In the last few years economic turmoil, natural disasters and an ongoing wave of war, conflict and uncertainty have shattered our confidence in the future. Many of us laughed at the end times gurus who thought that the world would end on May 21st but if we are honest, deep within us was an uncertainty about the future that made us wonder if they could be right.
What we believe about the future toward which God is leading us will greatly impact our ability to both prepare for the future here on earth and participate in God’s redeeming activity. For most of us the future we dream of is shaped, consciously or unconsciously, by a culture that tells us success and prosperity will follow us all the days of our lives.
Tough economic times and natural disasters have brought that dream into question but have not replaced it with a compelling and gratifying new vision. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that without a vision the people perish, and I think it is true. Not only are we in danger of perishing, but many others in our world are already perishing because of our limited understanding of the future and particularly of a vision of world made new in which all are provided for that God wants us to be a part of.
What we need more than anything else to prepare us for the future is a new and compelling vision of God’s shalom world that resounds in our hearts and reverberates out in our actions throughout the world. If Christianity is to be a vibrant and life giving part of the future of our world, its vision of a new world of wholeness and abundance must become the place of security from which we explore and understand all of life. And at the centre of that vision must be a vision of a God of love whose heart aches for the brokenness of our lives and the devastation of our hurting world.
This, as many of you know this has become the central passion of my life and is the central theme of my bookShalom and the Wholeness of God. And I think that this vision which is so central to the gospel message cannot be stated too often. Our vision of the future needs to be communicated as though it were the current reality otherwise it never has a hope of coming into being. We need to be constantly reminded that the call of God’s kingdom for all disciples of Christ is to bring the wholeness and abundance of life promised in God’s shalom vision, into the lives of all human beings and indeed into all aspects of God’s world.
It was this kind of “abundant life” which Christ lived and demonstrated through all his actions. It is also demonstrated through the lives of the early disciples and their call to be a countercultural community representing God’s Kingdom purposes to the world. This vision culminates in the wonderful imagery of the Revelation of John where we are again given a vision of a world in which shalom is fully present – a world in which all things are restored and reconciled through Christ.
Our journey toward the shalom of God must include our own personal turning toward God when we kneel at the foot of the Cross, seek forgiveness for our sins and give our lives to be followers of Christ. This however is not a single experience that brings us instantaneously into the ways of God. Self-centredness does not automatically disappear when we become followers of Christ. Educating ourselves into God’s perspectives really does take a lifetime. It involves a deliberate effort to lay down our self centred lives daily, confront our brokenness and make active decisions to embrace God’s ways. Only then can we walk with Christ into the freedom of a life lived for the good of all not just for ourselves.
Our vision of the future should be one in which we see ourselves as instruments of God’s shalom world, growing into wholeness in our individual lives and reaching our with compassion and love that brings that same wholeness into the lives of others.
We gain hope and inspiration whenever we catch glimpses of God’s shalom world breaking into ours. And there are so many of these glimpses in our world today. We see them as strangers reach out to help those whose lives have been devastated by disaster. We see them as people give up the hope of personal wealth and prestige to share their resources through local networks and small business creation. And we see them in every fight for justice and freedom that are going on all over our world.
I love God’s vision for the future because it is the only one that gives hope and provides stability in the midst of an uncertain and insecure world.