And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. (2 Timothy 4:8 NLT)
Donna and I are on a fall vacation in the panhandle of Florida. In case you are not from the U.S., 4 hurricanes and several tropical disturbances have battered Florida over the last two months. The panhandle of Florida was ripped up pretty badly by hurricane Ivan. But plans are plans, and when long-standing reservations have been made by five different parts of your family, they're pretty hard to change — even if the people are adaptable, condominiums and airlines are not.
So we did our usual frantic prep week to get off for a trip. Besides the usual packing, I had two weeks of WJD! devotional articles to write, sermon outlines, sermon slides along with worship slides to get ready, a university class to plan while I was away (A test and a paper for my students to "enjoy"!), fishing equipment to get together, and airlines to cajole into honoring frequent flier miles by putting us on another airline — the terminal we were originally supposed to fly into was damaged. On the day we left, I spoke at chapel, did a presentation at a brown-bag luncheon for faculty and students, and then taught my class. Donna picked me up at the campus on the way to the airport.
By the time we got on the plane, we were both exhausted from last minute preparations! I would like to say this is bizarre or unique for us as we prepare for a trip. However, every trip seems to be full of these last minute preparations. Every time we go anywhere, there are always weird surprises, a major last minute rush to get things done, a final detail that won't get finished, and an emergency or two thrown in for good measure. While it makes getting to where we're going awfully sweet, it is exhausting and stressful. Now that we are having a great time in a great place with sweet people, we're sure glad we made all the effort and endured all the frantic stress, but it was "kinda" nuts getting ready.
During all the mad rush to get prepared for this trip, one beautiful biblical irony kept confronting and comforting me. You see, all week as I prepared to leave I'd been writing devotionals that have to do with Jesus' victorious return as the Son of Man. During my frantic preparations to get off for this trip, the Lord reminded me that one great trip awaits and there will be no rushed, last-minute preparations!
On that glorious day, the Lord will come in glory with the angels of heaven for all those who belong to him. We will either be prepared or not. There won't be any rushing around with stress-filled and frantic last-minute packing. Our preparation is to be always anticipating and awaiting the Lord's glorious return. Although we cannot know the day or the hour, we must live as if Jesus is always at the door of history ready to open that door, come in to our world, and take us to his own.
This will be the greatest trip God's people will ever take. We will arrive at an incredible destination and spend eternity with wonderfully sweet people who have been perfected by the resurrection. We won't be frantic, worried, or rushed when that time comes. This is one trip we're going to be ready to take! We won't have to pack bags, make flight arrangements, check the weather, or arrange for everyone else to meet us at a rendezvous point. The Lord has already taken care of all of that. We just need to live each day so that we're ready to go when he says, "Let's go home!"
How about you? Are you ready to go?
I really don't need to write to you about how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, "All is well; everything is peaceful and secure," then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman's birth pains begin when her child is about to be born. And there will be no escape.But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don't belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober. Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk. But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)