The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger


Delivered 1/14/96

Text: Hebrews 11:1-16

To read endnotes, click on the the note number, then click on the to return to your place in the text.

Great words. Marvelous words to begin a new year. Hebrews, chapter 11 - "Faith's Hall of Fame." Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and the list goes on through the rest of the chapter. Each one demonstrated the kind of faith that Scripture says we should emulate. I will grant that we rarely demonstrate that faith, but perhaps the beginning of a new year is a good time to reaffirm just what we believe about who is in control of all this. At this time of year, I think of that ad I saw over and over between the football games on New Year's Day - the cupped hands and the slogan, "You're in good hands with Allstate." I do not know about Allstate, but I do know in whose hands 1996 is held, and that is comforting. And that is why the kind of faith we just read about is possible.

What will the new year have in store for us? What will 1996 bring? Could be most anything. Peace in Bosnia, we hope. Some sort of resolution on the Federal budget. A nasty political campaign, no doubt. Who knows what else?

Sometimes it is interesting to look back to what others thought the future would hold in time past. Years ago a Boston newspaper carried this item: "Joshua Coppersmith has been arrested for trying to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by a device which he says will convey the human voice over wires. He calls the instrument a telephone."(1)

We are not far away from the turn of the 21st century. Around the turn of the 20th century H. G. Wells predicted many things, occasionally with detail, such as automatic dishwashers and electric ranges. But once he wrote, "I must confess that my imagination, in spite even of spurring, refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and foundering at sea." (2)

Lee DeForest, one of the great pioneers of radio, made a prediction that was printed in the New York Times in 1926. Here is what it said: "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming."

In this week's Newsweek, the International Data Corporation, a Massachusetts technology research firm is predicting that our "intoxication" with the Internet will soon be over and, by the end of this year, fully 20% of the Fortune 500 companies with existing sites on the World Wide Web will have abandoned them, while many of the rest of us get "unwired" because we have become "underwhelmed." (3) Brilliant insight? Or foolish forecast? Time will tell.

There is something interesting about those forecasts... everyone of them were or are negative...gloomy. Someone has written, "The trouble with our time is that the future is not what it used to be." C. P. Snow, the English novelist and scientist, was asked a few years ago what he considered the major differences between the world in which he grew up and the world we share now. He responded without hesitation, "The absence of a future." (4)

It is a pretty dismal picture to begin a new year. Is there any hope? You bet your life! John Baillie has said: "The Bible indicates that the future is in God's hands. If it were in our hands we would make a mess of it. The future is not in the devil's hands, for then he would lead us to destruction. The future is not at the mercy of any historical determinism leading us blindly forward, for then life would be without meaning. But the future is in the hands of One who is preparing something better than eye hath seen, or ear heard, or has entered into the heart of man to conceive." (5) Yes, we are in good hands...with God.

This is my father's world.
O let me ne'er forget,
That though the wrong be oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.(6)
That great old preacher Vance Havener once wrote, "God was here before there was any fear, and [God] will be here when all fear has passed away. Let us remember that [God] saw everything before there was anything. If we could stand at [God's] side today and see what [God] sees, how baseless would be our fears and how excuseless our tears! But we cannot see AS [God] sees, nor can we see WHAT [God] sees. Our vision of the future does not extend beyond our faces so far as certainty is concerned. We live in this mixed and muddled present." (7)

No, there is no certainty. But then that is not so bad if we keep things in perspective. As we look back through the years to a previous future and see how short-sighted the predictions were, we might then look back to our own future with a bit more confidence. After all, the future belongs to God.

In the midst of World War II, King George VI of England came on the radio to talk to the British people during their greatest hour of uncertainty. The buzz bombs were flying overhead, thousands of British soldiers had lost their lives and the battle was going on against Britain on the European continent. As he addressed his people, he read these words that brought hope and strength and confidence to millions around the world:

"And I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year, `Give me light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied: `Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That will be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way." (8)
As we enter the new year, our challenge is to come into it with confidence, remembering that we are in good hands...God's hands. And now hands reach out to us...nail-scarred hands... inviting us to dine. The invitation is "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy-laden, all you who burdened down with worry or fear or grief or despair...Come unto me and I will give you rest."


1. Pastor's Professional Research Service from a sermon by Stephen Jansen, Woodside Presbyterian Church, Yardley, Pennsylvania
2. H. G. Wells, Anticipations of the Action of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought, (London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 1914)
3.1/15/96, p. 9
4. Pastor's Professional Research Service, 1987, sermon entitled "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be"
5. ibid.
6. Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901
7. Pastor's Professional Research Service, "The Future..."
8. Pastor's Professional Research Service - quoted by Tony Bland in a New Year's sermon entitled "Man's Greatest Fear"

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