Do you know what 2020 will bring? Of course not: no one can foretell the future. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14), let alone the whole coming year.
On the other hand, God does know. “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:9–10).
Human vision of things to come is limited. We scurry about our affairs not suspecting what hidden crisis awaits. Remember the December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami? Nearly a quarter of a million people perished in mere hours. Many were tourists. They expected to enjoy a relaxing vacation. But alas.
To survive and flourish in this life—and to be ready for the life to come—calls for readiness.
This morning at my desk I heard a muffled blustering sound. It was dozens of birds beating their wings at once, fleeing the bird feeder outside my window.
I peered out into the pale winter sunshine. A sinister black shadow passed over the ground: a hawk or an eagle lurked overhead. No wonder the smaller birds dispersed: they practically have eyes in the back of their heads. They survive because they are alert, always ready to take evasive action and find a safer location.
Humans are often less canny. “For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them” (Eccl. 9:12).
At the end of one year and the beginning of another, people love to offer impressions about possible future trends. What will technology bring? What fashions will emerge? How about trends in marketing? In the stock market? And what about trends in the church? You can read one set of projections in the online journal Influence (go to https://influencemagazine.com/en/Practice/Four-Trends-That-Will-Impact-the-Church-in-2020). There you will read about “digital Babylon,” people (especially non-Christians) at odds with each other, people (especially younger Christians) reaching out and connecting with others, and the need for Christian leaders. The article concludes: “The Church of 2020 needs intergenerational leaders to shepherd God’s people into the future.”
It is certainly true that the church needs “intergenerational leaders,” but, as the apostle Paul knew, it always does. It is good, every year, to pray for good and godly leaders to emerge, and for God to strengthen church leaders whom he has already raised up. But since we don’t know the particulars of the future, we do well to focus on the one who does know: God the Father, Son, and Spirit. “For the Scripture says,” regardless of what happens, that “everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 10:11).
Dr. Bob Yarbrough is Professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary.