"Be always on the watch,
and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen,
and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
My mother used to keep a candle in her car during the winter months. She lived near Buffalo, where winter storms threatened to strand passengers in their cars with little notice. Supposedly, a simple candle could provide several hours of warmth in a small space until help arrived.
I live in Virginia, where snow rarely threatens. However, I do keep a flashlight in my car for emergencies and in case my cell phone dies.
It’s in our nature to prepare for worst case scenarios. We buy the car insurance at the rental agency in case of an accident, and we put smoke detectors in every room of the house in case of a fire. We fill our purses with Band-Aids, tweezers, sunscreen and earplugs, just in case someone suffers a cut, gets a sliver, or suddenly finds themselves in the middle of the Sahara Desert or at a Foo Fighters concert.
We spend a lot of time and energy preparing for things that might never happen instead of preparing for the one thing that will: Jesus’s return.
Consider the parable of the ten virgins. All ten knew the bridegroom would come, but they didn’t know when. Five kept their lamps full of oil so they would be prepared if he arrived in the middle of the night. The other five were not as diligent. When the bridegroom’s arrival was announced for midnight, the five foolish virgins scrambled to find oil to light their way to the banquet. Caught off guard, they arrived late and were denied entrance. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
The Bible doesn’t tell us why those five foolish virgins had no oil in their lamps, but I speculate it was one of two reasons: either they were distracted by the things of this world, which made filling their lamps a low priority, or they thought they had more time to get it done.
I admit, I am guilty of both. Thankfully, Jesus provided a clear solution on how to stay focused and prepared.
When Jesus faced arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he told the disciples who were with him, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). First, we are to “watch,” which means to keep a lookout for God. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). Second, we are to “pray,” which means to stay in communication with God. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
Watching and praying go hand in hand. We watch in expectation of the King’s arrival, and we pray so we're ready to follow him when he arrives. Since relationships take time to nurture, don’t put it off for another day. You may think you have all the time in the world to prepare for Christ’s second coming, but maybe not. “About the day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). If you don’t know Jesus well, how will you recognize him when he arrives?
As I wrote this post, I found myself wondering if the batteries in my car’s flashlight were still good. I couldn’t even recall the last time I had used it! But I guarantee that if I suddenly found myself stranded on a rural road in the middle of the night, I would be praying for the flashlight to work. Much like the five foolish virgins who were found to be without oil, I might find the batteries corroded.
Preparedness in this world is not a bad thing. After all, life is full of surprises. So, buy the travel insurance and put a flashlight in your car. Just make sure you prepare for eternity, too. That’s one banquet you won’t want to miss!
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is Jesus is Coming Back by Jordan Feliz.
Favorite lyric: “We gotta stay awake ‘cause nobody knows the day or time.”