I don’t like not knowing what tomorrow holds, and I bet you don’t either. Seriously, anything could be waiting out there to ambush us. That’s why we worry, isn’t it? The fog that rests over the future is intimidating. We all think we could manage our lives better if we could only get some advanced vetting on exactly what’s waiting for us.
But we can’t, and that’s a good thing. Our inability to know our future is a gift from God that teaches us to trust him. Instead of being a prison that confines us to confusion, it is instead a key that unlocks the shackles of anxiety, leading us to follow Christ away from fretting and into faith.
That’s something Jesus makes clear at the very beginning of the church’s long endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission. Acts is about the early church in the decades after Christ’s ascension, but it starts with the disciples coming to Jesus and asking him to tell them the future. In a bizarre moment of human frailty, the followers of Jesus treat him like a resurrected fortune teller. In Acts 1:6 they “gathered around him and asked, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’”
That sounds like a good question, but it was a thinly veiled attempt to treat God like a divine psychic. The question seemed to be centered on Jesus’ task of ushering in the kingdom. It was really a question about the disciples’ mission to trust their resurrected Lord. In the guise of eschatology, the disciples begin the book of Acts by trying to assert their own agenda, time-table, and vision-statement into the church’s mission. But Jesus won’t allow it. He isn’t fooled by their sudden fascination with end-time events. He knows they’re not wanting to start a Jerusalem prophecy-conference. So, what does Jesus say? He replies, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
Notice what he says to his followers, and see how his commission ruins worry:
First, Jesus calls believers to humbly submit to God.
He says, “It is not for you to know the times or dates…” In other words, “That’s none of your business. That’s not your concern. Know your role.” Worry is our weak attempt to rule our world, a world that is not ours to rule. We are called to face the future knowing that our business is following Christ, not knowing what tomorrow holds.
Second, Jesus calls believers to rest in his own supremacy.
Jesus subtly draws attention to both his distinction from and his dominion over the disciples. Notice what he says and what he doesn’t say. He says, “It is not for you to know.” He does not say, “It is not for us to know.” Jesus’ supremacy is in a second-person plural pronoun. Jesus is not included in the community of the ignorant. It is for him to know, and in following him we’re called to let that be enough.
Third, Jesus calls believers to trust in God’s gracious sovereignty.
Jesus’ reply is both chastening and encouraging. Balanced with the disciples ignorance is the assurance that the times and seasons have indeed been set by the Father’s authority. The future is not open to chance. It isn’t spinning out of control. The Father is in charge of the future his people face.
Fourth, Jesus calls believers to live in the power of God’s presence.
The power to face the future is a result of the Spirit indwelling his people. Jesus says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Strength for tomorrow is not found in knowledge about tomorrow. It’s only found in the Spirit of God. The believer’s life is not fueled by self-sufficiency. It is fueled through a whole-sale reliance on God to meet every need.
Fifth, Jesus calls believers to be obedient to his mission, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Jesus doesn’t allow the disciples’ anxiety about the future to set the agenda for their lives. Their worries about tomorrow don’t get to determine what their tomorrow is all about. It’s about Jesus, making him known, taking his gospel global. When we worry about tomorrow we tend to see the future through the lenses of how our plans and desires might be affected, but Jesus calls his followers to a reassessment of their very reason for living. He gets to decide what our future will be about: We exist for him.
Finally, Jesus calls believers to live their lives in the joy of the triune God.
A life lived in freedom from worry is a life lived in a relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus mentions each Person of the Trinity as being central to the believers’ lives: Trust the sovereign authority of the Father. Live in the infinite power of the Spirit. Go to the world under the command and in the name of the Son. All of life resounds from God and through God and to God, so that he is all in all. Worry minimizes the majesty of God’s greatness. Knowing God as Father, Son, and Spirit, minimizes our worry.
Matthew Henry wrote, “God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.” He was right. The future is governed by a Galilean Jew who beat the death out of death and reigns supreme over the universe. Knowing that he has the future in hand (a hand that is nail-scarred) is enough knowledge for anyone.