Sermon title:  LOOKING AHEAD WITH 2020 VISION

Philippians 3:8-21

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?

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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.

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And, in order to plan,

we also need to see clearly.

 

That’s why, with the year 2020 about to dawn,

planners everywhere

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,

for centuries,

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.

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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,

30 saying,

‘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.

 

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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,

 

“Without consultation,

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.

He said,

“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.”