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These stories are real, though I changed the names and altered some of the details.
The first time I met Biff was in college. Like me, he planned to go into the ministry. After graduation, I did not see him for over ten years. The last time I saw him, he was 43-years old, though he looked to be in his mid-fifties. He came to me for counseling. Biff had become a full-blown crack addict four years prior. We talked for a while in my office, and though I do not remember everything I told him, I do remember the last thing I said.
Biff, you have to kick this addiction. Let me help you. If you don’t, I’m going to predict your future: it’s going to kill you.
The next day word came that a maid found Biff dead in a hotel room. Laying beside him were his syringes and other drug paraphernalia. Biff was dead less than 24-hours after our meeting.
Bud’s wife left him after 15-years of a tumultuous marriage. Though most of their marriage problems were Bud’s fault, there was enough sin to go around. Mable had played her sinful role too.
Bud came to me for counseling with the hope of reconciling with his wife. My primary counsel to him was that he needed to change his heart before we could work on their marriage.
Bud would not listen to me. Rather than seeking personal change, he spent most of his time buying his wife cards and flowers, while pressing her to come back home.
For three months I appealed to Bud to stop pressing her. I encouraged him to change his problems that precipitated the separation. I told him plainly that if he continued to push his wife for reconciliation, she would divorce him.
As predicted, his wife grew weary of his behavior and divorced him.
A magician does not usually reveal his tricks, but since I’m not a magician, I’m going to share with you how to predict the future. Are you ready?
Here is the secret:
If you want to predict anyone’s future, all you have to do is take a backward look into their past.
I hope that was not disappointing to you.
We’re all creatures of habit. Discerning an individual’s habits is the key that makes “future predicting” easy. When someone comes to me for help, they typically begin with a long story about a sordid, painful or sad past.
Regardless of where they launch into their past story, the theme is always the same: it’s about dysfunction. Through the storytelling, these individuals are giving me a backward look into their lives.
Once they finish, I have a clear picture of what their past was like for them. From that point it is a simple process of predicting how things will go for them in the future; it will be more of the same, only with added degrees of difficulty and accumulative challenges.
Think about it. What we have been in the past is what we will be in the future if we do not change in the present.
The stories will change. The people may change. The places could change. But the theme, tenor, tone, and trajectory will be the same. A leopard cannot change its spots unless it becomes another kind of animal.
Now that you know my “trick,” find a friend and ask them to share with you about their past. As you listen to their story, help them connect how their history will reiterate in their future.
Predicting the Future
Before I let you go, I need to tell you that there is one other thing you need to know; it’s the exception clause. The “exception clause” is the one thing that can alter anyone’s future. Let me explain.
God regenerated me when I was 25-years old. Up until that time my life had been various forms of discontentment, superficiality, dysfunction, anger, lack of peace, ad nausea.
No matter what I tried, it was always more of the same: disappointment. I changed jobs, changed friends, changed homes, changed locations, changed hobbies, and changed dreams. It didn’t matter what I did.
Different behaviors, geographies, or friends did not change who I was on the inside. Finally, after exhausting every option that I could think of, I came to an “end of myself.” (Read Luke 15:12-15) I repented of my sin and trusted Christ.
And that, my friend, is the “exception clause.” If you don’t want more of the same, let me appeal to you to change your future by trusting Christ. He is the only One who can fundamentally alter your future life.
I am not just talking about trusting Christ with your salvation (John 3:7), but I’m also talking about trusting Christ with your sanctification (Mark 9:24). Dear Christian, I appeal to you to rely on Christ to change your anger, fear, lust, or hopelessness.
If you do not do this today, whatever you have now will be more of the same tomorrow. If Biff and Bud had listened to me, not that I am anything special, their lives would have turned out differently.
I’m not sure how many people that I have met in my life, but I can say without question, the ones who refused to change their ways, lived to see more of the same dysfunction in their future lives.
The individuals who heeded God’s Word with humility, did experience change, by the grace of God. By cooperating with the Lord, they encountered a future that was different from their past.