Sunday, November 4, 2012

While We Wait

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination [is] to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
Zephaniah 3:8 NKJV

So who really enjoys waiting? I know I certainly don't, and I'm pretty sure most of you aren't really fond of it either. Yet quite often in scripture, we read about  situations where people are asked to wait upon the Lord. Today we find ourselves in a situation where we are expecting the imminent return of Jesus for His Church, and also see the signs of the approaching time of tribulation all around us. Yet even as we watch for His return, we wait and grow impatient as time slowly goes by and still no call for us to go home.

I think it's probably safe to assume that each of us handles waiting in a slightly different way. Obviously everyone has a different level of patience, and most have their own way of dealing with the different emotions waiting can produce as we watch for Christ's return. Yet I believe the Bible gives us all specific instructions of what we are expected to do as we wait that many of us might not be aware of. Today I want to share with you my thoughts on just what we are expected to do while we wait and watch for the rapture of the Church.

The Olivet Discourse is the most well known teaching by our Lord on the subject of the times we now find ourselves in. In Matthew 24-25 we find His explanation of the signs of the end of this age, and the things we can expect to see and to watch for as the time of our departure draws near. We also find three of Jesus' parables that He used to illustrate and explain the things we should all be doing as we wait. While it is common to find each of these parables examined and explained individually, I think when we decide to consider the subject of what we are expected to be doing as we wait, we should take a step back and consider them as one perspective with three distinct responsibilities.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? "Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' "and begins to beat [his] fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him] and at an hour that he is not aware of, "and will cut him in two and appoint [him] his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:45-51 NKJV

I think most of us would agree that this parable certainly describes the situation we find ourselves in today. Our master is gone and we have been appointed His servants and been given the responsibility of managing the household until He returns. The very first responsibility we are told to assume as servants is the feeding of the household. As I have mentioned, I visited my daughter and my first granddaughter just a couple of weeks ago and while there had many an occasion to reflect on the importance of feeding. At all hours of the day and night I might add.

It seems so obvious that feeding the Body is the most important responsibility we have yet this is something many completely overlook when waiting and watching for Jesus' return. We become so fixated on looking for signs that we neglect the most basic of our responsibilities...feeding ourselves and others. To be healthy and strong, one must eat. Are you feeding on the Word of God and in turn feeding others?

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. "Now five of them were wise, and five [were] foolish. "Those who [were] foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, "but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. "But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. "And at midnight a cry was [heard]: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'
Matthew 25:1-6 NKJV

Throughout the Bible we find that oil most often is used as a picture to symbolize the Holy Spirit. In this parable we are shown the contrast between the actions of two different groups of people presented with a situation that required waiting through a delay of some time. The difference between them is that one group has sufficient oil to carry them through the waiting period, and one group does not. I believe the important point here is one of preparation. When we become believers, our hope is in the return of Christ for His Church. Yet the Word is clear that there will be a period of waiting, so the responsibility we have is to make sure we carry enough oil to see us through.

How do we do that? It is by working at and developing our relationship with the Holy Spirit to allow Him to show us how He will provide for us on a day to day basis. Unfortunately the body has many who simply hear the Word and agree with what it says, but never take the step to allow the Holy Spirit to work through them. The wise believer understands the power of the Holy Spirit and chooses to allow Him to fill their lamps so they can burn brightly even through the wait. These two groups may look the same on the outside, but it is what is inside that will make the difference when the time of waiting and testing comes.

"For [the kingdom of heaven is] like a man traveling to a far country, [who] called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. "And likewise he who [had received] two gained two more also. "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.
Matthew 25:14-18 NKJV

In this parable, we find again the picture of the Master going away for a time and leaving his servants to do something for him. But the difference here is that we see each of the servants is given money belonging to the master, and then expected to invest wisely during his absence. Since we know that Jesus is illustrating what He expects from us during His absence, the picture here seems pretty straightforward. Each of us has been given some ability or “talent” by God, and the expectation is that we will use it for His glory when the opportunity presents itself. It also seems clear that nothing is expected from us that we don't have the ability to provide. We are not being asked to do more than we are able, rather to simply serve according to the ability He has given us. The contrast in this parable is solely between those who try, and those who don't.

Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity to glorify God? I know I have, and all too often. The opportunities we have are provided by God, and never in such a way as to ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. Looking for those opportunities and acting on them is what we are being instructed to do in this parable, and in fact, is probably the reason behind the delay of His return. Are we really looking for opportunities to share the gospel with those around us, or are we fixated on His return and doing nothing but waiting? What I see in these three parables tells me that I need to first of all focus on the health of the body (eat and feed), secondly develop the strength needed for the wait (fill with the oil of the Holy Spirit), and lastly look for opportunities to share the gospel (use the talents He gave me).

Watching should never be our sole purpose in this life. While we are commanded to watch for His return, we are also told that we have responsibilities to fulfill as His servants while He is away. How do you wait? Look at these three parables and see if there is something you need to do for your Master while He is away.

Keep watching.