By Mark A. Taylor
“Refreshed in the Future” was Bob Russell’s sermon topic at the closing session of the North American Christian Convention in Orlando, Florida, Friday morning, July 13. And even though he’s a little skeptical about predicting the future, he observed that “one sure way to get attention” is to try. But in spite of future predictions that have not come true (By the 21st century we will will have colonies on the moon) and those that have (Automobiles will be guided by satellite systems), he reminded us of one thing we do know: American culture is growing increasingly hostile to Christianity. “We must make the most of every opportunity, because the days are increasingly evil.”
Against that backdrop, he quoted the text for his sermon: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). And from his study of the final chapters of Isaiah, he suggested several ways we should view our future.
First, “God promises victory, so don’t be intimidated by the adversary.” (See Isaiah 60:14; 62:10, 11; 65:17-19; and 66:23). “It does not look like we’re winning the victory today,” he said, but then he reminded the thousands in the convention hall of Moses before the Red Sea, Gideon facing the Midianites, Lazarus in the tomb, Christ on the cross, and Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. “When the night is the darkest, then the light will come.”
He quoted his favorite line from the story of David and Goliath, “David ran straight at Goliath,” and urged his audience not to be so threatened by the world that the culture sets the agenda for the church. “We’re promised victory, not by being congenial and cool, but by lifting up Christ,” he said.
Second, “God’s Word will be our source of power, so don’t be too concerned about passing fads.” (See Isaiah 65:16; 66:2, 5.) “There’s almost an obsession with being creative,” he said and quoted Charles Spurgeon, who said, “He who marries today’s fad will soon be a widow.” Russell’s advice: “Learn to distinguish between passing fads and permanent trends. . . . Unless you sense a divine imperative to be a pioneer, be patient. Be your own person as you watch what others are doing.”
Russell shared his own testimony: When he was serving at Southeast Christian Church, he blocked out 20 hours per week for study and sermon preparation. Instead of fads, “concentrate on devoting yourself to the Word,” he said.
Finally, “Don’t let temporary disappointments rob you of your joy.” (See Isaiah 60:5; 61:7; 65:14; and 66:14.) “Satan’s No. 1 tool is discouragement,” he said, but “if you join the army, you must expect to be fired on.”
His final challenge: “Be bold, be biblical, and be joyful.”
He welcomed to the platform longtime preacher Ben Merold, as an example of maintaining of faithfulness and joy even through many of life’s difficulties. He invited Merold to pray on behalf of 52 new graduates from 14 Christian colleges, attending the NACC as guests and commissioned for service at this closing session.