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To Be Prepared

Are we ready for Christ’s return? Have we prepared for eternity? In this message on Luke 21:34-36, Jim Shaddix encourages Christians to live in light of Christ’s second coming. He shares two key takeaways from the passage.

  1. We must prepare for the end times and Christ’s return.
  2. There is a relationship between prayer and preparation.

Luke 21 in your Bible. In just a moment, I’m going to be reading three verses: 34, 35 and 36.

If I asked you this question this morning, “Are you ready for Christmas?” how many of you would raise your hand to say, “Yes.” Alright, there are a few of you out there. Thank you, both of you that raised your hand. The others of you are in trouble because it’s coming quickly. You see, when you ask that question, adults and children think differently about the answer.

If I ask a child that question, most likely the child is thinking about the morning of December 25th. Are you ready for Christmas? A child says, “I’m so ready for that day! I’m so ready to get up on that morning. I’m so ready for my family to exchange gifts and all of that kind of stuff.” I don’t think adults think as much about the day when asked that question as we do about the process leading up to it. If I ask the question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” some of you adults are thinking about all of the stuff you still have to do to get to that day. “No, I’m not ready for Christmas. I haven’t bought all the gifts. I haven’t given my mission offering. I haven’t sent my Christmas cards.” You’re thinking about readiness from the standpoint of the things that lead up to that. Maybe, as adults, some of us are thinking, have we manipulated our emotions into the spirit of the season. “Yes, I’m ready for Christmas and all that goes into it.” Or, “No, I’m not ready for all of the Christmas carols and the hustle and bustle and all of that kind of stuff.” We think differently about the answer to that question.

Kids think about the day. Most of us, as adults, we’re thinking about the things that lead up to that. So when we think about the upcoming celebration of Christ’s first coming, we probably find ourselves, depending upon our age, in one of those two categories.

When we think about Christ’s second coming, Jesus would want us to think as adults. Not as children. Now, with those two mindsets, I want you to bring that into this picture.

If I ask the question this morning, “Are you ready for Christ’s return?” If we were thinking like children in relation to Christ’s first coming, or the celebration of it, we would be thinking about just that day. The day the skies open and He shows up and we might answer the question, “Yes, I’m ready because I confessed Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 10 or when I was 20, or when I was 30. I’m ready for that day.” But the fact of the matter is, when Jesus talked most about His coming in the Scripture, He was not looking for an answer of readiness with regard to our salvation -though that’s incredibly important. He was asking the question from the standpoint of the process leading up to that day and everything that goes along with it.

Let me show you one place here in Luke 21:34. Jesus says these words, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34–36 ESV)

Do you hear His heartbeat in that? His heartbeat certainly references the day, but His concern is with His disciples’ readiness with regard to the process that leads up to that day. His disciples asked the question, “When” in this text.

This is the Olivet Discourse – some of you know that Jesus gave His disciples, probably on Tuesday of Passion Week, the last week that He had on Earth. In that discourse, He was preparing them, not only for His departure, but what would come after His departure. So Jesus was using a lot of apocalyptic language. He talked about the destruction of the temple. He spoke about political upheaval with nations. He spoke to the disciples about persecution that was going to come and their families turning against them. Then He spoke about the destruction of Jerusalem. All of the cataclysmic, cosmic events that would surround His actual arrival. Then He certainly spoke about the day He would come.

All of those things are here, but let me show you part of what prompted it in verse 7 of Luke 21. “And they asked him, ‘Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?’” (Luke 21:7 ESV)

Now the truth of the matter is, Jesus didn’t answer the question in the first part specifically, “When?” He didn’t give them a day, and He didn’t give them an hour. He didn’t even give them a year. He did go on to talk about how they would recognize that history was moving toward that point. But what He spends most of His time talking about is their readiness, or lack thereof, in preparation for all of that. Jesus doesn’t talk so much about the “when” as He does the “what” His disciples were supposed to do in order to be prepared for that.

Luke 21:34-36 reminds us we must prepare for the end times and Christ’s return.

That’s what I want you to think about in this particular passage that we’re dealing with in Luke 21. I want to identify two truths and then unpack them a little bit. Here is the first one. We must be prepared for the last days and Christ’s coming. We must be prepared for the last days and Christ’s coming. Before we unpack that, let’s get something straight. We’re living in the last days. You know that, right? I don’t make that statement because I think within the year 2013 Jesus is going to come. I don’t know.

What I know is, when the New Testament uses terms like “the last days” and “the Lord’s day,” it is in reference to the entire period between Christ’s first coming and His second coming. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. Somebody says, “Do you think we’re living in the last days?” Yes! The answer is yes. In fact, I don’t think, I know. These are the last days we’re living in. Ever since Jesus checked out of here and went back to heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection, we have been living in the last days. And He told His disciples that and every disciple of His that would follow them. These are the last days.

Jesus never identifies within that period between His first coming and His second coming exactly when that would take place. But He does talk a whole lot about the last days. He does talk a whole lot about His second coming, and He talks a whole lot about His disciples’ readiness for that – their preparedness for that.

There’s language that’s used here that speaks to that. Verse 34, He says “Watch yourselves.” This is a word that means, “to take heed.” Don’t relegate this to something that is unimportant, that doesn’t matter. In verse 36, He says, “But stay awake at all times,” (Luke 21:36 ESV)

He uses in the language of the New Testament, a tense that means, “Do this on an ongoing basis.” You attach that phrase, “at all times,” and it means to keep staying awake all the time. He obviously is using metaphorical language here to speak to alertness and awareness and preparedness. He’s not saying, “You need to live in insomnia and never take a nap or never go to bed at night.” He’s talking about our cognizance of what is going on around us, and our readiness for whenever that day comes. Being prepared for it. Not just from the standpoint of our salvation, but from the standpoint of all of these things that lead up to this.

This is very consistent, by the way, with terminology that Jesus used in Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse. You can look at it here on the screen. He says, “Therefore stay awake. For you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Though it’s not on the screen, let me read you how he closed that thought. “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour you do not expect.”

In Mark 13, similarly Jesus would say this, and He uses this word, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33 ESV) Then He says, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:37 ESV)

Earlier in Luke’s gospel from where we are right now, Jesus would tell His disciples, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” He’s using similar terminology that God used with the children of Israel in Exodus 12, when He was speaking about the Exodus out of Egypt. He says, “Have your bags packed, your shoes on and be ready to go in an instant.” That’s what Jesus says in this text. He concludes that thought by saying this, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

The apostle Paul, when he was talking about Jesus coming back as a thief in the night and how we were people of the day, he said this, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake,” and he introduces a new term here, “and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6 ESV)

You’ve got all of these descriptions, you’ve got this idea of being awake and being on guard. Having your shoes on and your bags packed, staying alert. Paul says, “be sober.” All of these are terms of readiness. They are terms of preparedness that deal with the process leading up to this, not simply whether or not we are ready to meet our maker, so to speak, stand before Jesus and be at the judgment when He determines who gets into heaven and who doesn’t get into heaven. This is speaking about a process leading up to the whole atmosphere. All of these terms that Jesus uses here in Luke 21, as well as those that are used in other parts of the Bible, they heighten the urgency and the weightiness of this matter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for us, not just being concerned about readiness for the day and the hour, but readiness for everything, preparedness for everything that leads up to that time. Because that’s what Jesus spoke about when He talked to His disciples. If you lined it all up, how much did he talk about that exact moment when He was coming back and we would meet Him? How much did He talk about the events leading up, and what we were going to deal with, and what was going to happen?

I want to tell you, what goes in the second column, in the process leading up to it and preparedness for that, so far outweighs the exact moment and day and time and the events of those circumstances. Look at some of the things in and around this passage of Scripture that raise the seriousness of us being ready, our preparedness. Let me show you some of them.

Luke 21:34-36 reminds us the second coming is certain.

One is this, the second coming is certain. It is certain. I want you to look at the verse that immediately precedes the passage that I read. Verse 33 in Luke 21, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33 ESV)

You understand, that comes right here in the middle of this whole discussion that goes back to verse five in this chapter, and continues into the passage that we’re dealing with. Right in the middle of it, after He’s described the fall of Jerusalem and political upheaval and persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem and His actual coming, in a few verses. He makes this statement, as if to say, “You can take this to the bank. You can count on this.” To say it another way, “My coming is more certain than the continuation of creation.” That’s a pretty profound thought, isn’t it?

There’s a lot of emphasis today on verse 12. The historicity of the first 12 chapters of Genesis – and let me just say, I believe that is incredibly important, it speaks so much to the validity of the Bible and the Christian faith and that’s important for us to delve into. But you know, Jesus said, “All of that really is going to go away.” We need to give more attention to our readiness and preparedness for this that is going to last for all of eternity. So the second coming is certain.

Luke 21:34-36 reminds us the difficulty will intensify.

Another thing Jesus says here is that the difficulty will intensify. The difficulty of this process leading up to this. Look at verse 34, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down…” A heart that’s weighed down is an insensitive heart. One that has become dull. It’s become heavy to the point of not even being able to process what’s going on. How does that happen? He says with dissipation and that’s the dizziness that goes along with drunkenness. The dissipation and drunkenness. You remember, Paul said “Be sober.” “…with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life…” (Luke 21:34 ESV) These are the things that are going to make a heart insensitive and weigh it down.

You put those things together, and what you have is the picture of somebody growing increasingly more intoxicated with the stuff of this world. The worries, the cares, the things that this world has to offer that we put so much value on. And Jesus says right here, “That kind of stuff is going to cloud your thinking more and more to the point that you’re not thinking clearly. To the point that you’re ultimately intoxicated with this world and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t have any direction, and you certainly don’t have any time for thinking about readiness for My coming.” And He says, “That will weigh you down.”

By the way, if you have ever in your physical labor, carried a heavy weight for a period of time, you know what happens, right? Technically, that weight doesn’t weigh any more than it did when you picked it up, but it sure feels like it, right? It gets heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier the more you carry it. Finally you’ve got to set it down and take a break. Jesus says, “Watch yourselves. Prepare intentionally. Be ready.” He says, “Because in an increasingly intensifying way, this world will intoxicate you, and that weight will become heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier and you’ll get drunk with it.” Jesus says that the difficulty will intensify.

Luke 21:34-36 reminds us the end will be a surprise.

He also says that the end will be a surprise. Notice in verse 34, “… and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34 ESV) Similar to the discussions that Jesus had at other times, and the apostle Paul – we just read about – categorizing His coming as a thief in the night that comes unannounced. Jesus uses the imagery of a trap in which a hunter sets this trap for the hunted and the hunted doesn’t know it’s coming, is not ready. The mouse wanders to the cheese, and all of a sudden, in an instant, the trap snaps. It’s a surprise! No thief calls you up and says, “Hey, I’ll be there tonight about 11:30, and I’ll be there for about 30 minutes, and I’ll be gone. No worries.” No, that’s not what thieves do. They surprise you, right? You don’t know they’re coming. Same way with a trap. An animal that wanders into it is lured into it deceptively. It’s quick and it’s sudden. It’ll be a surprise.

By the way, I think this is one of the reasons that Jesus didn’t answer the first part of that question in verse 7 with the specifics that maybe the disciples were looking for: “Lord, when is this coming?” Because you see, here’s the deal, Jesus knew that this atmosphere that we live in was going to become increasingly more difficult as it goes on. He knows that’s what goes along with it. But He also knows our flesh and our nature. If you put that date on the calendar, what are most of us going to do? “Well, I’m good to go. I’ve got that right here on my smartphone. It’s plastered on the refrigerator.” The closer we get to it, the more prepared we’ll get. And our tendency would be to procrastinate and put things off.

And wait until the last minute. And Jesus knew that when you put the nature of His coming, and everything leading up to that, with our nature that this would catch us off-guard. It would catch us like a trap because this world would be luring us into its trap. And intoxicating us to the point that this would catch us by surprise. And He didn’t want that to happen.

The judgment will be final.

Not only that, not only that it would be a surprise, that trap has another image. And that is that this judgment will be final. I mean, once the trap snaps, the hunted is history, right? No appeal, no second chance, it’s over. So when Jesus paints this picture right here, He’s not only painting a picture of something that will catch people by surprise, He’s painting a picture of something that has a finality to it. There’s no going back at that particular point.

The effects will be global.

And then, He very clearly says the effects will be global. Nobody gets a pass on this deal. You see it in verse 35, “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:35 ESV) It will come on all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Let me remind you, beloved, I don’t know what your eschatological persuasion is, or your doctrine of the end times, and we spend a lot of time arguing about that. But let me just remind you that Jesus is speaking here to His disciples. He’s speaking to His followers.

And for some reason, He felt it necessary to say this at this point, “This is global, ok? Everybody that’s on planet Earth is going to be a part of this atmosphere, this process.” And I don’t want to argue with you, what your doctrine of the end times will be, and the timing – all of that. Let me just plead with you – don’t choose one that suggests that you will get a pass from all of the difficulty that will come the way of this world in that day. There wouldn’t have been any reason to be concerned about preparedness, or readiness, or to stay awake, or to watch yourselves, or to use terms like this if those who name the name of Christ weren’t going to have some heaviness coming against them. This is going to be global.

And if I could just say a word right here to those of you that are here without Christ this morning, and you’re maybe here out of interest or curiosity, and you’re wondering about some of this stuff. Or somebody’s shared the gospel with you. Hear these words right here. Hear these words. It’s going to make it harder and harder to trust Christ as we go along, not easier and easier. It’s not something you put off. It is more certain than this physical creation and its continuance out there. Jesus says that it will catch you by surprise and it will be final with regard to its verdict at that particular point, and nobody gets a pass.

And I want to plead with you this morning to, that brother or sister in Christ, that Christian that has invited you to church or shared the gospel with you. Hear what they say, listen to their good news. Listen to the choice that you have about Jesus Christ. And today, call out to Him and ask Him to save you. Repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ and Him alone. Run to that Christian friend who has ministered to you. And say, “Tell me more.” Or say to them, “Let me tell you, I’m ready to do this.” After this service go to that access corner. Fill out that form that’s in your worship guide there and let somebody know that today you’re saying, “Yes,” because of how Jesus describes all of this stuff here leading up to His coming. All of these descriptions are ones to say, “Don’t wait!” For those who’ve named the name of Christ remember, remember that this beck and call is for us to be prepared.

There is a relationship between prayer and preparation.

And so, Jesus tells us something else about getting that way. And this is the second truth. And that is that, according to Scripture, there is a relationship between prayer and preparation. There is a relationship between our prayer lives and our preparation for all of this stuff that is going to be coming down the pike. And to some degree, some of it already is, as we live in the last days.

And I want you to look there in your text. You see verse 36, when Jesus uses that second charge of alertness and preparedness, to stay awake at all times. He says this, “Pray, pray.” In the language of the New Testament the construction here is tied to that call to stay awake, to continually stay awake at all times. And the tense of the verb, “praying,” is also one of continuance, of an ongoing activity. And it’s as if Jesus were saying, “Stay awake all the time by praying all the time. Keep staying awake by keep praying.” That’s what He indicates here. Because of the similarity in this one and the one that’s in verse 34, we understand these to go together. And all of those other terms.

Jesus said, “Here’s how you stay awake. Here’s how you’re alert. Here’s how you be on guard. Here’s how you get your shoes on and your bags packed. Here’s how you stay sober. You do it, largely, by praying.” Keep thinking about this in preparation for this. Back to the title of this series, we’re asking simply a question, “Why Pray?” And the answers we give to that so often are so trite, they are so small.

They are so short-sighted, and yet Jesus gave us profound thoughts as to why this is important. Why prayer must be something more than just a spiritual discipline – just a way for us to ask God for stuff. Here He seems to indicate, “This is your lifeline to being ready, to being prepared, so that this thing doesn’t sneak up on you and catch you by surprise.” He says, “Pray.”

And I think Jesus gives us a little more than that. And I think He carries it a step further and would be followed by other Biblical writers who would join in the same by maybe giving us some specifics of what we’re to pray for. And how we’re to pray in order to be ready. And so, church, this is where I want us to think practically this morning. And what I want to do is, I want to call your attention to a couple of things in this passage.

And then we’ll draw from a couple of outside passages of Scripture and answer that question, “What are we to be praying for? How are we to be praying in order to ready ourselves and be prepared for all of the stuff that is going to characterize this generation? The stuff that is going to characterize this period of time between Christ’s first coming and His second coming?”

Luke 21:34-36 calls us to pray for strength

Let me show you a couple in this passage before we turn our attention to some others. One of the things Jesus says here is, “Pray for strength to hold up under the increasing pressure.” Pray for strength to hold up under this intensifying climate that is going to characterize us. Look in verse 36 there. He says, “…praying,” for what? Praying to what end? “…praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place…” (Luke 21:36 ESV) What things? Just glance back over the preceding verses in chapter 21. Verse 8, “And he said, ‘See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’” (Luke 21:8 ESV) There are going to be false prophets that are going to be coming your way. There are podcasts, there are books, there are radio programs, preaching in churches – and they are going to be saying stuff that is not true. You’re going to have to be ready for that. I’m going to have to be ready for that. We’re going to need strength in order not to get sucked into false teaching.

Look at verse 11, He says, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11 ESV) That’s stuff we need strength for! Verse 12, “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:12 ESV) Beloved, you’re going to need strength to endure in the middle of that.

I’m going to need strength to endure that. Verse 16, “You will be delivered up,” get this one, “even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.” (Luke 21:16 ESV) Are you ready for that? Are you ready for your family to turn against you? You ready for your family to be the ones that call the authorities and turn you in? Tell them what you’re doing? Tell them where you go to church? How your family is having worship times in your own home – are you ready for that?

Now remember, we haven’t even gotten to His coming. I’m not asking you, “Are you ready to meet your maker?” I’m asking you, “Are you ready for that?” Jesus says we’re going to need strength for that. Verse 17, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17 ESV) We’re going to need strength for that. Verse 22, “for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.” (Luke 21:22 ESV) Verse 23, “Alas,” it’s not even a complete sentence. “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants…” (Luke 21:23 ESV) You’re going to need strength for those days, He says. Verse 25, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth…” (Luke 21:25 ESV) All of this cosmic chaos. Verse 26, “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” (Luke 21:26 ESV)

Beloved, we’re going to need strength for that. You don’t just look at that stuff right there and say, “Oh, I’m ready for Jesus to come, because I’ve accepted Him as my Lord and Savior.” Jesus is getting His disciples ready and He says, “Pray for that.” And this morning, church, I want to say to you, “Pray for that!” Pray for these things, don’t just assume this and don’t cloud and fill your prayer lists and your prayer time with just things that are related to what we need and what we have and the physical condition of our body. Those things may be important, but make sure this is on the list. Prayer for strength to endure and to hold up under this.

Pray that you’ll be found faithful when Christ returns.

And then Jesus says, “Pray that you’ll be found faithful when Christ returns.” Pray that the way you live your life up to this point will cause you to be found faithful the moment that He does show up – you see it at the end of verse 36? And to stand, remember He said, “Pray.” Praying that you’ll have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

I don’t know if we can completely discern exactly how all of this is going to look, but sometimes the Scripture just speaks in a very simplistic way. And here it’s as if the suggestion, when Jesus does show up, there are going to be those that are going to cower at His coming and hide their faces – the book of Revelation seems to indicate this. And then there are going to be those who are going to be able to stand and look Him face to face and welcome His coming.

Look back, just a couple of verses, at verse 27. I love this, Luke 21:27, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27–28 ESV) Isn’t that cool? To be able to know at that point that you’ve lived your life in readiness and preparedness and you’ve taken these things seriously.

And when it finally does come and all chaos is breaking loose around you, to be able to stand up in the middle of it and say, “Here we go! Bring it on! I’m ready.” How cool would that be? What a vision. What a vision to use to guide your life, and your living, and the way that you spend your money, and raise your kids, and order your days, and the way that you pray – asking God for strength to be ready for that time. And everything that is about leading up to it.

Pray for other believers to endure faithfully to the end.

The apostle Paul speaks into this issue as well. And so I want to add his contribution to this with another thing that we ought to be praying for. And I want you to notice all of these – here in these passages, and in the one that I’m about to show you. All of these speak of things that are related to staying awake and being alert and praying as the means by which we do all of this. One of the things the apostle Paul says is “Pray for other believers to endure faithfully to the end.” Add that to your list. Pray for other believers. You can just look at it up here on the screen. Let me turn quickly and read it to you.

In the last part of the book of Ephesians, where Paul’s talking about all that spiritual warfare in chapter 6, and the armor of God specifically. And so many people miss this. You know, we get caught up a lot of times in the metaphors that are used there for all of the armors of God. And he mentions all of those qualities, those characteristics that he illustrates by those things. And then he comes down to verse 18 in chapter 6 and says, “Praying at all times.” And sometimes that’s left out of discussions of the armor of God and the language here is almost as if to say, “Hey, the venue, the arena in which all of these other things are done is the prayer life.”

Praying at all times, this is how you put on the armor of God. And I don’t know if you feel like you’ve got to go through a physical routine – “I’m putting on the breastplate of righteousness. And my feet shod with the preparation of the..” If that’s helpful for you, that’s great. But don’t leave this one out. There is no piece of armor associated with it. And yet, in the language, the apostle Paul says, “This is how this takes place.” And notice what he says, “Praying at all times in the spirit with all prayer and supplication – to that end keep alert.” Do you see it? “Keep alert with all perseverance,” and here it is, “making supplication for all the saints.”

Paul puts together this idea of prayer, this idea of staying alert. He puts it together with us praying for each other. He reminds us that we can’t do this alone. And our own prayer lives will not be sufficient. This is going to be so heavy, it’s going to be so intense, and it’s going to increase more and more. Community is going to be huge in this! And I’m going to need you praying for me, and you’re going to need me praying for you. And people in our small groups praying for one another. Praying that our faith would be strong and that we would endure.

Listen, who are you praying for today? What believers are you praying for today? And, then the follow up question is, “What are you praying for?” Is your prayer life for other believers in your small group – is it limited to their health, and their job search, and a relationship they are in? Yeah, pray about all of those things – those things are important – but pray that their faith would stay strong.

Pray that they would endure to the end. Dads, are you praying for your kids? You know, a lot of times we pray for our kids, and we just pray for stuff that’s important, but sometimes it’s just the stuff of this life. Those of us that have daughters, we pray that they won’t marry a lame husband at some point – that they’ll find a man of God, and he’ll treat them right. And that’s a good thing to pray for, but let me tell you, dads, don’t forget to pray that your daughter’s faith would stay strong if she does end up marrying a lame husband, and she gets in a situation where her faith is being challenged. We’ve got to pray for our kids in this way. That their faith would endure and it would stand strong to the end. Pray for these things, beloved.

Pray with gratitude for God’s grace through the journey.

Paul would also say, “Pray with gratitude for God’s grace through the journey.” God’s grace that is sufficient for the journey. Look up at the screen here and let me read to you Colossians 4:2. Paul says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful.” (Colossians 4:2 ESV) So we’ve got the prayer component, and we’ve got the watchful component. Being watchful in it, and then he says, “with thanksgiving.” This may seem so small. It may seem just like Paul’s saying, “Oh, Christians ought to be grateful all the time.” And so we should. So we should.

We are of all people, most grateful and most thankful because we understand how much we’ve been given that we don’t deserve. But there has to be a reason Paul connects gratitude when he’s talking about prayer and watchfulness. And it’s as if he would say to us, “As you’re praying for strength, and praying for steadfastness, and praying for one another in preparation for these times we’re living in, that will grow worse and worse – always keep on the forefront of your thinking that God has resourced you in this and the victory is yours. He has promised the strength for you to stand strong, and not only to survive, but thrive. And He’s provided the means for me and you to access that strength, and it’s through prayer.” And that kind of mentality, that kind of idea, keeps us coming back.

It keep us on our knees. It keeps us crying out to God. But it keeps our crying out to Him an expression of worship as we go to Him with great confidence, saying, “God, thank you. Thank you that you’ve given me this prayer thing. And thank you that through this prayer thing, I can access Your strength, because things are getting tough down here and I am so grateful to You for making provision for me and not leaving me alone in this deal.” So Paul would say, “Pray for gratefulness for the grace of God that is sufficient for this journey.”

Think rightly about the end times to you’ll keep praying.

The apostle Peter speaks into this as well. And I want to finish with this. Peter, and this is an interesting one, Peter seems to say to us to think rightly about the end times so that you’ll keep praying. Think rightly about the end times so that you’ll keep praying. Look up here at the screen, and let me read to you 1 Peter 4:7. This is a curious one. Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7 ESV) For the sake of your prayers. In the language of the New Testament, these words “self-controlled” and “sober minded” are synonymous. They speak of this alertness and this awareness, this cognizance. It creates the idea of clear thinking, not thinking that is all over the map and it is out of control.

And then the construction of the verse here, Peter says, “Do that to the end of, and for the purpose of, your prayers.” As if to say, “This kind of thinking is what’s going to enable you to pray.” And so you almost have this cycle that is going here. You know, Jesus and Paul are saying, “Pray so that you think rightly.” Peter builds on it and he says, “Now, think rightly so that you’ll go back and pray.” And there’s this thing that just keeps moving us around, calling us to dependence on God, drawing on His strength that drives us back to prayer.

But why does Peter say this? Because he knows human nature. And he knows that in this issue of eschatology – the doctrine of end times, of last things – there’s going to be a tendency for us to just be all over the map in our thinking and get caught up in the wrong things. And to dwell on those things that we really have no control over – that we can’t know or don’t matter. And beloved, you know what Peter’s saying here is true. It is a characteristic of our Christian culture today that eschatology – the teaching about last things – is in the Bible so that we’ll pull out a chart and a timeline.

And we’ll try to look specifically, or we’ll even look around us and say, “Boy, you know, things are getting rough, we must be living in the last days.” And we’ll be all over the map in our thinking about the last days when the primary reason that eschatology is given to us in the Bible is so that we will be prepared and we will ready our lives. Which includes our praying for God’s strength and calling upon Him to sustain us, and call us to endure. It is for the here and now.

Our pastor beautifully, beautifully laid this open for us in the book of Revelation. To turn our attention away from trying to put a map on the wall, but to say, “This is so that suffering believers will endure, and they will stay strong, and they will long for His coming, yes. But that longing will lead them to preparedness and steadfastness now.” And this is what Peter says. He says, “You think rightly, you think rightly about end times. The way the Bible orders you to think.”

Can I give you just one example of this in closing? Right in the middle of Jesus’ description of these end things in Luke 21, right in the middle of it – in fact it’s right in between when He’s talking about us being handed over and put in prison. Right in between that and when He talks about our families turning against us, and maybe them being the one that call the hotline and turning us in, He says this in Luke 21:13, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21:13–15 ESV)

Now that is right thinking about the last days. That is clear thinking about the last days. Clear thinking is, “I’m in the midst of this, strengthened by the Lord with the promise of the Lord, what opportunity do I have to speak for Him? What opportunity do I have to call attention to the fame of His name?” Not to withdraw and wait for His coming, not to just look into the skies and hope it will be today, and certainly not to try to pinpoint the time that is coming, but clear and right thinking includes, “Lord, you have left me here for this season and you’ve resourced me with everything that I need. Now how can I speak in the midst of all of this for Your glory?”

Beloved, that’s right thinking. That’s clear-headed thinking about the day. It’s why we talk so much about it. And it’s why God, through His inspired writers in the Bible, would put us in this cycle of praying for strength, and getting strength, and that strength resourcing us to pray more. And in the context of that, building our faith and making us strong. So that we are prepared for His coming. Not just for the day, but for the process that leads up to that. Jesus never wanted us to forget, never wanted us to loose sight, as part of our right thinking, of what has given us the security and the assurance of a people of faith serving their Master.

We must prepare for the end times and Christ’s return.

  • (Luke 21:34-35; cf. Matthew 24:42, 25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:35-48; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8)
  • The second coming is certain.
  • The difficulty will intensify.
  • The end will be a surprise.
  • The judgment will be final.
  • The effects will be global.

There is a relationship between prayer and preparation.

  • (Luke 21:36; cf. Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 18:1-8, 22:46; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7)
  • Pray for strength to hold up under
  •  increasing pressure.
  • Pray that you’ll be found faithful when Christ returns.
  • Pray for other believers to endure faithfully to  the end.
  • Pray with gratitude for God’s grace through the journey.

Think rightly about the end times so you’ll keep praying.

Jim Shaddix is a professor of expository preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado, and as dean of the chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Shaddix is the author of several books, including The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen.


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