I arrived at work this morning sometime around 5:30, zombied my way up the stairs and began my standard routine. I fired up the computer and immediately set my hands to making a pot of coffee – a critical element of any righteous morning. Since I neglected to water my plants yesterday afternoon, I made sure to water them today. A permanent fixture on my desk is a one-gallon distilled water jug I saved to use as a container for Miracle-Gro. I find the more I use it, the more I am able to stay on friendly terms with my plants.
In my morning stupor, I grabbed that jug of Miracle-Gro and began pouring its delicious mixture onto the first plant needing water, and as I did so, I vaguely recall thinking, “Well, that doesn’t look right. Did this Miracle-Gro spoil, or go bad in some way?” It was at that point that I realized I had grabbed the milk jug by mistake and was dousing my little plant with cold milk.
“The end is near,” says 1 Peter 4:7. “Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”
If the end was near some 2,000 years ago when Peter wrote this, it is unquestionably even nearer now. Peter has charged his readers to be clear-minded and self-controlled precisely because the end was/is near. The whole concept of nearness is so subjective, that I am uncertain exactly what it means. Even if the end was not near, I suspect it is still good advice to be clear-minded and self-controlled. It keeps us from watering our plants with milk.
Jesus made a statement similar to Peter’s, and interestingly enough, he made it in the same context, that the end of all things is approaching. Jesus told us to watch and to pray. Just as Peter tells us to be clear-minded, Jesus is telling us to be alert, to watch. Peter tells us to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that we can pray. Jesus tells us to watch and pray. Both link the clear, alert state of mind and prayer to end times. Jesus exhorts us to watch and pray, while Peter exhorts us to be clear-minded and self-control so that we can pray. Prayer is challenging enough with a clear mind. The foggy-minded man or woman will find effective prayer significantly more difficult.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ (Mark 13:31-36 NASB)
When I hear someone mention the end times, as I am doing now, invariably my mind goes to the shaggy haired, wild-eyed lunatic shouting at pedestrians and drivers from inside a sandwich-board that has “The End is Near” scrawled on it. I do not want to be that man, or to be thought of as that man, yet I cannot escape the gripping sense of vigilance and bright-eyed alertness that Jesus seems to be calling for in the passage above.
I do not fear the end, but rather look forward to it. While I am deeply concerned for family and friends that are not ready, personally, selfishly, I welcome it. Perhaps that is the difference. Perhaps we are to be alert, sober minded, and prayerful to be ready, rather than unprepared such that the end of all things causes us to panic and be fearful. Our efforts poured into planning a future tend to be a looking toward a future “here” rather than “there” when we know that our life here is but a disappearing vapour while our life there is eternal. (James 4:14)
I believe it is important to note that neither Peter nor Jesus is calling for us to predict the future – to nail that date down – as so many attempt to do. I laugh at those attempts to establish the very day of the end. It is just silliness to even try it, and just as silly to believe those who do so. I believe the message from both Jesus and Peter is “Watch, pray, and be ready.” When the end comes, it comes. Keep your lamp filled with oil and your wick trimmed. Then when the bridegroom comes, you will not be scrambling to prepare your lamp. As we are focused and alert, we will be found watching and waiting when the Lord returns.
Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. (Luke 12:35-38 NASB)
Victoriously in Christ!