Well, it could happen any day now. My due date looms less than a week away, and I live with the constant expectation that any moment my water could break or I could start contractions. And as such, I plan accordingly. I don’t venture more than a half mile radius from the house for walks. I don’t plan any road trips or shopping expeditions that would take me further from the hospital and my OB. My suitcase is packed for the hospital and I have the baby’s clothes neatly tucked into the diaper bag. The infant car seat is in the van. I make mostly Crock Pot meals in case I have to leave while the kids are in school and the babysitter needs to feed them supper. I know that the baby is coming, I just don’t know when. And even though my body is the one that will determine the time for labor and delivery, I have no control over the timing at all. Now all I can do is wait in expectation. It’s the final countdown.
Waiting in the final days for the birth of our baby reminds me very much of waiting for the return of Jesus. We know that Jesus will come, but we don’t know when. And let’s be honest here- most of us probably aren’t waking up every morning wondering, “Will today be the day Jesus returns?” We’ve largely become indifferent to the whole thing. Sure, we know Jesus is coming again, but we really don’t think it’ll happen any time soon. We tend to think we’re in the “first trimester,” so to speak. When I was only 2 months pregnant, my bags certainly weren’t packed. I could have made a visit across the world without giving it a second thought. I didn’t live with the knowledge that the baby could be born any day. But as my due date gets closer and closer, that thought process changes and I make sure I’m ready at a moment’s notice for the big event.
What does the Bible tell us about the Last Day? Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (Ah, I knew the pregnancy illustration sounded familiar!) See, whenever Jesus returns, it will be a shock to everyone. Keeping with the pregnancy theme, it’s sort of like a preemie birth. When a woman’s water breaks in her 6th month, she isn’t expecting it at all. It’s not normal, and there’s no way she could have anticipated such an early labor or delivery. So it will be with Jesus’ return- totally unexpected, catching people off guard. And yet the Bible warns us to always be ready. We are told in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins to “keep our lamps trimmed and burning.” We are told in Luke 12:38 that it will be good for the master who finds his servants prepared in the second and third watches of the night. But how, exactly, are we to be prepared? What would it look like if we lived every day as if we expected Jesus to return any moment?
First of all, don’t stray too far. From God’s Word, that is. I think if we knew Jesus was coming sometime this year, a whole lot of people would be digging into their Bibles in much more depth than usual. We would make sure our doctrine and beliefs lined up exactly with the Word of God, so as not to jeopardize our eternal welfare. We wouldn’t waste our time on frivolous things like questionable movies or sitcoms with loose morals. We would get off our iPhones and social media and read our Bibles and commentaries instead. We would stay “close to home” with the Lord.
Next, pack. What is that supposed to mean, exactly? Everyone knows the old adage, “You can’t take it with you.” But I’m not talking about earthly possessions. I’m talking about souls. Now, obviously, only God can create saving faith in someone else’s heart, but He uses us as His vessels to share the Word. If you knew Jesus would return within the month, with whom would you share your faith? I’m sure you’d take every opportunity to make sure your kids were secure in their faith, but wouldn’t you tell your neighbors about Jesus, too? What about the UPS guy who delivers to your house? The lady in the checkout aisle at the grocery store? There are tons of people in this world who still need to hear the message of salvation. Share it freely, even recklessly.
Lastly, simplify and take it easy. My Crock Pot meal strategy has greatly improved my efficiency. Over the past few weeks I’ve even doubled most of the recipes to stick an extra meal in the freezer for the chaos of the first few weeks of a newborn in the house. But look what the unintended side effects have been- I’ve been able to have dinner ready and the prep work cleaned up by mid-morning. When the kids get home from school I have time to actually spend with them, playing outside or working on homework or just talking. I don’t have to do the mad dash of dinner crunch time as I search through the pantry for available ingredients. So how does that translate into preparing for Jesus’ coming? Take stock of your life and see where you can simplify. Cut out activities that take your time and attention away from your family and from God. Are your kids involved in sports that meet on Sunday mornings? Do you work yourself so hard you don’t have time for devotions at the end of the day or church on weekends? How can you change that? Simplify where you can in order to make room for the things in life that really matter- eternally.
So get ready. Whether my bags are packed or not, this baby is coming soon. And whether you’re prepared or not, Jesus will return one day when you’re least expecting it. Don’t stray too far from home, pack those bags, and simplify. It’s the final countdown.