by Rick Warren
I suspect that many people—even Christians—are fearful during these times, so I’ve outlined below God’s antidote to fears of the future, based on the sixth verse of the Twenty-Third Psalm.
When David wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” God reminds us of three things:
1) He is watching over us. “Surely goodness will follow....” David is not saying, “Surely only good things are going to happen to me!” Rather, he is saying only goodness will follow. Good things will always come out of whatever happens—even the bad, the evil, and the difficult.
It’s a great promise that God has given to believers: We know that all that happens to us is working for our good—if we love God and are fitting into His plans (Rom. 8:28). If you’re a believer, the Bible says all things are working together for good—not that all things are good, but they are working together for good. There is no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, disaster in the life of a Christian that God can’t ultimately get some good out of.
2) Grace is working in us. When you understand God’s grace and mercy, then you have no need to fear the future. God isn’t trying to get even with you. Jesus has taken the penalty for everything you’ve ever done wrong or will do wrong. He paid for it on the cross. That’s grace and mercy.
Mercy, like goodness, follows us in life. Picture a parent following a little child around picking up after him. God is constantly picking up our messes. Christians go to the future, not with a question mark but with an exclamation point. God will be with you no matter what happens. He will help you out.
God’s goodness will provide and protect. God’s mercy will pardon and forgive. God’s goodness will supply. God’s mercy will soothe. God’s goodness will help. God’s mercy will heal.
Goodness is the fact that God gives us good things in life that we don’t deserve. Mercy means God holds back the condemnation we deserve.
3) Heaven is waiting for us. “... and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That’s one of the most important connections in the Bible. It connects yesterday and today with tomorrow. God says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you through your life, but that’s not the end!” He builds it to a crescendo.
David ends this verse by saying “We’re going to heaven!” Jesus saves the best until last. With God it just keeps getting better and better. The best is yet to come: “We know that our bodies will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands; instead, it will be a home in heaven that will last forever” (2 Cor. 5:1).
How long is forever going to last? Forever! Someday your body is going to die, but you aren’t! You’re going to live forever in one of two places: heaven or hell. They’re both real places. You will spend eternity in one of them. Your body is going to end but that’s not going to be the end of you. We were made to last forever.
Why are Christians the most confident people about the future? “We look forward with confidence to our heavenly bodies. And we are not afraid, but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6,8).
Death, for Christians, is a transfer, a promotion. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. You don’t know how to live until you’re ready to die. Only a fool would go all through life, totally unprepared for something that everybody knows is inevitable.
If you have accepted Christ, then you’re going to go to heaven. You’ll be released from pain, from sorrow, from suffering, from depression, from fear. “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever” (Rev. 21:4).
Doesn’t that make you a little homesick for heaven? If you were to die tonight, are you sure you’d go to heaven? I don’t have an ounce of doubt in my mind that I would. How do I know I’m going to heaven? Jesus says, “My sheep listen to me and they follow me” (John 10).
Are you doing that? Are you listening to what God says to do with your life? Are you following Jesus Christ? Is He your shepherd and your Savior?
If He is, and you’re trying to let him lead your life and trusting Him, then you can say with absolute confidence, “Surely, I know I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
You have two choices in life: You can either face the future as a doubter, expecting the worse—or you can face the future expecting God to be with you, and His goodness and His mercy to follow you, all the days of your life.
It is amazing how much better life gets when you start to actively look for God’s goodness and God’s mercy in every experience. It’ll change your life.
The good shepherd provides protection, provision, peace, providence, companionship (His presence) and paradise. Jesus is all you need.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.
Transcripts of two related sermons by Warren are available at Pastors.com: “When is it right to fight” (from the series, “Strength for stressful times”) and “God’s antidote for dark valleys” (from the series “Stressbusters”). Go to: www.pastors.com/pcom/specials/WarMessage.asp.