World Conference 2023

The God Out Ahead

18 May 2023

This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

[Excerpt from A Brightness of Hope: A Study of the Christian Doctrine of Hope, 1996, by Geoffrey F. Spencer]

If we must think of God in spatial terms, it might be better not to think of God “up there” but “out there ahead.” Hope enables us to affirm that we cannot picture the future only in terms of the situations, tensions, burdens, hostilities, and threats that characterize our present striving. Rather, we must take seriously into account the emergence of the new—new insights, new graces of life, new responses. This is, in fact, the principle of resurrection—the daily rising up of life from death—which challenges the old dogma that “there is nothing new under the sun” and affirms that, in Christ, “all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

My own experience tends to confirm the unpredictable yet promising newness of the future. In the first place, nothing in my life has turned out the way I once thought it would—or planned. I no longer live where I expected to live, do what I expected to do, and aim for what I once aimed. It would be impossible to project my life’s span by a mere extension of what I once was. Virtually everything transpired differently, except, I believe, my fundamental orientation of hope. There is no reason for me to believe that my personal future yet to be lived out will be any different. I must hold myself open to whatever surprising turns the future may hold, with the confidence that the God who has brought me to this point is also the God who calls me into that future.

In the second place, if at any point in my growing years I had been asked to project the future, my imagination would have proved far too modest. I was ordained as a young man in a small group renting an unpretentious public hall to serve a congregation that very few people had ever heard of. If I had been told then that within the span of a few years I would be an Australian living in the United States, visiting the British Isles to meet Africans inquiring about the future church, I would have thought that somebody’s imagination had run riot. Yet my story is only typical of countless others and of the church as a whole. It is quite probable that our imagination, as we endeavor to picture the oncoming future, is more likely to be too timid than too bold. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that the future yet to unfold will be any different.

Prayer Phrase

Today, how will I courageously walk with Jesus, the peaceful One?

Spiritual Practice

Discerning Future Leadership

Pray: Prayerfully explore the church’s current situation and the world in which leadership will occur. Consider the question from your context while also being mindful of the church’s global context. What are the most significant situations, opportunities, or challenges that a prophetic leader will need to address? 

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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