Standing on the threshold of the future, for us as a church family and for the Inrig family specifically, there are all kinds of questions, concerns and uncertainties, as well as delightful possibilities and opportunities. As I was pondering some of these, and wrestling with some fears, I was reminded of the words of one of America’s first missionaries, Adoniram Judson: “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
Those were not words spoken by a man in monastic retreat, isolated from the harsh realities of life. Judson and his wife Ann had left the United States in 1812 to join William Carey in missionary work in India. But the East India Company refused to allow them entry and the Judsons sailed to Rangoon, Burma, despite the warnings of Carey that it was a hostile, savage and unwelcoming country. What followed was 37 years of faithful service in the cause of the gospel, in the midst of incredible suffering, seventeen of them in prison. It was six years before they saw their first convert, and in the course of his ministry, he would bury three wives and seven of thirteen children. But God opened a door of salvation, especially among the Karen people group, and by the time he died, there were 7,000 believers and 63 Christian churches. Today, in the country now known as Myanmar, and a government deeply hostile to the gospel, the churches begun by Judson number more than 600,000 believers and almost two million adherents. One of our great privileges when we were in Singapore two summers ago was to share a meal with Burmese brothers and sisters in Christ, who shared of God’s work in that country.
When the children of Israel looked back on their history in the times of Joshua, Solomon and Nehemiah, they could declare that “not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled” (Joshua 23:14; 21:45; 1 Kings 8:56; Nehemiah. 9:8). Faith in a promise-keeping God had not exempted them from suffering and sadness, but it had kept them on the path of faithfulness. As John Piper observes, “Prayer is drawing on the account where God has deposited all his promises. Prayer is not hoping in the dark that there might be a God of good intentions out there. Prayer goes to the bank and draws on God’s promises.” And, as Paul reminds us, “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”
It is armed with those promises that we go into an unknown future, trusting a known God, singing the words of Annie Johnson Flint:
God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives thro’;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Relying on those “very great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4), Trinity Church and the Inrigs walk trustingly into God’s future.