The writer of Proverbs says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!…A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come upon you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6, 10-11).
Jesus talked about the wedding guest who came to the wedding party without the proper dress (Matthew 22), the fig tree that didn’t have fruit (Matthew 24), and the foolish virgins who forgot to bring oil (Matthew 25). Paul admonished the Ephesians to be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
We have all seen those roadside signs with the Scripture from Amos 4, “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” The pagans laugh, the Christians are a little embarrassed, and the neighbors have learned to overlook them, but the message is one we all need to consider. Someday we will meet God, and if you never prepare for anything else, you dare not face that meeting without some sort of preparation.
I have often said to congregations, “This is the real world, the community of truth. We are here to prepare to go out into the unreal world. If you know that, you will be prepared.” One of the great things about being a Christian is the reality with which we are confronted. In other words, we know the truth, and once one knows the truth, one can prepare.
For instance, we know the truth about the nature of human beings: They are evil with a proclivity for good and not, as the pagans think, good with a proclivity for evil. That is why Christians always lock their doors, keep close watch on the school system, and never trust the politicians.
Another example: We know the truth about the way the universe works. The law of God isn’t the method whereby God makes us unhappy; rather, it’s a road map giving us the location of the danger zones. That’s why Christians are generally more balanced and happy than pagans. As we walk through the minefields, we know where the mines are.
Or consider this one: We know the truth about the fallen world. The pagans are always looking for the impossible—a perfect and happy situation. They will never find it and therefore waste considerable time looking for it. We know better. We know that here we have no permanent city. We know that we aren’t home yet. Nothing is perfectible this side of Heaven.
Here’s another: Christians have learned to face the fact of death. Pagans ignore it, and when they can’t ignore it, they cover it up with clichés and flowers. We know that the death statistic is one-out-of-one, and that nobody is going to get out of this thing alive. Therefore, with the psalmist, we know to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.
Yet another, for instance: Christians know there’s a God and that nobody is exempt from checking in when the show is over. Pagans think they will explain things to God and that he will understand, pat them on the back, and say, “It’s cool.” Christians know better. We know that unless we get in on the coattails of Jesus, we aren’t going to make it. It is all grace.
And another: Christians know how history is going to end, so we govern ourselves accordingly. Pagans figure that history will always continue with new storylines and new actors. But we can convey to pagans what C.S. Lewis is reported to have said: “When Christ returns, how awful to know that all of it was true, and that it is too late to do anything about it.”
Time to Draw Away
Read Romans 14:7-13 & 2 Corinthians 5:9-11
There is value in preparation and planning—for both now and later. Do you live your life with the future in mind? As Christians, we live our lives in truth and in grace. That makes all the difference.