How good are you at predicting the future?
That might seem like a strange question at first, but we all do, in fact, predict the future. We might not be 100% certain how things in the future will turn out, but every day, we predict how things will go.
Most of what we base these predictions on is pattern recognition. We observe something happening over and over, and we then draw conclusions. We often use observation, experience, or even scientific reason to make our predictions. Other times, though, we just make predictions based on our hope of what will happen. It’s a wish or a desire. We might not predict it because we have evidence to support our claim, but instead, because we just want it to happen.
Sometimes we make predictions based on both of these things, and oftentimes it becomes hard to tell the difference. For instance, if I make a statement like, “I predict that the Cleveland Browns will win the Super Bowl this coming year,” you might look at the team’s record for the last 20 years and posit that there is no way that that is happening. Or you might look at how the Browns have drafted in the offseason and their play last year and say, “OK, maybe.” Or you might deduce that because I am originally from Northeast Ohio, I am irrationally biased to want the Browns to win.
All of those responses would be reasonable considerations in evaluating my Super Bowl predictions. And similar responses would be reasonable when considering other people’s predictions about the future.
But when you make a prediction about the future, do you evaluate why you have made it? Because the fact of the matter is that every day, you are making a prediction about the future.
Now, you may be saying, “Wait a minute—hold on—I’m not Nostradamus or Miss Cleo. I don’t actively make predictions about the future!” But I would disagree with that line of thinking, because every day, with your actions, you predict what the future will hold for you. And that is because, your actions determine your future.
Allow me to clarify: when I say that your actions determine your future, what I do not mean is that because you choose to do something, your future will necessarily turn out how you hope it will. We all know that that is not necessarily true. Anyone who has lived enough life knows that there are disruptions that can derail us at any turn. As a matter of fact, if you wanted a fail-safe prediction of the future, to predict that disruptions will happen for each and every one of us would be a pretty safe prognostication.
So it’s not likely that we will know how the details of every situation will play out in life. But it is the case that every day, with our actions—even in the face of disruption—we predict what our future will be. And I would say to you that that action, which points to our prediction of the future, is based on hope.
The difference between me predicting the outcome of the Browns season verses the outcome of my own life is that I don’t play on the Browns. (If I did, I wouldn’t be as confident of them winning the Super Bowl.) But because I don’t play on the team, I don’t get to choose or even act in a substantial way that will shape how the outcome will occur.
But in my life, I do get to act in a way that helps to determine how my life will turn out.
Think about this: how many times have you heard of a story of someone who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds in order to achieve a better way of being? In the age of globalization, we hear these stories regularly, right? Now, in any of those stories, was there luck along the way? Or did someone get a break? Sure. But as the old golf adage goes, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” In other words, good fortune is something that one can cultivate over time, often even in the midst of terrible circumstances.
In the first letter of John, chapter 5, we see this line of thinking from the author. John tells us that there is a way to predict our future. And the way that we can do so is a mix of hope and action.
John believes a particular prediction about the future: God will be victorious in conquering the ills of the world. John believes this prediction because his observation and experience attest to it. He has seen Jesus crucified and die, and then—against what is seemingly rational—he witnesses Jesus resurrected from the dead.
And based on what Jesus has taught, John believes that victory over death is just the beginning; it is the jump-off point for the victorious conquering of all evil in the cosmos.
So how is this victory going to happen? By the power of God—as embodied by you and me. Victory that conquers the world comes about, according to John, by our faith.
So what, then, is conquering faith? The biblical scholar William Barclay claims that John himself defines it this way:
“It is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. That is to say, the conquering faith is belief in the Incarnation. Why should that be so important and so victory giving? If we believe in the Incarnation, it means that we believe that in Jesus Christ, God entered the world and took our human life upon Himself.
“If God did that, it means that God cared enough for [humanity] to lay aside His glory and to take upon God’s-self the limitations of humanity, which is an unimaginable sacrifice and the act of a love which passes human understanding.
“If God did that, it means that God shares in all the manifold activities of human life, and knows the many and varied trials and temptations and sorrows of this life and of this world. It means that God is involved in the human situation.
“It means that everything that happens to us is fully understood by God; It means that God is in this business of living along with us. Faith in the incarnation is the conviction that God shares and God cares.”
But I think even more than that, faith in Christ is a choice we make in grace. When we have faith that God keeps God’s promises, we make a choice to choose hope. We make a choice to proclaim with our actions that we believe that the future can and will be better. We make a choice to try and do the right thing.
John tells us that the right choice—more accurately, the righteous choice—is to choose to love people and to choose to love God. That choice isn’t always easy, but over time, the more we practice it, the easier it becomes and the better our fortunes seem to be in being able to carry out such actions. And this is how we are called to treat all people.
John says that God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings shouldn’t be burdensome for us because we love God.
Have you ever noticed that when you love someone, doing something that is difficult often isn’t as burdensome?
It reminds me of a famous sermon illustration about a boy who would walk to school. Every day, he would carry a smaller boy who was disabled and unable to walk on his back. The journey was a significant distance. One day, a stranger asked the boy, “Do you carry him to school every day?
“Yes,” he answered.
“That’s a heavy burden for you to carry,” replied the stranger.
“He’s not a burden,” the boy replied, “he’s my brother.”
When John was predicting the future, he was actually just conveying the Good News of Jesus—that victory over evil is coming, and that in God, it will come about through us as we carry each other, despite our limitations, into future that we so desperately long for.
So let me ask you again: how good are you at predicting the future?
Because in the love of Jesus, you may be better than you think.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. How do you think your daily actions impact your future?
2. How do you see your love of others acting as a redemptive force in the world?
3. What are your predictions for your future?