As I read stories about sudden catastrophes and the damage they cause, I can’t help but think of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking… until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away.”
It’s possible to be in imminent danger without any knowledge of it or sense of urgency, but delay can be deadly. The word “urgent” comes from an old Latin word meaning “to urge.” It means that an event is occurring that is so compelling it requires immediate attention. To hesitate is to be lost.
What Is Different?
Despite the urgency of our own times, people have a lackadaisical attitude toward life. Our secular society has shrugged off religious concern. Governments consistently attempt to marginalize Christianity, while large numbers of people seek other avenues to spirituality.
Meanwhile many Christians have lost the urgency of their task. I’m an advocate of Bible study, personal devotions, daily quiet times, church attendance, and Christian reading. I believe we should surround ourselves with godly friends and influences. But there’s a danger to that. We can become so comfortable in our Christian routines that we grow content and complacent.
What Has Not Changed
Death has not changed. There is still a 100 percent death rate for every generation. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The urgency of salvation hasn’t changed. This is what the apostle Paul shared with Governor Felix in Acts 24. “Now as [Paul] reasoned … Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you’” (verse 25). But as far as we know, Felix never called.
Timothy Dwight, once said, “To procrastinate the business of salvation is the real madness… Procrastination is the thief which steals away not only our time, but our hopes, our souls, our all…. Today is the day of salvation.”
The Bible says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
Furthermore, Christ’s return hasn’t changed, except in one way—it’s closer now than it’s ever been. Philippians 4:5 says, “The Lord is at hand.” Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). Peter said, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10).
That’s why the Bible tells us to stay alert and vigilant. How would you live today if you knew Christ would return tomorrow? Let me suggest three strategies for living with a sense of urgency.
First, beware of wasting time. While we all need periods of rest, we don’t need to fritter away our time. The Bible tells us to number our days and to redeem the time (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:16). Billy Graham said, “Time moves so quickly, and no matter who we are or what we have done, the time will come when our lives will be over. As Jesus said, ‘As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming when no one can work.’”
Second, beware of the sedative of satisfaction. Don’t get too comfortable in this world, and don’t let a settled Christian routine diminish the excitement of salvation. Ask the Lord to keep you disturbed—in a sanctified sense. Let’s say: The love of Christ compels me.
Finally, remember that the brevity of life is also your friend. It’s a comfort to know that life—with all its pressures and problems—is short. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
God’s people must always have a sense of urgency. “Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed, finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.”
That will never change, and we will never outlive His faithfulness.
For the last several decades, I have spent a great deal of time traveling—but the novelty of flying on airplanes wore off years ago. Now I consider flying the same way I do driving through Southern California rush hour traffic: a necessity of life.
Since 9/11, air travel has become more burdensome than ever. What used to take 20 minutes—getting into the airport, confirming your ticket, checking your luggage, and going to your gate—can now take as much as two hours depending on the airport, day of the week, and season of the year.
The changes in airport security have spawned a whole new industry: ways to help people travel light. In other words, the lighter you travel, the easier it is on you traveling through airports. Companies are teaching the traveling public how to “get there and back” with the least amount of hassle.Reflection
I’ve never looked so out of shape—fat, bloated, heavy in the middle, legs like tree stumps, arms like sewer pipes. The next minute, I faced an opposite set of problems: I looked like a ten-foot pole with big feet. My kids laughed, and we all had fun in the hall of mirrors at the county fair. The thin, flexible mirrors, called distortion mirrors, were curved, twisted, and bent so as to warp the images and reflect a distorted sense of reality.
If you want to see real distortion, aim the mirror of our popular culture at the Christmas story in the Gospels. The “holidays” no longer reflect the true meaning of Christmas. John MacArthur, in his The Incarnation of the Triune God, wrote, “Christmas has really become a hopeless muddle of confusion. The humility and the poverty of the stable are somehow confused with the wealth and indulgence and selfishness of gift giving. The quietness of Bethlehem is mingled with the din of shopping malls and freeway traffic. The soberness of the Incarnation is somehow mixed with the drunkenness of this season.”
The paradox of Christmas is heard in the sounds—the honking of car horns, the jingling of bells, the laughing of children, the strains of the carolers, the “Ho, Ho, Ho” of department store Santas. It’s all a part of the frenzy of the season; yet the best Christmas moments are the quiet ones, and the best reflection of Christmas takes place in the mirror of our own hearts.
Have you ever celebrated a holiday named Memas?
Some people observe it every December 25. For them, the Christ of Christmas has been replaced by a Me-centered worldview. This is a celebrity generation in which everyone wants little flashes of fame and fortune. One of the reasons the average wedding costs $25,000 is because so many couples want to experience for at least a day the kind of endless glamour enjoyed by celebs.
Even Christmas has been affected; and if we aren’t careful, it becomes all about us—our schedules, our diets, our budgets, our wish lists, our time off, our vacation, our parking spaces, our gifts to enjoy or return.
I love the trappings of Christmas as much as anyone; but the truths of Christmas trump the trappings of Christmas, and too many people get trapped in the trappings and forget the truth. How can we enjoy Christmas if we’re the reason for the season?
In a sense, of course, Christmas is all about us. God loved us, became flesh for us, died to forgive us our sins, and rose to give us everlasting life. Christmas is the celebration of what Jesus did for us. But in return, we should make it all about Him: loving Him, serving Him, praising Him, and emulating His attitude of humility.
Here are three words to remember during December. You might write them on a piece of paper to keep in your pocket or purse through the holidays.
The phrase, “In God we trust,” is printed on all United States currency. But no matter where you live, it should also be evident in your financial behavior. Dr. David Jeremiah considers the futility of pinning your hopes to material wealth when true riches come from trusting God.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah