The movie series “Back to the Future” reminds us how small things can cause great changes. In the first time travel experiment, Marty McFly meets Doc Brown at Twin Pines Mall. Terrorists meet them also and Marty frantically outruns them as he watches Doc Brown get gunned down and discovers at the same time that time travel is possible as he drives into a farmer’s barn in 1955. They chase him off at gunpoint, and in Marty’s haste to escape, he runs over a pine tree. After Marty figures out how to return to his own time period, he arrives a few minutes before the incident at what is now named Lone Pine Mall. The whole series builds on similar ideas that small causes can have lasting effects on the future. Other shows, such as Doctor Who, deal with similar concepts because manipulating time and changing history can be fun!
Think about it, if you could go back in time and change history, what would you change. Now, here’s the $64,000 question – what effect would that have on the future. We can never know, and, as bad as some things in history might have been, trying to fix the past could make the future worse. While we can’t change history, we can change our present and how people think of us. We can change our future. As Paul talked to the Thessalonians he reminded them that they were making a difference in the world because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
As Paul notes how he prays about the good things the Thessalonians are doing, he makes an important observation about these actions: the cause of those actions. Their good work is not just something they do in the world, it is work inspired by their faith, their relationship with God. It is not, as some would believe, work designed to get them into heaven or to improve their standing before God, it is service to God’s world because of their faith in God and the joy they have in their faith. Their labors come because of their love. They know that they are loved by God, they love God, and they love God’s people, and so they labor joyfully to continue the spread of the gospel. They endure. They persist. They keep on going no matter how rough things may get because of their hope in Jesus Christ. It’s amazing how often people, especially those who claim to follow Jesus Christ, get this concept backwards. They hope that their work will produce a relationship with God. They hope that their labor will cause people and God to love them. They slog through life without real hope, knowing that endurance is a virtue. Paul’s commendations remind us of what our lives should be like.
When our faith compels us to serve God, and to serve His people with joy, love, and hope, it makes a difference to people in this world. Sometimes you see the skeptics who say things like, “Why worry, we’ll never get out of this alive anyway?” or the follower of Christ who doesn’t worry about things too much because the world’s going to end when Christ comes again. Neither of those attitudes reflects the message of the gospel. We are called to change the future – not because changing the future is good in and of itself, but because when we act in God’s way because of God’s love in our lives, we affect others for good. They are drawn to follow Christ. When people throw off the shackles of sin and commit to live in the grace of God, their lives change. The future changes, for that person if not for the whole world. Our job, as followers of Christ, is to show people God’s mercy and grace so that their world and their future will change when they too commit to following Christ. Be the change this world needs.
Lord, the future is uncertain in our minds. Remind me that You hold me and that You hold the future.