A preacher was pacing the floor, so one of his friends asked him, “What’s the trouble?”
The preacher replied, “The trouble is that I am in a hurry, but God isn’t.”
How often in today’s world have you just wished it would all be over and Jesus would return? Numerous prophecies of Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament and scores more in the New Testament encourage us about this event. So we watch and wait.
Skeptics and prognosticators
But waiting is hard. One problem is skeptics all around us — something Peter predicted:
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3, 4).
On the other extreme are the misguided, inaccurate prognosticators. Televangelists and writers have made a fairly good living telling us when Jesus is going to return. Their charts and graphs and timetables make you think they know what they’re talking about. But they don’t! Ever since the church began, people have been setting dates.
The first recorded prediction was ad 381. Then there was ad 500 and ad 1000. A friend of Martin Luther’s liked the year 1533. Isaac Newton predicted ad 1715. William Miller claimed the Second Coming would occur in 1844, while Jehovah Witnesses have predicted His return several times, including in 1914. A book declared the rapture would be in 1988. When nothing happened, the year was changed to 1989. Many people prophesied the world would end in 2000, and even a movie was released foretelling the end of the world in 2012.
But what did Jesus say?
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8).
Notice Jesus said “birth pains.” Women do not normally have one pain and then deliver the baby. Could it be that numerous birth pains have to take place before the end of time? We do not know the day or hour (v. 36). That’s why Jesus told us not to predict but to prayerfully watch (Mark 13:33; 1 Peter 4:7).
Many of us are tired of watching and waiting, caught in between the skeptics and prognosticators. Maybe we’re turned off by all the false predictions. Maybe we’re distracted (if not skeptical), lulled into a false sense of security despite what’s going on around us. It’s easy to get caught up in today’s hustle and bustle. Technology, for instance, makes life so much easier and connects us with many different things, but it also can detract us from God’s Word and from our ultimate goal.
What is our number one goal in life while we wait for the Lord’s return? Let me put that another way: What should be our number one goal in life? It should be “his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our secondary goal should be to help our family and others toward that goal.
That’s it. That’s the list. Anything else in life is just window dressing and will fall into place. It’s great to have a good job, a nice home, a good car, and other things. But those earthly possessions will pass away (vv. 19-21).
What truly matters is being with God in His kingdom. If we’re not doing things that are pleasing to our heavenly Father, we’re living dangerously. Is that really what we want to do? We all make mistakes and don’t do enough, but we should want to do more. We should want to get closer to God through His Son Jesus Christ, and that means watching and waiting patiently.
We live in a world that is getting more corrupt by the day, where Satan tempts us in a variety of ways. It’s not easy to stay focused, to watch and wait. But we must keep our eyes on God. Anything that gets in the way of seeking Him and His kingdom has to be eliminated.
Jesus said it best in Luke 21:34-36:
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
It’s true: God isn’t in a hurry (2 Peter 3:8). But don’t lose hope. Don’t get tired of watching and waiting. Remember, Jesus is coming soon!
Tom Wilkinson is the administrator for the CoG7 in Walla Walla, WA. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.