We Must Be Ready
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 24:44 (Holman) This is why you also must be ready, because the
Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“Be ready.” Jesus “may come at any time and must come at some time” (Maclaren). We don’t know precisely when. In light of death and the Second Coming, we can be assured we have a relatively short time to live. We may have more time than we expect, but we also may have less time.
The way to stay ready is to live in unbroken friendship with Jesus. Our best hope of enjoying Him in the future is to enjoy Him in the present.
When we regularly contemplate Jesus’ coming, we are forced to think of Him every day. If we are staying ready for Him, every day is a Jesus day.
Let me illustrate. Many people visit Springfield. I rarely ponder their arrival. But if my parents come, my life suddenly kicks into high gear.
My relationship with them makes their coming important. At the same time, knowing they are coming heightens my relationship with them.
Do we think on His Coming? Is it having a kickback effect of keeping us close to Jesus? Do we remember a time we were closer to God than now?
Do we feel ourselves faltering a bit? By God’s grace we do not totally stumble overnight. We go from doing things in the spirit to doing them in the flesh and then fall. God gives us time to examine ourselves. Do so.
Stay ready. Keep God’s work ever before you. Enoch walked with God to the end. Elijah was mentoring Elisha when the chariot of fire came.
Augustine wanted to die praying or preaching. Livingstone died on his knees praying. Latimer wished to die a martyr; he did. When Calvin was old and sick, friends told him to rest a while for his health. He replied, “What! Would you that the Lord, when He comes, should find me idle?”
Matt. 24:45-47 Who then is a faithful and sensible slave, whom his
master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the
proper time? That slave whose master finds him working when he
comes will be rewarded. I assure you: He will put him in charge
of all his possessions.
Paul echoed our text, “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). “Faithful” denotes loyalty to the Master; “sensible” refers to dealing with people wisely. One slave was usually chosen to have general oversight of the family. A faithful, sensible slave showed obedience to the Master by loving and serving others. This is what Christ-followers are to do: serve God and serve others. First, we please the Master—holiness matters most—then as part of fulfilling His wishes, we care for His people.
The good servant is not one who does these things temporarily, but one who keeps working until the Master returns. Blessed is the believer who, to the very end, emphasizes duties of position above privileges of position.
Following Christ can be discouraging. Time can seem long, the work hard, and the Master inattentive. It’s easy to wonder, “Lord, have You lost my address and phone number? A short text message would suffice. I’m still here; are You still there? I know You love me, but I wonder if You like me.”
Be assured; He is watching, listening, and caring. Always live as if we are already standing in God’s presence, for we are. You will be no more before Him then than now. His sensed presence now is as vital a motivation as is pondering His future presence. Work now and always. When we see Him for the first time, may He find us working for Him. He is looking for people who are unfailingly faithful toward Him, and sensible toward others.
Lord Shaftesbury, great English social reformer of the 19th century, once said, “I do not think that in the last forty years I have ever lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.” It pushed him to assist the poor and advance the cause of foreign missions.
I appreciate people who are earnest about Jesus. People like this can sometimes be a bit odd, but if they hunger and thirst after God, I can enjoy them despite their idiosyncrasies. My guess is; God feels the same way.
One final thought from our text. What is the reward for faithful service? Jobs of service that have more responsibility. “The reward for true work is more work, of nobler sort, and on a grander scale” (Maclaren).
We may be tempted to ask, “What kind of reward is this; more work than ever?” Forgive us for ever thinking this. Isn’t the goal of our lives to make it count? Don’t we want to make as big an impact as possible?
Matt. 24:48-49 But if that wicked slave says in his heart, ‘My master is
delayed,’ and starts to beat his fellow slaves, and eats
and drinks with drunkards,. . .
What about the unfaithful, unbelieving, unholy slave that proves his presumption by careless, unkind living? The outlook is not encouraging.
People who are called to live the highest life but who live the lowest life cannot stay that way for long. A true-appearing face that hides an untrue heart cannot be tolerated long. It is an unnatural combination that can’t last.
People who do not think Jesus will soon return to Earth often feel free to indulge themselves. How are you and I faring? We can prove our loyalty to Him by treating His Word and His family respectfully while He is gone. We dishonor God when we think less of holiness, and think less of people.
Let me ask us some pointed questions. Are you the kindest boss your workers ever had? Do people at the gym dread seeing you come? Are people at restaurants glad to see you? Do your acquaintances know you are a Christ-follower? Do they see it in your life? Is it circumspect? These traits matter.
Matt. 24:50-51 . . .that slave’s master will come on a day he does not
expect and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to
pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that
place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
To us this may seem overly harsh, but we must remember; everything we ever had as God’s slaves was really His. All we hold is held in trust for God. Thus we are accountable to Him for how we use what He loaned us. It helps us to remember this. People who disregard it tend to decline in fervor.
We will answer for our stewardship; think on this often. “Our putting off the thoughts of Christ’s coming will not put off His coming” (Henry).
Beware thinking we have plenty of time. William Barclay told a fable of three demons coming to Earth. One told the devil, “I will tell people there is no God.” Satan replied, “That won’t fool many.” The second said, “I will tell them there is no Hell.” The devil said, “You won’t deceive many with that argument.” The third said, “I will tell people there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go, you will ruin people by the million.” Beware! A dangerous day in any believer’s life is when he or she falls in love with the word “tomorrow”.
We do not know why Jesus has tarried so long. The danger is; we will slip into shallow religion that makes our faith temporary and spasmodic.
The Christian life can be tough; maybe nothing is tougher than staying with it, enduring to the end. Faithful continuance can be the hardest test.
Do not act as if a supposed profession of faith in the distant past is enough to evidence salvation. Faithful continuance is the ultimate test, the only real proof of salvation. It is not enough to be religious for a while.
Too many of us, throughout our lives, want as little religion as possible to get by, and then wonder why we fail in the day of testing. Our life before God is a marathon, not a sprint. We win by continuance. Staying true in everyday spiritual disciplines gives special “tough-days” victories.