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Defining the Future by J.John

Defining the Future by J.John

The following is an edited version of J.John’s talk that he gave as part of this year’s CRT Retailers & Suppliers Retreat.

It was Woody Allen who said, ‘If you want to make God laugh tell him your future plans.’ Whilst it seldom brings what we expect, it is still wise to consider the future. Our starting point is that God is God and he’s not applying for the job. If we really believe that and hang onto that truth, it resolves everything. What we have to ask ourselves at the outset is: Do I trust God? 

2 Tim 4:13 reads, ‘When you come, bring my coat, the books too, and especially the ones made of parchment.’

The first point from this text is: Be warm, make sure you wear a coat! Look after yourself, be comfortable, don’t be cold, put the heating on in the bookshop! Always have the kettle on. Look after yourself, your health, your wellbeing. ‘Mary had a little lamb, it was given to her to keep; but then it joined the church and it died from lack of sleep!’ Consider the safety instructions given on an aeroplane: you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else.

In John 17:4 Jesus says, ‘I brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.’ Did he? Did he really? Surely there were many more people he could have healed; many more he could have brought to know the truth? There was so much more he could have done. The Lord could have started when he was 18 (like most YWAMers!). If he had, he could have had more years in ministry and left the church in better shape when he ‘went up’. But, if you consider that his job was to die on a cross and to rise from the dead in order to give us redemption, deliverance and salvation, then Jesus did complete the work the Father gave him to do.

The thing to realise is that God doesn’t expect us to do everything. Many of us in ministry have got so many irons in the fire we’ve actually put the fire out. Here’s a motto that’s worth repeating: ‘If your output exceeds your input, then your upkeep will be your downfall.’

Sometimes, caring for yourself may mean you will have to step back and say no. Do you think the following statement is true? ‘We only have time to do the will of God.’ The right answer is yes! Therefore, if we keep saying we don’t have enough time, we have to draw one of two conclusions: either we’re doing things that aren’t the will of God or, if they are the will of God then we shouldn’t be doing them, someone else should. Keep this in mind: we only have enough time to do the will of God.

The second point from the Timothy verse is: Bring my books! Spurgeon, commenting on this passage, said this: ‘St Paul – he’s inspired yet he wants books. He’s been preaching 30 years and yet he wants books. He’s seen the Lord yet he wants books. He’s had a wider experience than most people yet he wants books. He’s been caught up to heaven and heard things it is unlawful to utter yet he wants books. He has written the major part of the New Testament yet he wants books.’ (And, by the way, his parchments were his notebooks, so make sure you sell notebooks!) In defining the future, remember you’ve been entrusted with a call to be a resource to equip the Church and extend the kingdom of Christ. Your contribution to  equipping the Church and extending the kingdom is immense. Never de-value what you do. In order to navigate the way forward you need to ask, ‘How can I take this incredible calling and keep in step with the Spirit – for a time such as this?’

I want to encourage you to make prayer a priority.

The story goes that there was a church in America that had a building next to it which was being renovated as a night club. The church was utterly disturbed and deeply distressed by this. The bar would be open all through the day, and the club all night. So they held special prayer meetings to pray for the closure of these new premises. Within days, after several prayer meetings, lightning struck and the building burned down. The owner of the night club sued the church for causing the fire and the  lightning and they ended up in court. As he began proceedings, the judge said it was the most difficult case he’d ever had to deal with in his life: he had a nightclub owner who believed God answers prayer, and a church who didn’t! 

William Temple said that when we pray, coincidences happen; and when we don’t, they don’t. So pray wherever you are, pray around your area. Go on prayer walks. Pray in the kingdom, for oppression to lift, for obstructions to be removed, for blessing. Use the model of the Jabez prayer: ‘”Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request’ (1 Chronicles 4:10). Pray those things and pray in the kingdom, pray in blessing, pray for your influence to widen and widen. We’re on God’s side and God is with us. So let’s step into that blessing and be positive.

Being negative can have a detrimental affect on our thinking, our attitudes and our  actions. If someone asks how are you doing, do you reply, ‘So, so… under the circumstances’? What are you doing under the circumstances?! Circumstances are like a mattress. If you lie on top of them it’s nice and comfortable but if you lie underneath, you suffocate! Don’t say, ‘I’m alright under here,’ get out of there!

When David faced Goliath, he could have reacted one of two ways: ‘Oh no, he’s really big, I want to run away.’ Or, ‘He’s really big, how can I miss?!’ Step up! Be more prayerful.

If you’re a bookshop manager or owner, I encourage you to get there half an hour early to pray. Determine to pray in the store, the warehouse, around the area, around the streets. Pray for blessing, for influence, for God’s hand to be on you, for God to multiply. Tell him, ‘I’m not happy with this and this and this. Come on, Lord!’ Wrap yourselves in his armour. Don’t go to work naked! (Better still, don’t take it off the night before…) Put on the belt of truth, the good news of peace on your feet, the  breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation. Say to yourself, ‘I’ve been entrusted with a call to equip and resource the Church and extend the kingdom and so I’m going to be prayerful, I’m going to be positive, and I’m going to believe that God has put in me everything that is needed and necessary to do His will, His work, in His way and in His time.’ This may include sharing your abundance with others who are struggling. Bless another ministry with some money. If you’ve had a great year, give them a call and ask what they need, then help them out.

Remember, it’s about the kingdom, it’s about Jesus.

Be encouraged.

As Jabez did, pray: bless me indeed, widen my territory, widen our influence.

So, I’m going to face the future. I don’t know what it will hold but I know who holds the future. And I will remember that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. Humanly speaking it is impossible but with God all things are possible.

A Prayer

God, we’re grateful for your goodness and grace that abounds in our lives. We’re grateful for the call you have given each of us, to be guardians and stewards of not just resources but pearls and gems and jewels to equip your Church, to extend your  kingdom, to enrich your people, to illuminate the minds and hearts of those who are still in the dark. We carry the truth, we carry the light in the resources we have; and we say, ‘Bless us, Lord.’ Some of us are struggling, with health issues, family and financial concerns. We need the warmth of your presence and the warmth of community.

We speak well-being, health and wholeness in body, mind and spirit.
Provision – bless us indeed.
Widen our territory, our influence. Where we haven’t had influence, perhaps with other churches, widen it.
Surprise us.
May your hand be upon us, with us, in us.
Protect us from harm, protect us from evil.
We pray for your blessing on us, the blessing of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The talk was recorded by Matthew Severn of Market Place Books, Kendal and can be heard on David Borg’s YouTube

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