“Robby Robins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then had a long drive to western Pennsylvania. They drove all night, and when his buddies dropped him off at his driveway just after sun-up, there was a big banner across the garage—‘Welcome Home Dad!’“How did they know? No one had called, and the crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly. Robins relates, ‘When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, “Daddy!” Susan came running down the hall—she looked terrific—hair fixed, make-up on, and a crisp yellow dress. “How did you know?” I asked.“‘I didn’t,’ she answered through tears of joy. ‘Once we knew the war was over, we knew you’d be home one of these days. We knew you’d try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.’”[1. Lee Eclov, “Heaven,” PreachingToday.com]
The great controversy has been won, are you ready? He’ll be here soon to take us home, are you ready? What are you doing to let Him know you’re ready? Are you even looking forward to His coming?[6. Image © Providence Collection from GoodSalt.com]
How do you think your friends and neighbors would respond to those same questions? Well, according to a 2010 Christianity Today poll, in May of 1999, 44 percent of American expected Jesus to come back within the next 40 years. By 2010 that percentage had dropped to 41 percent. Interestingly, 20 percent of folks who weren’t affiliated with any religion believed that Jesus would come back in the next 40 years.[2. Ted Olsen, “Go Figure” Christianity Today (August 2010), p. 12.]
Those numbers are really kind of startling, when you think about them, don’t you think? Only 41 percent of Americans expect Jesus to come back in the next 40 years? That’s pretty low considering that as of the 2001 census, an average of 75 to 80 percent of Americans identified with a religion rather than “no religion.” And what do we do with those 20 percent of unaffiliated folks?
This next survey is even more discouraging.
“A December, 2011 article in USA Today analyzed a surge in a group of Americans called the ‘spiritually apathetic.’ They aren’t atheists. Instead, according to the article, ‘They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven, or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as “So what?”’“The article pointed to the following statistics from recent surveys:“44 percent of respondents told a Baylor University study that they spend no time seeking ‘eternal wisdom,’ and 19 percent said, ‘It’s useless to search for meaning.’“46 percent of respondents told LifeWay Research that they never wonder if they will go to heaven.“28 percent told LifeWay that ‘it’s not a major priority in my life to find deeper purpose.’“18 percent denied that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.“One professor of religion concluded, ‘The real dirty secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.’”[3. Cathy Lynn Grossman, “For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t just a song; It’s life,” USA Today (12-25-11)]
Maybe it’s just that I can’t remember any time in my own life that I haven’t been expecting Jesus to come back very soon. Sometimes I wasn’t anxious for it, but I expected it.
“‘As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.’ The inhabitants of the antediluvian world were utterly unconcerned, and at the appointed time the flood came and took them all away. …“We are looking for the second coming of Christ. Our hope of His soon appearing in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory fills our hearts with joy. When the Saviour comes, those who are prepared to meet Him will exclaim, ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:9).”[4. E.G. White, Sermons And Talks Volume Two, page 179.]
I think one of the problems here is that we’ve been hearing that Jesus is coming soon for a couple of centuries, right? So we tend to lose the urgency of the message. We all know the parable of the 10 virgins. All of them went to sleep, but it was the preparations they’d made ahead of time that made the difference between the wise and foolish virgins.
Are we making preparations by allowing the oil of the Holy Spirit to fill us?
I think most of us have fallen asleep, but it’s time to wake up! Jesus is coming again soon. Do we have the extra oil we’ll need to deal with the delay in Jesus’ coming? How do we get the extra oil? Do we have a responsibility to help those around us be prepared too?
And there it is! I think we offset the drift toward ennui by focusing on sharing the message with those who haven’t heard it yet. Isn’t that brilliant? God knew all along that we needed a mission to keep us focused.
“We each have work to do—the work of proclaiming to the world the last message of warning. In clear, distinct tones we must give this message; but I greatly fear that though we have had such great light, we are not as earnest as we should be. Let us study the words [1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 quoted].
“Just such an experience as this is what we need today. We need the Holy Spirit and assurance. Living power must attend the message of Christ’s second coming in the clouds of heaven. We must not rest until we see many souls converted to the blessed hope of the Lord’s appearing. The message wrought a real work that turned souls from idols to serve the living God. The work to be done today is just as real, and the truth is just as much truth; only we are to give the message with as much more earnestness as the coming of the Lord is nearer. The message for this time is positive, simple, and of the deepest importance. We must act like men and women who believe. We are not half awake to the perils and the dangers that we must be prepared to meet. Waiting, watching, working, praying, warning the world—this is our work.”[5. E.G. White, Letter 150, 1902, pp. 2, 3. (To Prof. C. W. Irwin, from Los Angeles, Calif., September 22, 1902.)]
So, we’ve got to wait, but while we wait, let’s hurry up and spread the message.