Yet to Be Determined


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / November 01, 2015

Typically, I try to do my FamilyMatters rough draft on Tuesdays of each week.

This includes the Newsletter, the flipside Supplement and more often than not a weekly essay.

I update the stats, revise various news and notes, adjust the dates and complete it as much as I can in advance,

so that come Friday I can simply put the finishing touches on it and copy it while I’m wrapping up my sermon prep.

This allows me to use Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to do research & study for my Sunday AM class and sermon.

On Tuesdays, I usually have some idea in mind for the next Sunday’s sermon but I don’t always have a title.

So for the sermon title I will often type in the sermon title in the bottom box of our supplement:  Yet To Be Determined.

As you know, I like to preach sermon series - - loosely connected sermons on the same topic, text or theme.

We just finished a four-month series on prayer, A Constant Sense.

And in the first half of 2015 we had an extended series on, The Glory Of Christ.

Preaching sermon series has helped me keep my sanity throughout forty years of preaching.

It drives me a little crazy not to know where I am going from week to week.

I am just too type A to derive any enjoyment from flying by the seat of my pants.

I’m in between series at the moment, so I am a bit restless.

I’m having (mental) birthpangs of a sort, but the delivery date for the start of a new series is still a couple months away.

Let’s see:  we’ve got a Veterans Salute next Sunday. Then we have the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

And then Christmas will be here before we know it.

And then we will head for the mountains for some vacation time the last few days of December and first few of January.

I’m thinking the due date for our new series will likely be the first of the year.


This morning, I actually want to speak on the topic, Yet To Be Determined.

In my mind this title is a metaphor for life itself, is it not?

Only God knows the various paths we will travel before our sojourn on this earth is completed.

  Not a single one of us knows how our life will end.

  We don’t know the length of our days.

Some of us may live to be genuinely elderly (my maternal grandfather lived to be one-hundred).

  Sadly, however, at least from a human point of view, even the good sometimes die young.

  And among those of us who might be granted a long life, we do not know the make up of those years.

One of my beloved professors at Harding University spent his last few years in a fog (with Alzheimer’s).

Dr. Neale Pryor had a photographic memory.  You never had to tell him your name twice.

Twenty years after your graduation he could tell you exactly where you sat in his class.

He had such a keen mind (although he was mixed up quite a bit on eschatology).

He had such clarity of mind and there was always a spark and a twinkle in his eyes,

but then rather suddenly his mind left him and his eyes glazed over.

Dr. Pryor passed away in September of 2011 at the age of 75.

His last months (and years) were spent in a kind of stupor.

If the truth be known, his disease was likely progressing a good while before it became apparent.

In retrospect, I saw him a number of years ago, and even back then I could detect something was not quite right.  

  I’ve read somewhere about how medical technology may soon be able to predict our lifespan with considerable accuracy. But, of course, they can’t factor in accidents, or unexpected changes in lifestyle.

Heartbreak and various stresses of life can quickly alter any and all well-studied predictions and the best laid plans.

The question I’d like us to consider this morning is.

“What can we do to positively affect that which is yet to be determined?”.

God is omnipotent, but we are not.

Even the most fastidious among us, have to accept the reality that we may not always be in control.

Moses was a man of notable faith (Heb.11:23ff).

It would not be a stretch to imagine that he eagerly anticipated leading the children of Israel,

not just in the exodus from Egypt across the Red Sea but also across the Jordan River and into the promised land.

Yet God decided otherwise.

Read from Deut.3:23-28

Because of Moses’ lack of focus, God determined that Joshua would cross the Jordan, but Moses would not.

Read from Num.20:8-13

Rather than heeding God’s precise directive to “speak to the Rock” (Num.20:8),

in his indignation with the cranky and contentious Israelites Moses, “struck the Rock with his rod” (Num.20:11).

For Moses, the consequence was severe.  In that moment of extreme agitation he disregarded the holiness of God.

Surely this must speak to us about the importance of doing God’s things in God’s ways.

We might be inclined to read this text and ask, “what was the big deal?”.

For us to flippantly draw such a conclusion would, be nothing less than replicating the sin of Moses.

When God tells us precisely how to do something, we are not free to freelance.

One text that serves to illuminate this seemingly harsh judgment on the part of God is 1Cor.10:1-4.

Moses struck the Rock … and that ROCK was CHRIST.

The book of Psalms were written by various writers.

David wrote about half of them.  Moses wrote just one - - Psalm 90.  In this psalm Moses prays:

  so teach us to number our days, that we might present to Thee a heart of wisdom. (Ps.90:12).

Here is a wonderful prayer for all of us to pray as we live out that which is yet to be determined.

To number our days does not mean to count each day, but rather TO MAKE EACH DAY COUNT.

Several years ago Bob Villers shared with our L.I.F.E. group the story of Walter Breuning.

Walter was born in April of 1897 and he died in April of 2011, at the age of 114 in Great Falls, Montana.

At the time of his death Walter was the second oldest person known to be living (only one lady was older).

Matt Volz with the Associate Press interviewed Walter six months before he died.

His memories stretched back 111 years.

  Walter remembered his grandfather telling him about fighting against the confederate troops in the Civil War.

  He remembered the early days of the 20th century - - living in a “dark age” with no running water and no electricity.

  Traveling was done in one of three ways:  by train, on horseback or by foot.

  At the age of 16, Walter’s parents separated and he moved to Minnesota and took a job with the Great Northern RR.

For the next 50 years he worked seven days a week.

He moved back to Montana after both of his parents died and obtained a nice raise: $90/month for seven days a week.

The AP reporter asked Walter to share some of his “secrets” to life.  He are the five that he enunciated.


Change is inevitable.  It is all around us.  And it’s coming at a faster clip than ever before.

  Ilene Taylor’s children helped her buy a new car about two years before she died.

She never really liked it - - it was too fancy.  She couldn’t figure out how to turn on the headlights, the wipers or the radio.

  One of the greatest challenges for us as Christians is to live in the present tense but also to embrace change.

If we don’t, the odds are we will go to our grave a bit grumpier than we ought to be.

  The only thing that doesn’t change is our God - - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Heb.13:8).

  One of the best prayers ever written by a human being is Reinhold Niebuhr’s “serenity prayer”:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can;  And the wisdom to know the difference.

(2) EAT two meals a day - - “that’s all you need!”

Do we eat to live or live to eat? 

Paul spoke of some (Philp.3:19) “whose god is their appetite”.

Mt.4:4 reminds us, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

If we apply Walter’s advice to feasting on the word of God our future will be bright, not matter what the obstacles.

(3) WORK as long as you can - - “that money’s going to come in handy.”

We’re not opposed to early retirements as long as we don’t stiff God by retiring from church work.

  Tiny House nation is becoming a trend among some who desire to live more simply without so many things.

  “Man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things” (Lk.12:15).

  The Scriptures warn:  “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and some by longing for it

have wandered away frm the faith and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1Tim.6:10).

  But working for God is at the very heart of our faith and is a vital part of our spiritual DNA (Eph.6:7).

(4) HELP OTHERS - - “the more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”

  Peter tells the household of Cornelius how “Jesus went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

  Paul writes in Titus 3:14 / let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs…

  One of the best investments we can make for the future is to invest our lives in helping others.

  God will not say to us “well done” (Mt.25:23) if we have not done well in helping others.


  In Christ Jesus the fear of death is conquered (Rom.8:37f).

  The words of Jesus are a promise that transforms our outlook on the hereafter:

“Everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” / Jn.11:25.

  Tom Cagan has written a brief poem called, “Like Is A Book”.

You open the cover and you discover   The adventure begins.

As you read through the pages   The story unfolds.

As one chapter ends, another begins   All the chapters are different.

But all lead to the end   And after the end, you open another.

All of us who are Christians are engaged in a lifelong walk with the Lord.

It is not a sprint but rather a marathon, and as such it demands of us all perseverance.

For all of us who are still breathing, the end of our life is yet to be determined.

Let us make it our earnest aim and our determined effort to be able to say with Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith… / 2Tim.4:7

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