Welcome to 2021! So many people say I am so glad to say goodbye to 2020 with a pandemic. But I do need to ask you very candidly, do we have any assurance that 2021 is going to be better? We don't know that; do we? Frankly, we have no idea what's going to happen. We could face brand-new troubles, personally and nationally, that none of us are able to predict. How will we cope?
I'm going to introduce you to two words. You don't even have to write them down, though you can if you wish. And I want those words to guide you as we think about the unknown future. The first word comes to us from Joshua 3 (verses 3-4). Here's what happens. God is saying to the nation of Israel, "now you have not traveled this way before." How do you face that unknown future and in the very next verse, God says, "I want you to consecrate yourselves." What does it mean to "consecrate" yourself? It means to set yourself apart for God. As a matter of fact, Jesus even did this when He said, "I sanctify myself." In other words, He was affirming the fact that He was set apart for God and for God's purposes. Just the other day I was reading in my devotions from the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, where the Bible says, "Lay aside every weight and the sin which easily entangles us." And God really spoke to me about some weights in my own life, even things that may not be sinful, but they are hindrances. They stand in the way of my worship and my fellowship with God. Ask yourself that question. What does it mean for us to get rid of sin--to consecrate ourselves to God? That's what the Lord told Joshua that the people should do because they were travelling a way they had never been before.
But there's a second related word that I want to introduce you to. At least the word sounds the same, and that is to "concentrate"--to concentrate means to focus. Now, in that passage of Scripture, God says the Ark is going to go ahead of you 2,000 cubits--a cubit is more than a foot. That means 3000 feet, which is a half mile--just a bit more than a half mile. Why? Because God says. "As you go across the path that you've never gone before, I want you to look at the presence of God that the ark represents." And that's what you and I have to do. We need to look beyond the present to the future and there's no passage of Scripture that helps us do that more than the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews and I was going to read the passage, but I'm going to invite you to read it on your own. As you get to the end of the passage, it says this: "we have fled for refuge and we have a hope that is sure and steadfast that goes behind the veil where Jesus is as our fore-runner." That's a summary of what he says.
Let's not miss the point. 2021 is coming, yes, but Jesus says--I've already been there. I'm ahead of you. I'm waiting for you here in heaven and the hope that you have lies beyond this world, it lies beyond the presidential election that we had last year, it lies beyond the pandemic, it lies beyond all of the sorrow that this world engulfs and takes, oftentimes, so much time to overcome. You and I know what we're talking about here. So we look to Christ. Let me review those words again. First of all the word "consecrate." Let us set ourselves apart for God and then "concentrate" on the future--on the victory of Jesus. And I end with the words of Corrie ten Boom who said this, "we entrust an unknown future into the hands of a known God." And that's how we enter 2021.