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Last week we looked at our need to be grateful to God when life happens. This got me thinking of the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. What this basically means is that we need to be prepared for the inevitabilities of life. But I believe it goes much deeper. What we need to be prepared for is Jesus’s return.
Jesus asked that when He does returns, will he find faith, Luke 18:8. Will Jesus find us faithful? Will Jesus find us prepared?
The most urgent need within the church is for a new spirit to prevail within it. And it begins with our understanding the times we live in. The Apostle Paul brings this out saying,
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5: 15-17 NIV)
We need to be aware of the circumstances happening around us, and no longer continue to live this life with our eyes shut, as if are asleep. Rather we need to wake up and realize what’s going on, and make use of every opportunity that comes our way for the Lord, because the days we are living in are evil and wicked.
Let’s stop taking these times lightly, nor let us lightly regard God’s call upon our lives, but rather allow God to accomplish His purposes in us and through us.
To accomplish this we need to understand that our time on this earth is limited, so we must be careful how we live with the time we have left. This is something King David understood, so he asked the Lord this question.
“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.” (Psalm 39:4 NKJV)
David realized what we all must realize, and that is our days our numbered, that we are all going to die. Therefore, David asks God to reveal to him just how fleeting or short life is.
Researchers have calculated that the average life of men to be 75 years, and women 80 years. There’s actually a clock on the Internet that ticks off the seconds while you watch your life slipping away. Talk about a depressing website.
Others have found that if you subtract time spent sleeping, working, personal matters, eating, traveling, chores, going to the bathroom, and miscellaneous time stealers, in the next 35 years each of us will only have 500 days left.
This should make us think about how much time we spend on those things that don’t count for eternity.
We need to be prepared and aware of the times we are living in because the days are evil, and we need to use every opportunity the Lord gives us now.
This is who the men of Issachar were. The story is found in Frist Chronicles’s chapter 12. David was running for his life and many came to his aid. In First Chronicles it lists out their tribes along with an explanation concerning them.
Those from Simeon and Ephraim were mighty men of valor fit for war, while Zebulum, Dan, and Asher were experts in war and wouldn’t run in times of battle.
But when the Chronicler writes about those from the tribe of Issachar, he said,
“Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV)
These men understood the time they were living in and did something about it. It doesn’t speak of them as men of valor or stout of heart; rather what it does say is that these men realized the changes were taking place in Israel, and acted accordingly.
What this reveals is that knowing what’s going on isn’t enough; we also need to know what to do. Our world and the church are going through some extreme changes, some of them chaotic. So we need to understand so we can penetrate this culture with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, because it’s only the light of the gospel that will dispel the darkness of this present age.
There is a bombardment of violence and lawlessness upon the face of the earth that has yet to be matched. In fact, Paul writes about how this very thing that is going to happen in the last days. Listen to what he said.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV)
We can tell we’re in perilous times when prayer, Bible reading, and Jesus are illegal in our schools, but abortion is legal upon demand. What was once unheard of 20 to 30 years ago is now being heard loud and clear. We also see ever-increasing cases of alcoholism, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school violence, domestic violence, child abuse, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, rape, robbery, murder, and the list just keeps on going.
The statistics are overwhelming, and if some people have problems with the stats, they just need to look at the news and see that the world is growing darker.
So we need to understand the Spirit’s guiding. When we go back to the revivals of the past we see those Issacharians, who through the leading of the Holy Spirit stopped the darkness in its tracks.
Take for instance the story of a blacksmith in a small town. He was burdened about what was going on in the community. The church was sparsely attended, and the young men and women were going astray. One day he closed his shop and took time in prayer.
He asked the pastor if a conference meeting could be called. The pastor was hesitant knowing how few would actually show up, but he went ahead and did it. To the pastor’s surprise people gathered from far and wide, all under deep conviction. When they determined when such conviction occurred, it was found to be that very hour that the blacksmith closed up shop and spent the time in prayer. A powerful revival was recorded, and that’s because someone like you and me understood the times and knew what to do.
Therefore, knowing that the days are evil and dark, and knowing that we need to do something about it, we need to wake up from the sleep Satan has placed upon the church, and as Paul says, “It’s high time to wake up.”
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14 NKJV)
Paul is saying it’s high time we wake up to what is going on in the world around us.
In His parables concerning the end of days, Jesus tells the story of Ten Virgins. Five of them were wise, because they took extra oil for their lamps while they waited for the bridegroom. However the other five were not so discerning and didn’t bring any. They all fell asleep and in the middle of the night the bridegroom came. The foolish virgins that didn’t bring extra oil had to go out and try to find some, while those who were wise refilled their lamps and went with the bridegroom. In the end, the foolish five were left behind.
Through this story Jesus tells us to watch and be ready, because we neither know the day or hour that He will return. So we need to be like those five wise virgins who were discerning and prepared and didn’t get caught napping.
So the question is, “Do we know what time it is? Do we know just how near the sunrise is?”
In the natural world we know when sunrise begins and all we have to do is calculate from now till then. But none of us knows how much longer we have to live, or when Jesus will return, so we need to be prepared.
When we read these passages, we need to understand that Paul is writing to the church, which means Christians are asleep.
There are those who have fallen asleep in their sin, where they don’t even consider what they are doing as sin. Those who continue in this state the Bible says they will not inherit God’s kingdom, 1 Corinthians 6:9.
There are also those who are like the church in Ephesus who left that first love relationship. They no longer remember how precious Jesus is, or the freshness of their belief. They’ve forgotten how it felt to have Jesus’ arms wrapped around their soul. They’ve forgotten the reality of Jesus in their lives.
And as bad as theses first two conditions may be, there is an even scarier condition, and that is believers who are half-asleep. They are not quite awake and don’t clearly see the reality of God working in the world and in their lives.
They’re half asleep and don’t see the world as the Lord sees it, nor do they have His heart for the lost. The cross is just another symbol of their faith and they are no longer convicted by their sins when they see it.
And so we need to pray and ask God to wake us up, to wake up the church so we can truly discern the signs of the times and be prepared. But even more, we need to pray for God to wake us up to the true condition of our sin, and to awaken the church of it’s spiritual drift away from God.
Christians today are becoming disillusioned because they are exhausted and in despair because they see so little fruit being produced in their lives and in the church. Christians are desperate to see something happen, to find some sort of breakthrough as they are being overwhelmed by life and ready to quit.
Nice platitudes and cute sayings do little to help. More is needed than a mere pep talk from the pulpit. What is needed is the power of the Holy Spirit on full display. It is where the Holy Spirit is not some theological teaching, but is alive and active within us.
The Apostle Paul said,
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance … And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 NIV)
The believers back then were facing great affliction, but instead of being anxious or worried, they gave it all over to the Holy Spirit who filled them with power to overcome, along with a joy evidenced by all.
The Holy Spirit is living within every believer. The Lord has given the Holy Spirit not only to empower us to be witnesses for Christ, but to bear our burdens and give us victory.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit we learn not only what is going on around us and the knowledge of what to do, but the power to overcome and have victory over this present evil age.
Satan is spewing out a flood of iniquity and affliction against God’s people, and to keep us from being swept away we need the abiding power and presence of the Holy Spirit residing within us, taking over our lives.
Most believers have exhausted themselves trying to stem the tide on their own. But things haven’t really changed because they’ve been holding onto their own ways and plans.
But if we’re going to ever have victory, we’ve got to come to the end of our efforts and let the Holy Spirit have control.
In the past there have been many who came forward either to be baptized in the Holy Spirit or to receive a refilling of the Holy Spirit’s firepower. But understand the Holy Spirit isn’t fully received until He is fully in charge.
I honesty don’t know how much longer we have. But what I do know is that it is getting darker by the minute, and the day of God’s judgment is approaching faster than any of us imagined. Prophecy is coming alive. The pages of the Bible are being animated before our very eyes. So we need to understand the times and fulfill God’s calling.
The Lord gave the prophet Zechariah a vision where he saw those in whom the Lord sent to the earth and report their findings. They said, “We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly” (Zechariah 1:11). Now, to the natural mind this might be a good thing, but not to those who understand the Spirit.
The prophet Amos said, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). The Apostle Paul said to beware of those who speak peace and safety, for then sudden destruction will come (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
There rests upon the church a spirit of slumber, and many are resting quietly. They are at ease not realizing a war is going on. They classify themselves as Christians but are living in a dream world, and like all dreams it will come to an end with the bitter reality of life; like when sickness and death invade our reality.
There are many who are living in a house that’s on fire, and they are in danger of being burned. John Newton related a story of a woman who on her deathbed berated him saying, “You often spoke to me of Christ; but Oh! You didn’t tell me enough about my danger.”
Frankly, it’s dangerous to stay in this state of spiritual sleep, or being half awake. Paul talks about it in his letter to the Roman church.
“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.’” (Romans 2:4-6 NIV)
Again, this is written to the church, and so if we continue to sleep, continue in our sins, then we are storing up for ourselves wrath for the Day of Wrath. I wonder; will this wake us up?
And so we need to redeem the time God is giving us to awaken out of our spiritual slumber. But what we also need to understand is that these opportunities are passing away.
Consider the story of the tax collector, Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho. He was told that Jesus was passing through Jericho that day. This would be the last time Jesus would pass this way, and the last time that Zacchaeus would get to see Him, but Zacchaeus didn’t know this. He just knew of His need to see Jesus.
So he tried pushing his way through the crowd, but that didn’t work. So he seized upon the opportunity and climbed a sycamore tree that hung over the road. When Jesus passed by He looked up and saw Zacchaeus and told him to come down because He had to stay in his house.
Because Zacchaeus seized the opportunity, Jesus stayed at his house, and it says that salvation came to that house. Zacchaeus seized the opportunity, and if he hadn’t he would have missed God’s blessing.
This is what we must do. We must seize every opportunity that comes our way to meet with Jesus and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not allow any more time pass, nor allow another opportunity to pass us by, because it may be the last time the Lord passes this way.
Let’s therefore be prepared to redeem the time, because the days we live in are evil beyond belief. Let’s awaken from our spiritual slumber, because salvation and judgment are nearer than we believe.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study