By: Casey Bonilla
This past week I had to take two flights in one day – and the same exact thing happened on both. Before the first plane took off the pilot said, “I’ll turn the seatbelt sign off as soon as we’re going. It looks like it’ll be a smooth and easy ride.” My reaction was to immediately tighten my seatbelt. Maybe I knew what was coming, or maybe I just didn’t trust the pilot. Either way, sure enough, it was the bumpiest take off I’d ever experienced. The first twenty minutes of the flight were spent in constant turbulence. As I boarded my second flight, the pilot gave a very similar message. This time I definitely knew, and I sat down and tightened my seatbelt yet again. I couldn’t help but think – what made these pilots so sure that it would be a smooth ride, that they left an entire plane full of passengers unprepared?
I’m sure you’ve heard somebody say “expect the unexpected”, maybe even about what God can do in your life. Or, there’s the phrase, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” I’m sure you can think of a time in your life where you anticipated that something would unfold perfectly, or just as you planned, only to have that completely unravel. Let’s face it – we are not in control. We don’t know what sort of ride we have ahead, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always wear our seatbelt anyways. There is a way to be prepared even if you don’t know what to expect.
First and foremost, we must be prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven that is to come. Jesus makes this clear in his teachings. Though we do not know when He is going to return, we must prepare, for it could be at any moment. He tells this parable:
“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. (Matthew 25:1-13).
Keep watch. Be ready. Let God be your priority and foundation, and you will always be secure when things are shaken. There is no checklist to prepare for the coming of the Lord, but preparation requires an intentional life that draws you closer to Him. It requires choosing Him daily, obedience, and continually trying to live as He has called us to. We are called to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven to come, to make it known on earth.
Matthew 24:36-44 reads, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Maybe you’ve heard the rhetorical question asked, “How would you live today if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow?” Silly as it may sound, this is what the Bible gets at. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:9-13). This is written not to scare you into a holy life, nor to keep you constantly worrying about the end to come, but rather to remind us that our choices each day matter. We should be living each day patiently waiting for the return of the Lord, and we can do this by pursuing Him and making Him known.
This idea of preparation also applies to the lives we live on this earth. I know many women who have a tendency to dream, to envision their future lives, to try and plan out how it all will go. It can be dangerous to place our own wants over what God has for us, but if we are following Him and aligning our hearts to His – the desires of our hearts will begin to reflect what God is doing. Whether or not you have a vision from God on what is to come, you can still prepare. I’ve heard the question asked somewhere, “if God gave you today what you are asking Him for, would you be ready for it?” I think a lot of the time for women this can apply to asking God for a husband, maybe a family, a dream job, or anything else that the world has deemed important and worthy. If you have a desire in your heart, if you are asking God for anything today, you can prepare to receive that. If you want to be a lawyer, wouldn’t you study hard, apply to the right schools, and train your mind to prepare for this career? So, if you are asking God to do something in your life, maybe to meet a desire He has placed on your heart, you can prepare your heart to be ready for it. We typically begin to see change in our lives once we begin to transform our own hearts.
Just like preparing for the Kingdom to come, this means drawing nearer to God and His word, listening to the Holy Spirit and dwelling in his presence. No matter what you are waiting on God for, the answer is always to pursue Him more deeply. Let him transform your heart, and in turn transform your life. He will begin to mold you into the person who is ready to receive what He has for you, in His timing. Turn your focus towards Him alone, surrender those things you desire, and trust that whatever the Lord has prepared for you is what is best. You might be surprised at how he sees our desires, meets them in extraordinary ways, or sometimes even takes us in a direction we never would have expected. But we won’t be ready for any of this unless we make the choice to make room for God.
Whether you are waiting on something specific from the Lord (in His will and timing), or pressing into that wait on the return of Jesus, there is no time to waste, and no need for delay. Proverbs 20:4 says, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” In case you aren’t familiar with farming terminology, The Message translates this to “A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring has nothing to harvest in the fall.” The choices we make today have consequences (either good or bad) tomorrow. The time set apart for God today will prepare you for what’s to come tomorrow. The work He will do in your heart will prepare you for all that’s to come, every hill and valley – it requires more of Him.
- What does your current schedule reflect about how you choose to spend your time? How do you prioritize wants and needs in your life? Most importantly – how is your schedule reflecting glory to God?
- So often we make choices in haste, getting upset over little things and reacting poorly. If you looked at each choice through the lens of eternity, how would your choices change? Would your reactions be different? Why?
- “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105). What are you doing to keep your lamp burning? What has God placed on your heart to help further His Kingdom?
- How can you intentionally schedule your time to draw closer to God? Are there any adjustments you can make to set aside intentional time to prepare for what the Lord has for you? Even if it’s a small change, see if there is anything you can consistently do to move your heart towards God and His will.
- Think back on what you have been praying for recently. Are there any clear steps you can take now that will begin to prepare you for what you are asking God to do?
- Remember that the Lord wants you and wants your time. While we wait for His return, remember that we can live in his presence daily. Seek his presence and see if the desires of your heart begin to change – maybe they become redirected towards the plan God has for your life.