Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Cliff Hangers
Years ago television was a primary form of family entertainment. One might say that it still is but I would challenge that notion. With the advent of the internet and the sheer number of devices in the average home that can access it, families may spend a lot of time in front of a screen, but not often together. Back in the dark ages, when I was a kid there was usually only one screen in the average home and it belonged to the television. Families would gather around it in the evening and sift through the TV Guide to agree on a program to watch together. I’m not sure coming to that kind of consensus would be possible for many families today. Prior to cable, and I know I am dating myself here, there were likely less than five or ten programs to choose from depending on how many stations your particular antenna could gather signals from. Because there were so few choices, the networks worked hard to have the best programming so they could get the highest viewership according to the almighty Nielsen Ratings.
One of the ways programmers would attempt to keep and gain viewer’s interest in a particular program was the use of the cliff hanger. A cliff hanger was the final scene of a show where you were given just enough information about what was going to take place during the next week’s episode that you would be sure to ‘tune in’ and find out, instead of choosing another network. On the one hand cliff hangers were great because they maintained interest. Sometimes there would be entire ‘water cooler conversations’ in workplaces around the country discussing what might be getting ready to happen in the upcoming week on a show. On the other hand, they could leave a person almost feeling a sense of anxiety about what might be getting ready to happen to a favorite character.
These days the use of cliff hangers has diminished. With the ability to binge watch a series on video services like Hulu or Netflix our wait to find out what happened next has been dramatically reduced from a full seven days to mere minutes. Now it takes no more than the amount of time required to get a cold drink and ‘click’ next episode. The interesting thing is, cliff hangers were never really in question…the scripts had been written before the new season even began. We were just finding out week by week what the writers, directors and producers had known all along.
Life can be like that too. Things happen that we aren’t sure about and we tend to become anxious. We experience things regularly that induce us to try and foresee the results of ahead of time so we can position ourselves to mitigate the difficulty we are certain lurks just around the corner. We think that it is all happening in real time and our future is dependent completely on the decisions we make today. To some degree that is true. On some levels we can make adjustments in what happens tomorrow by what we do today. My wife and I save money today so that we can have a comfortable retirement in the future. That’s wise, but it does not guarantee that we will live out a comfortable retirement. It makes it possible, and it is what we should do, but it does not make any other outcome impossible. We should do things like purchase insurance today to mitigate a risk of exposure later. We should plan for possibilities in the future so we don’t find that in failing to plan we have planned to fail. What we should not do is think that our actions today are ensuring a particular result tomorrow. There is One who is in ultimate control but is isn’t me…and it isn’t you.
I am not trying to lay out an entirety of theology here but as I have pondered these things several scriptures that speak to God’s overarching control have stood out to me. Proverbs 19:21 says: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. If we were totally in control of what takes place in this old world, it would be out of control. As innately selfish beings we would never be able to choose cohesively enough to see one master plan evolve from all of our choices strung together. Rather as this scripture says, it is the purpose of the Lord that will remain when all is said and done. Proverbs 16:9 one of my favorites says that We make our plans but the Lord orders our steps. Make no mistake, free will is ours as God has ordained. In His Sovereignty He chose it to be that way. Our choices matter, the consequences of them bear that out, but isn’t it good to know that our loving God absolutely has a will for our lives and is in control of so many more things than we are. We can use ours to reject Him, but aside from that, we can never make choices that are able to dislodge His overall will from its eternal position. Isaiah 14:24 says: The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. Farther on in chapter 45:7 Isaiah writes: I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.
In Revelation 22:13 it is recorded that Jesus told the Apostle John, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. I could speak about this verse far too long for this podcast, but there is an important understanding I think we need to see. What we would call adjectives in this verse are capitalized. In this context then they are not adjectives, but are proper names of Christ. In other words, Jesus is not stating He was in the beginning, He is saying the Beginning is in Him. He is not saying He will be in the end; He is saying the End is in Him. He is the Eternal God. What I am trying to point out is that there has never been anything that has ever happened in our lives, and nothing will ever take place that Jesus has not already considered…literally from an eternal vantage point. We may be finding out the course of our lives in a day by day fashion but God says that He knew about all of our days, and everything that would take place in them, before even one of them had begun (Psalm 139:16)
Cliff hangers always made television programs more exciting. Because we always knew in the back of our minds that it would all turn out the way it should in the end, they had us on the edge of our seats but not at the end of our rope. Unknowns in life have the same potential. We can see them as being fodder for worry and concern…or we can allow them to make life exciting. With God in charge of all of the things outside our control and us making wise godly choices about the things we do have sway over…in the end it will all turn out the way it should. Like the writers, directors and producers, God has always known how it was going to turn out. He has promised it will be for our good if we love Him and allow His purposes to reign supreme in our lives. (Rom 8:28) Each new day is an opportunity for us to ‘tune in’ and see what happens next.
So now, knowing nothing can take place in your life that is a cliff hanger in God’s eyes, trust Him because He is the Beginning and the End and He loves you more than you could imagine…and Go be Awesome!