Lessons about God from the Past, Present, and Future

Jim MotesDevotions, Jim Motes

Sign representing look to the past, present, and future.

Look Back

Let’s consider Joseph as we begin our look around. He was a brash young man who found himself in deep trouble when his brothers through him into a dry well.  He had not endeared himself to his brothers when he misused a special gift from God to interpret dreams. They sold him into slavery and he lived much of his adult life in a far country; most of the time in prison. He finally had to opportunity to be freed when he correctly used his special gift from God. Out of prison, he quickly rose to power in Egypt and was able to rescue his father, brothers, and his extended family from a severe drought. Looking back on his life’s circumstances he surmised to his brothers who had sold him into slavery that although what they had done was evil in the worst way, God had positioned him to do good for his family.  (See Genesis 50:20) It was while looking back that Joseph could see the hand of God was with him each step of the way.

Today, look back see beyond the circumstances that may have negatively impacted your life. Did you keep your faith? Has God brought you to the here and now? What have you learned about God? What have you learned about faith? Learn from Joseph and look back for God’s instruction.

Look at the Present

Let’s consider Peter. For three years, Peter had followed him around the hills, valleys, and cities of their country. He had seen many of Jesus’ miracles; heard many of his talks, and witnessed the troubling challenges of his skeptics and opponents. Peter might have thought that he had a good understanding of this man. But then the day came when Peter, who was well aware of the current opposition to Jesus in Jerusalem, did what he thought was wise and warned Jesus not to return there. Jesus in turned and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt. 16:23) Peter could clearly see the present danger to Jesus but didn’t understand it had to take place. Not long after this event Jesus took Peter and two others on a mountain where God confirmed his will for Jesus. Still, Peter had much to learn in the days ahead.

Today, after looking around at your current circumstances, do you have a clear picture of God’s will in your life? But God is not the author of doubt. We can read in Scripture the rest of the story and Peter’s immense role in the life of the early church. We can keep faith and try to see our lives in the hands of God who has plans for us and a future continually with Him.

Look Ahead

Finally, let’s consider the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived in the worst of times for his land. He had a King who ignored God, a people who did what was right in their own eyes, and a foreign power looking for an excuse to invade. To make matters worse, no one listened to Jeremiah’s warnings. The people were in trouble but didn’t know it or understand the consequences of their actions. Still Jeremiah continued to offer warnings from God and hope of a better future for them. He even bought a plot of land and buried the deed so that later his relatives could retrieve the deed and take possession of the land (Jer. 32:15). He even told them their punishment (Exile) would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12). He did his best to encourage them, sharing God’s promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). God had even promised a new covenant with His people ( Jer. 31:33) Jeremiah was firmly in the present but also looking ahead through the prophecies of God.

Today, we can trust that the Scriptures are correct and true; that God is already preparing our future in his eternal strength and presence. Although often rejected, Jeremiah had great confidence that God was still in control. 

Yes! We can look back, look at the present, and look ahead and see the handiwork of God in our lives by the examples offered in Scripture. Jesus is our best example of this. John said he was in the beginning. The Disciples gave their lives as he called them from their present lives to follow him. John again saw him in our future as revealed to him while on the prison island of Patmos. Where have you seen God lately? Have you seen him in your past? Do you see him with you now? Do you have a future with him?  – Jim Motes

To read more from Dr. Jim Motes, visit his author page.

Dr. Motes is Associate Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University and has brought over 20 years experience in Church related ministry from service in Churches in Virginia, North and South Carolina. He has worked in Associational Missions, has taught and continues to teach a variety of subjects in church settings, and is published in Sunday School Leadership magazine. As an “Army brat” his upbringing has enriched his multi-cultural perspective for ministry.