The Christian Way to Ask “What’s Next?”

“What’s next?”

At one time, this was the most used – and most despised – question in our home. When our children were younger, we could be having a great time playing a game, eating ice cream, watching a movie, even going on vacation, and inevitably there would come a point when one of them would ask, “What’s next?”

It was so frustrating because the kids had something right in front of them – something fun, or tasty, or enjoyable – and instead of simply enjoying what they were already doing, they were focused on something else. It seemed to be a childlike form of discontentment, and therefore something my wife and I tried to fight against.

At the same time, it was very convicting because kids don’t learn things from nowhere. We were forced to examine our own hearts, wondering when and where we exhibited this same kind of “what’s next?” thinking. As Christians, this is a question we ought not feel compelled to ask because we have already been given every spiritual gift in Christ. Further, this is what Paul wanted us to do through Christ who strengthens us:

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).

Contentment ought to be one of the virtues that marks Christians. While the rest of the world engages in a singular pursuit of more, Christians stand against the tide with the refrain of, “Enough.” In that sense, Christians ought not to be continually asking, “What’s next?”

But in another sense, it is a very, very Christian question to ask.

Christians are human beings. And because we are, we encounter the same kinds of things that every human being encounters. Like everyone else, we will be confronted on a daily basis with decisions, with pain, with joy, with circumstantial change, and a host of other things. The question for Christians, then, is not whether these things will happen to us – the question we ask is “What’s next?” Let me give three specific examples of this:

1. Feelings

Whenever we experience pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental, we are going to actually, really, literally feel that pain. It hurts to lose someone. It hurts to be worried about the future. It hurts when people around us make bad decisions. And all those things hurt deeply. You feel what you feel. That’s a given. Feelings are human responses. The question, then, is what comes next?

Christians process those feelings through the lens of faith. We check ourselves to make sure what we are feeling is true, and to make sure that we are not acting sinfully as a result of a feeling. Even though we are going to feel what we feel, we don’t have to live there.

2. Temptation

Like feelings, temptation is going to come, and it’s going to come today. We will be tempted with greed, materialism, lust, bitterness, and any number of other things. It would be incredibly dangerous for us to not assume this is so; doing so leaves us unready and unguarded against the inevitable attacks which will surely come our way.

The question, again, is “what comes next?” If we take temptation as a given, then we must be ready to answer that question with faith. We must believe that God is telling us the truth when we read that “no temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

3. Knowledge

We are going to accumulate knowledge as human beings. It’s the natural process as we live and grow. And as Christians, we are also going to accumulate knowledge as we read the Bible, sit under preaching and teaching, and sing together. But here again we would be wise to always be asking, “What’s next?”

That’s because there is always a “what’s next” when it comes to knowledge. We don’t just learn things about God, the Bible, and ourselves for the sake of knowledge; there is always an elemental practice of life change associated with that knowledge. We ought to be making decisions in real time based on what we find in the Bible.

Yes, the Christian makes it his or her practice to ask this question, at least when it comes to our daily lives and pursuit of holiness. “What’s next?” matters. It matters a lot. But thankfully, when we are asking this question, we know that whenever we get to those individual moments of “what’s next,” we have a faithful Father already waiting there for us.

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