And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
Series Focus: “Thy Kingdom Come”
Preparing for this season is loaded with lists, trips to stores, orders placed, pantry and wrapping supplies inventoried, address lists updated, cards and postage purchased, baking planned, menus organized, and on and on and on. Did you make it through the season unscathed? Were you able to accomplish all you hoped, planned and intended? Most of us probably missed a detail here and there. And that’s ok.
All the additional preparation, while keeping up with the requirements of every-day-life, can produce an immense amount of stress. Yet, somehow we manage to fit in the extra and keep going. Why? Because it’s a priority to us. It’s important. The cards, cookies, gifts, dinners, and events mean something special. The planners are wise and experience greater peace; the procrastinators panic and flounder under pressure. Ultimately, no matter how full our plates are, all of us make sacrifices to make room for what matters most.
Jesus told a story, found in Matthew 25:1-13, about preparation and procrastination. Let’s read together:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at Midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Are you ready for when Jesus returns? Have you filled your “flask” with faith? Or, have you become distracted by the cares of the world and figure you’ll have enough time to invest in your faith at the last minute? Jesus explained that this is what the Kingdom of God will look like at the coming of the Bridegroom – when Jesus comes for the Church. Some, though cleansed and made new, without spot or blemish, will not be prepared. Dare we even suppose, from the details of the story, that up to half of the church will not be prepared?
Jesus told another story, found in Luke 18, about the persistent widow who relentlessly pursued justice. At the end of the story, Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith in the earth?” In Hebrews 11:6, Paul exhorts the reader that it is impossible to please God without faith-that we must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Romans 12:3 says that God has provided each of us a measure of faith. We all have been given a portion of faith. But it is the responsibility of each person to build, increase, and strengthen his or her faith.
God doesn’t increase our faith by any act of His. Romans 10:17 instructs us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. We increase our faith by hearing the Word of God, by listening to and pondering on His words of truth, by revisiting the testimonies of the faithfulness of God, and by filtering everything through the word made flesh—Jesus. No one can build our faith for us. It is the responsibility of each person. We can, however, pray that our faith, and the faith of others, does not fail. Jesus showed us this in Luke 22:32 when He prayed that Peter’s faith not fail.
We have spent the last 22 weeks exploring and dissecting the lessons Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Through stories and examples, Jesus revealed Kingdom truths. One continuous thread through all of the stories is that the Kingdom requires action. There is nothing idle or happen-stance. A choice must be made; a stand confirmed; and pursuant action taken by the believer.
Jesus has made the way for each of us to enter His glorious Kingdom, without spot or blemish—perfect in the sight of God. Every barrier is broken. We are hand-picked, invited and precious in His sight. Cling to the living words of Almighty God and walk in the way Jesus has made for you, as you pray and believe His perfect will be done. Awaken to the truth that you are accepted in the Beloved and part of His glorious Kingdom.
Reflecting on the preparations of the holiday season, have you been as diligent in preparing for the return of Jesus? Will the Bridegroom find you in faith and ready to meet Him? Or, have the cares of the world smothered and overtaken your attention? Have you grown weary in well-doing and forgotten your first love? Be encouraged to seek the Lord and fill your “flask” with faith while there is still time. This is the day of salvation. The Word of God is a lamp unto your feet; your faith in Him is the oil. Feed on the faithfulness of God and be ready when He comes.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture References: Matthew 6:9-10, 25:1-13; Luke 18:1-8, 22:32; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:17, 12:3; Ephesians 1:3-6, 5:1-2, 25-27; 22:19; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Psalm 37:3, 119:105; Revelation 22:12, 20