We are living in the last days. In a real sense, God expects Christians to be equipped for the return of Christ. We know not the time or date, but be prepared.
Jesus prophesizes a period of great tribulation – a period of great adversity and anguish; intense oppression or persecution; wars and rumors of wars; natural and man-made disasters and crooked leadership in high places. Tribulation is linked to God’s process for making the world right again.
This tribulation has its source in the conflict between God and the devil, which will end with the devil being cast into the lake of fire to suffer eternal tribulation. Jesus is telling us to watch. Watch does not mean to stand around looking for eschatological signs of the end times.
It means, “Stay Woke! Don’t get caught unprepared for the return of Christ!” This admonition carries a warning for us today, because it is so easy for us to “get caught up in the ways of the world!’
It’s so easy to take the wrong turn. Have ever taken the wrong turn off the freeway? Missed an exit to delay where you are going? Even better, did you think you knew where you going only to realize you really did not know? Making the wrong turn in life can delay and derail a destination.
The Bible says in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Weakness makes the wrong turn seem right, but wrong turns are a result of making the wrong decisions, wrong habits, wrong websites, wrong parties, and wrong relationships.
Jesus warned His disciples to watch out for the impulse of sin. The Bible says in Luke 21:35, “For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” The impulse to sin does not discriminate. We are not strong enough, smart enough, educated enough, and wise enough to fight the impulse to sin. It can happen in a second, an email, text message, and social media post.
Impulse control is never easy. All of us struggle with controlling impulses. The Bible says in James 1:14, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Part of the human condition is to feel impulses, and part of the Christian life is to control impulses. Impulse control has been a struggle for us since the fall.
Eve saw that the fruit was “desirable” and she succumbed to impulse to sin. Today, we still struggle. The impulse to sin comes like a thief in the night. We have impulses to make frivolous purchases, to overeat, to have illicit sex, and to do many other things we know we shouldn’t.
But the Bible says in 1 Tim 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” But the Holy Spirit gives us the power to win the fight against impulsive sins.
Luke 21: 36 says, “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.”
We must watch, fight, and pray to stand before the Son of Man. We are living difficult times, but pray changes things. We pray for the audacity of hope. We pray for the power of faith. We pray with the expectation that God changes things. Pray expecting to stand before the Son of Man. There is power in prayer. More prayer more power.
The Bible says in Prov. 24:16, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” When life knocks you down, get back up, dust yourself off and stand for the Son of God!
The Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., is the senior pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, 45 Tesla in Irvine, CA. He is also the executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.