“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” 1 Peter 1:13
Did you know that there are two more times in Paul’s short letter that he warns his readers to be alert and sober minded? The second time, so that we can pray because the end of all things is near. The third time so that the enemy doesn’t catch us off guard when we are in the midst of affliction and temptations(which will surely heighten as His return gets even closer).
Last week, as I was going about my day, half keeping the baby from toddling over the stairs and half pondering God’s words and asking for more understanding I happened to glance at my wall calendar which has the words of a hymn. In the dim light I made out one phrase from one of the verses- “watch and pray”. This was significant to me because God has been teaching me about the reality of His coming kingdom.
I was reminded quickly then of Jesus in Gethsemane and God’s shown me some fascinating parallels as I began to think about this passage… Jesus in the garden is praying to His Father. His time is near, prophecy is about to be fulfilled. He tells Peter and the two others with him to 'keep watch' but they fall asleep. Jesus finds them asleep, wakes them up and says again to keep watch and pray so they do not fall into temptation. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. They fall asleep a second time because of heavy eyes and Jesus finds them again but does not wake them. He comes back to wake them a third time after praying. This time, the hour has come, and here, the disciples are still sleeping and resting. It is time to rise and go, Jesus says with an urgency and then the soldiers with Judas appear.
This instruction, to stay alert, to be ready for action, to pray, to be sober minded, to stay awake is repeated so often by Jesus, Peter and Paul and others that you’d think we’d pay more attention to them. These warnings are so often in relation to the end of this age, that is, Jesus physically returning to rule as King of all in Jerusalem and the events leading up to this- events that we won’t be able to get through without preparation. If the disciples had been ready and awake when the soldiers came for Jesus and not caught off guard, would they have scattered in fear the way they did?
I can’t help but picture Jesus telling us to keep watch with him and pray but each time he comes to check on us, instead of sleeping, we’re gazing at the screens of our phones or our distraction of choice. We may as well be in bed fast asleep. What will it take to wake us up???
There seems to be a parallel between the disciples of before Jesus’ crucifixion and much of the church before Jesus’ return. They knew it was going to happen because Jesus told them more than once that it would, as we have been told many times in scripture of His return, but there was not a true understanding or urgency in them keeping with the reality. And there isn’t one now, for us. The disciples tried to keep Jesus from going back to Jerusalem so he wouldn’t die and we tend to give anyone who hints that Jesus could come in our lifetime the side eye and lump them in with New York City sign toting “crazies" who yell at tourists to 'repent or else'. Yes, there has been abuse when it comes to the end times and we are right to be discerning of what people claim, but not to the point of choosing to be ignorant of what God’s word says.
When Peter cries to Jesus that his death will not happen, Jesus says to him, “..you do not have the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Why do we get afraid or uncomfortable about these things to come, especially since we’re told to wait for them eagerly? Can it be that we have become too comfortable in the reality of this world? With worldly and human concerns? Our ambitions, our possessions, our desire to be married or have kids, our desire to travel and live life wild and free, to the fullest? Are we complacent? Are we simply not understanding or wanting to understand? Do we think we shouldn’t be included in the persecution Jesus outlines will definitely happen? or are we afraid of the troubles described? Is browsing Instagram etc.. better than spending time with Jesus? Why?
It is urgent that we pray for God to change our view of reality from this world’s to the one of God's. The reality of God is that this world is passing away. The reality of God is that Jesus came to make all things new not just for today in our short lives but for the rest of eternity. The reality is that Jesus came first as Saviour to make a way for us to be reconciled to God, to have a place in his forever kingdom. Without Jesus dying on the cross as the sacrifice for sin, taking our sin on his shoulders, there couldn’t be the Kingdom described at the end of ages- there’d be very few in it, and God wants all his creation in it. Jesus is the way of our salvation. Jesus, the risen and crucified King is rich and overflowing with God's wisdom. He demonstrates the love and mercy of God toward us all. But It doesn’t end there...God’s reality is that Jesus is coming again to destroy evil once and for all along with any who choose to reject him(And therefore God) as King and Saviour. The reality is Jesus is both the Lion AND the Lamb and he’s coming soon on the clouds. Are we prepared for God’s reality?
To my friends in the church, it is time to wake up. We can no longer be content to live a "half life" in Christ when he died to give us the fullest life. It’s time to prepare for the things to come- and yes, that includes persecution as we stand firm and share His gospel- and to walk in the fulness that God intends for His church. Are we in touch with God’s reality? If we’re not in touch, then we’re not IN reality.
It’s time to watch and pray, however, do not be afraid- God tells us that many times too! Instead, be filled with hope. He is with us always and we “do not lack any spiritual gift as [we] eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” 1 Cor 1:7
“…the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they do not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I believe God is calling His church to wake up, prepare, watch and pray. Friends, start filling your lamps and gathering the extra oil.