chapter 6,
we read about the prophet Elisha.
The prophet Elisha was the nation of Israel’s secret weapon
in their battles against the enemy Arameans.
Whenever the Aramean king and his generals
planned an attack against Israel,
God told Elisha what their plans were,
and Elisha told the king of Israel.
According to 2nd Kings 6:12,
one of the chief officers of the Arameanstold his leader,
“Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel,
tells the king of Israel
the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
So, Israel was ready,
and knew just what to do.
When the king of the Arameans had found out
that Elisha was Israel’s secret weapon,
he sent a large army to capture Elisha.
And the young man who served as Elisha’s servant
got up in the morning to find
himself and his master surrounded by the enemy.
So, in 2nd Kings 6, beginning with Verse 15, we read,
15 When the servant of the man of God got up
and went out early the next morning,
an army with horses and chariots
had surrounded the city.
“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?”
the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered.
“Those who are with us
are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed,
“Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills
full of horses and chariots of fire
all around Elisha.
Elisha and his young servant were unarmed
and all alone in the face of their enemy’s army.
But eyes of spiritual discernment
revealed that they were protected
by a much larger military force:
angelic chariots of fire
covering the surrounding hills.
When we plan ahead,
we need to take into consideration,
not only the factors we can see with our eyes,
but also the unseen hand of the Lord.
Then we can make decisions, trusting in him, as Elisha did.
By the way—had you ever read that account about Elisha,
before we looked at it this morning?
There’s a lot more to the story
that’s truly upbuilding and faith-strengthening.
And you’ll be blessed
if you go back to the book of 2nd Kings
and read it on your own,
or listen to it in an audio Bible.
The written Word of God exists,
not only to for us to hear portions read at church,
but also for us to read it individually at home.
Before we had televisions and electronic screens to distract us,
it was common for families in this country
to sit down together in the evening
and read the Bible aloud—
by the light of the fireplaceor by candle light
and later by gas or electric lights,
when those came along.
There are wonderful blessings
for those who still do that.
I’m NOT going to ask for a show of hands this morning,
but I know of a church
where the pastor asked
people to raise their hands
if they had read the Bible through
from cover to cover.
There were close to 100 people in that church that morning,
but only 1 or 2 hands went up.
One woman who had never read the Bible on her own
was moved by that challenge,
and went on to read it for herself.
And she was wonderfully blessed
with a closer walk with God
as a result.
So, as you plan your life for the year 2020,
you may want to prioritize personal Bible reading.
The Bible helps us see clearly
how to plan all other things.
Psalm 119:105 says,
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.”
You could start off with the Gospels in the New Testament.
Or, start off with Genesis at the beginning of the Bible.
Or, to get your feet wet,
you could start by reading the portions we cover
at our Wednesday evening Bible study,
even if you can’t be there yourself to join us.
I’ll be sure to post on our IBC-316 Family
church discussion page on Facebook
the portions we’ll be covering each week,
when the study resumes on January 8th.
Reading God’s Word will help you
with everything else you plan and do.
Churches, too, need to think ahead, and plan ahead.
At Luke 14:28, our Lord Jesus said,
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.
Won’t you first sit down
and estimate the cost
to see if you have enough money to complete it?
29 For if you lay the foundation
and are not able to finish it,
everyone who sees it will ridicule you,
‘This person began to build
and wasn’t able to finish.’
I know of a church in another town that actually did this.
They started construction of a new church building,
but were only able to complete the foundation—
not the rest of the building.
So, they put a roof on, right over the basement,
and that became their new building.
Twenty years later, they were still meeting
in that basement with a roof over it.
Happily, Immanuel Baptist Church
has a good deal of money in the bank.
And we’re not faced with the challenge
of erecting a new church building from the ground up.
But, we do face challenges with repair
of this hundred-year-old building
that has served us so well for generations.
A lot of work has been done over the past year,
with beautiful results.
The walls inside the sanctuary,
the east stairwell,
a new roof,
and floor-to-ceiling repairs and updates in the kitchen
including new cabinets and a refrigerator
have all improved the look and function
of this building
that serves as the house of the Lordfor us.
But a number of challenges remain.
Some can be put off,
but some force themselves upon us,
whether we’re ready or not.
I’m sure everyone’s noticed the signs and yellow tape
keeping cars and people
away from the base of the west tower.
Those precautions are in place
to prevent personal injury
or damage to automobiles
from falling debris,
directly below some visible deterioration
at the top of the tower.
The crumbling of material
will only get worse this winter
as water, snow and ice get in there,
and temperature swings between night and day
cause alternate freezing and thawing.
It may be expensive to repair,
but they say “a stitch in time saves nine,”
so it will likely be less expensive
to fix it sooner rather than later
after the damage spreads.
Another challenge we need to face,
as we plan for 2020,
involves the lack of parking space.
This is a real challenge, that requires prayer,
because it doesn’t have an obvious solution.
Our average attendance has risen
from the teens to around 30,
and we hope to continue that growth.
There’s still plenty of room in the sanctuary,
but the parking lot is another story.
We need a miracle.
A nice miracle would be for a benefactor
to buy one of the homes beside us or behind us,
level the building,
and give us an auxiliary parking lot.
That would be a BIG miracle.
On a smaller scale,
and to meet immediate needs,
we might be able to prevail on one of the neighbors
who have a lot of extra space on their property
to allow a handful of us
to park there on Sunday morning,
to free-up space in our lot for visitors.
Maybe a small financial incentive
would induce the owner of 201 Whitman Street next door
to let a few of us park
in the space on either side of their garage.
Or, maybe a small monthly payment
would persuade the owner of 205 Whitman Street,
the house just beyond that,
to let 3 or 4 of us park in their front parking space.
Either one of those solutions
would take the immediate pressure off
the parking situation, for a while, at least.
Our parking lot is back-to-back with 3 homes on Eugenia St.,
and the back fence could be opened,
so, there are other possibilities, too.
And maybe possibilities we haven’t thought of.
So, if any of us have suggestions,
we should bring our thoughts to the leadership.
Maybe your suggestion
will be the one that alleviates the parking problem.
In any case, there are several passages in the Proverbs
that speak of the advantage
of bringing many people into the discussion.
For example, Proverbs 15:22 says,
plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed.”
And, of course, the best counselor of all is the Lord.
When we take our plans to the Lord in prayer—
or take him our problems that we don’t have a plan for—
we can be confident
that he already has the solution
and the perfect plan of action for us.
We all face up’s and down’s in this world,
just as ancient Israel did
when the prophet Jeremiah wrote his 29th Chapter.
The land of Israel was left empty,
because most of the population
was taken captive to Babylon,
while the rest fled as refugees to Egypt.
Who could make plans for the future
in the middle of a mess like that?
But at Jeremiah 29:11 God told the prophet
that he had plans for the nation—
plans for good things to come.
“For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
That’s certainly true here at Immanuel Baptist Church, too.
I recall Sunday mornings a couple of years ago
when I was at the pulpit and Natalie was at the organ,
and there were just 10 or 12 people in the pews.
But the Lord has blessed the church with growth since then,
and with growing zeal
to reach out with the Gospel message
and to honor the Lord with improvements in this building.
Our God has plans for us—
plans that include blessings here on this earth
and blessings with him in heaven for eternity.
As we read at Proverbs 16:3,
“Ask the LORD to bless your plans,
and you will be successful in carrying them out.”