End Times

Prepared for His Return

“Be on the alert, be prepared and ready, for you do not know the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 25:13)

When I go to the grocery store, I’m prepared. I look up recipes. I check to see if I’m out of any needed ingredients. I make a menu for the week, including where to find the recipes, which sides go with a meal, and the number of calories per serving. Finally, I make a list of everything I need to buy and how much of it I need.

Some people may say I’m overly prepared. Maybe so, but I never get home and realize I forgot tomatoes for the salad or ginger for the stir fry. And I never come home with an impulse-purchased cheesecake. (Well, hardly ever!)

Preparation makes a huge difference. It’s especially huge to be prepared for Jesus’s return. If we skimp on preparation for grocery shopping, it’s no big deal. But if we’re not prepared when Jesus comes, nothing else we’ve done our entire life matters.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11-22, Paul gives believers a list of what it looks like to be prepared. How should we live while we watch for his return? What should we be doing? Here are eight traits to cultivate while we await his coming:

  1. Connection. “Encourage one another and build one another up…” (verse 11). Don’t be a lone Christian. Stay connected to believers. And don’t tear others down; build others up.
  2. Ministry. “…Take tender care of those who are weak…” (verse 14). Find a way to serve others. View your day-to-day living through eyes of ministry.
  3. Love. “…Always try to do good to each other and to all people” (verse 15). We are called to love, forgive, extend grace, and be kind to everyone, always.
  4. Joy. “Always be joyful” (verse 16). Cultivate continuous joy. God’s supernatural joy makes us strong and prepared.
  5. Prayer. “Never stop praying” (verse 17). Short, spontaneous prayers throughout the day are good. Long, travailing prayers at home are good. Prayer at church is good. Our lives should be filled with prayer.
  6. Gratitude. “Be thankful in all circumstances…” (verse 18). Gratitude changes our attitude. Since we know our lives are held in God’s hands, we can be thankful in any situation.
  7. Discernment. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies” (verse 19). There is a very real spiritual realm. Ask God for revelation, and for spiritual eyes and ears that see and hear the spiritual realm.
  8. Wisdom. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil” (verses 21-22). Anybody can be wise because God promises to give wisdom to anyone who asks. Wisdom comes from above—just ask for it.

How do you implement these ingredients into your life? First, be intentional. Deliberately seek God for each of these ingredients. God loves to give good gifts to his children. This is a request he will honor. Second, be proactive. Think of one step you can take to move forward in one of these areas. For example, what can you do to be more grateful? Or, how can you improve your prayer life?

Jesus is coming back—that is an unassailable fact. And nothing is more important than being ready when he gets here. Be intentional. Be proactive. Be prepared.

Dear Jesus, I want to be ready when you come back to earth. Help me obey the instructions you gave us about being prepared for your return. Help me take one step today that prepares me for your coming. Let my life point others to your love and your grace. In Jesus’s name, amen.

End Times

Is This the End?

“I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with me. Then you may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

If we’re expecting company from out of town, we usually have a pretty good idea of when they’re going to arrive. Cell phones give us an accurate idea of what time to expect our guests. We can easily plan our time so we do the dishes, make the beds, head to the grocery store for snacks, and are sitting on the couch when company arrives.

But what did people do back in the 1800’s when a letter came saying someone was coming to visit? Storms, broken wagon wheels, sick horses—many things could change the length of the trip. The host would have no idea when the guest would actually arrive. How does anyone get ready for a guest if they don’t know when to expect them?

If you don’t know when a visitor is arriving, you stay ready at all times.

Jesus told us he’s coming back to earth. One day, he will return from heaven to collect all God’s children and bring them home to live with him forever. We know he’s coming. But we don’t know when.

Jesus said nobody knows when he will return, not even the angels in heaven. Only God knows (see Matthew 24:36). Is Jesus’s return imminent? Maybe. Or maybe not. We know it’s closer today than it was yesterday. And we know that when the time is right, Jesus will appear. We can’t hurry his arrival, we can’t predict it, and we can’t stop it. It’s in God’s hands.

So, what do we do if we know Jesus is coming back but we don’t know when? We stay ready at all times.

In 1907, Robert Baden-Powell created the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. He said that, “Be prepared,” means to always be in a state of readiness in mind, body, and spirit to meet challenges with a strong heart.

It could be Baden-Powell borrowed the Scout motto from Jesus. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us to be ready. Because the date of his return isn’t given to us, we are to always be in a state of readiness. If we knew a robber was coming to break into our house at a certain time, we would be prepared at that exact time to make sure he didn’t rob our house. But because Jesus will return at an unknown time, we must always be ready. (See Matthew 24:42-44.)

Jesus’s instruction to those who love him and who anticipate his return is to watch. Yes, we watch for his return, but we also watch for as many ways possible to show God’s love to as many people as possible. The best question isn’t, “Is this the end?” but, “What should I be doing right now?” With so many people living in darkness, we must not be complacent. We must watch for every opportunity to be God’s light shining through the darkness.

He’s coming back for us—that’s our sure promise and our great hope. Let’s be about his business until he arrives.

Dear Jesus, I am comforted by the promise of your return. Search my heart for any sinfulness and cleanse me. While I wait for your arrival, help me watch and pray for opportunities to share your love with others and to shine your light into the darkness. In Jesus’s name, amen.