Nothing new under the sun

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In the first few years of our Christian life my wife and I were part of a small Methodist church in Port Elizabeth. Our congregation did not have our own resident minister and so we relied a lot on visiting lay preachers to take our Sunday services. One particular Sunday one of these men visited us and preached from Ecclesiastes 1:9-10; ‘what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? The sermon lived up to its title and really was quite forgettable. The preacher himself must have thought so too because a few months later he again preached at our church and started his sermon with the words, “The title of my sermon today is ‘There is nothing new under the sun’.  He then proceeded to repeat his earlier message word for word!

This is the season when we usually make plans for the year that lies ahead. If we are particularly conscientious we also produce a budget to give us some idea of what our plans and aspirations are going to cost. Some people are boldly imaginative and plan new and different things, but for most folk the process of planning and budgeting is more an exercise in extrapolation. We infer the unknown from the known. We use the past as the pattern for the future. We might stretch ourselves a little, but in the main our plans and budgets look much like last years plus a little extra for inflation – ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again’.

I have had several conversations with investment consultants who point to the past growth of equities as the evidence of their suitability as a future investment. Ok, but what if everything changes? What if something happens in the world or in our country that changes the rules of the investment game? How well will equities perform then? It is a disturbing thought to many, but we are now living in an age where the past is no longer the best predictor of the future. “Look! This is something new” is a phrase that constantly rings in our 21st century ears. So, scenario planning is now in vogue. The new way of planning is to identify a number of possible future scenarios, allocate each a probability, and then to plan accordingly.

There is a current line of reasoning in educational circles which holds that we need to be teaching our children to think imaginatively. The idea is to prepare them to face a rapidly changing world with a nimble mind and a set of creative and critical thinking skills. Just having a head full of facts derived from past reality is just not good enough anymore.

Having said all this, here is another scripture to consider; Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) The world is changing like a chameleon on steroids, but God is ahead of the game and He wants us to see what He is doing so we can get into line with His plans and purposes. If we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit, and keep alert to what He is causing to ‘spring up’, then we will not be swamped by the storm of change that is flooding the world. With God, planning can be an exhilarating visionary experience and not a futile extrapolation of the past. We don’t need to be frustrated by the failure of our traditional planning techniques, and nor do we need to be afraid of the uncertainty of the age. Rather, what we need to do is to align ourselves as best we can with the greatest change-agent of all, Almighty God, and to step boldly with Him into an exhilarating future.

Yesterday, today, forever,
Jesus is the same,
All may change, but Jesus never!
Glory to His name,
Glory to His name,
Glory to His name;
All may change, but Jesus never!
Glory to His name.

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