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How to Be Ready for the Lord's Return

Date: Nov. 11, 2009

Author: Bob Henkins

Luke 12:35-48

Key Verse: Luke 12:37

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”

The Bible promises that Jesus is coming again, this time in power and glory, and this will signal the end of the world. The question of the hour is, WILL YOU BE READY WHEN HE COMES AGAIN? Have you ever asked yourself this? Have you ever asked yourself what it means to be ready when he comes? Does it mean you stare into space waiting for him to come? The Jehovah’s Witnesses did that in 1975. They said that they calculated the exact time Jesus would come, so they all stood there waiting. When one guy checked his watch and it said 1976, they realized they were wrong. How do you get ready? Do you start storing up canned foods and bottles of water in your basement? Or do you dress up in a potato sack and proclaim to the world, “THE END IS NEAR!!!”

Will you be ready when Jesus comes, or will you be surprised when you realize it is too late? Well what are we supposed to do? Jesus tells us that he will come at an unexpected time, and when we trust this, we can alleviate all of our fear because we have no idea when the world will end. We don’t have to worry about whether we have one year left, one day left, or one hour left, what we do have to think about is how to be on the right side of heaven when Jesus comes, and he tells us exactly what we need to do, so we will not be shocked when he comes, but actually look forward and anticipate his coming all the more.

Jesus gave us exactly what we need to hear in order to prepare for his second coming. It’s like he already told us the answers to an exam that the world will go through when he comes, by telling us that the teacher (or the master) will be looking for this, this and this. Jesus tells us exactly what God will be looking for when he comes, so be prepared to take some notes. This is how you will be good when Jesus comes again, and be ready when he comes. He tells us we can do 3 good things:

  1. It will be good to be found watching
  2. It will be good to be found ready, and
  3. It will be good to be found doing

When you practice these three things, you can be assured that you will be always be ready when he comes. Then, it doesn’t matter when he comes, anytime is a good time for you, and what’s more, when you practice these things, you will be in anticipation because there is a reward for you. Let’s look at these 3 good things in more detail:

  1. It will be good to be found watching
  2. It will be good to be found ready, and
  3. It will be good to be found doing

Part I: It will be good to be found WATCHING

The first verse in this passage says, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.” What does it mean to be dressed? Normally it means to be appropriately dressed, but simply, it also means just to have clothes on. From this translation, we don’t really get the full effect of this verse. To get the full effect listen to the King James version, which gives a more literal translation. It says “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.” In biblical times, most people wore tunics that would reach down to around the knees. When servants had to run or serve, they would tie the longer part of the tunic around their thighs in order to be more agile, mobile and active. It was also a figure of speech in that time to be alert and ready. When you would hear the term, “Gird your loins,” it usually meant to prepare yourself and be ready for battle. The first thing Jesus tells us spiritually is to gird our loins, to be spiritually active, be spiritually sharp and ready to respond.

Jesus also tells his disciples to keep their lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. In biblical times, there were no clocks and no electricity, so the master could arrive back home at any time in the night. Punctuality had no meaning in those days. So while a servant needed to stay up, he also had to keep the lamps burning, which required constant maintenance. The wicks had to be trimmed and the oil replenished. It was considered an utter disgrace to the master if he came home, and no one attended to him, and it would be even worse if he was locked out of his own home! So you can probably tell a good servant from a bad one. The good servant cared for the welfare and honor of the master.

Let’s look at a real example of a good servant who waited for her master. In Luke 2, there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel – she was very old. She was only married for 7 years, and left a widow until she was 84, but she never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. 8 days after Jesus was born, he was taken to the temple. Anna met Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and at that moment she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. This was amazing – she recognized who Jesus was, and he was just a baby! There were no special effects, no lights, no music, no fanfare, but she saw in this child the redemption of a nation, no, the redemption of the world! Please notice that because of her spiritual acuity, she immediately recognized Jesus. The world does not recognize Jesus, because the world does not know God. When Jesus was born, nobody recognized him – there was no room at the inn and he was born in a manger. But Anna recognized Jesus.

So what does that mean for us? Should we also stay in the church and worship and pray day and night? Well, yes, we don’t have to stay in church 24 hours a day – but we were called to worship, and we were called to pray. And in fact, the Bible says our bodies are the Lord’s temple, so we actually are in the temple day and night. So we can worship and pray, day and night. The apostle Paul says in whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God. Spend time with God in prayer and in reading his word. Pray for yourself, pray for others, pray continually. Be prepared to give a testimony of your faith, or to respond with the word of God, in season and out of season. Wait eagerly and patiently for the Lord, and when he comes, you will not be like the rest of the town, who did not recognize him, but you will be like Anna, who instantly knew that the Lord has come! When Jesus comes, it will be good to be found watching.

Part II: It will be good to be found READY

Jesus tells his disciples, “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” This theme is prevalent throughout the new testament – that Jesus would come like a thief in the night, that the very same idea is repeated in Matthew 24, 1 Thes 5, 2 Pet 3, and Revelation 16. I think God really wanted us to know that Jesus would come like a thief, meaning Jesus will come unexpectedly. This is very important to understand because there are many people who try to predict, speculate and guess when he will return, but they only serve to promote paranoia and destroy the credibility of Christians.

There’s a new movie coming out this week, 2012 with the tagline “Who will be left behind,” with the premise where people are trying to escape a global cataclysm marking the end of the world in 2012. Even without Hollywood’s help, there has been a lot of speculation behind the date, “Will the world end in 2012?” I cannot say “No, the world will not end in 2012,” but I also cannot say, “Yes, the world will end in 2012,” all I can say is, I don’t know, but that’s not important. What is important is that I am looking for and longing for the return of my Lord, who can come at any time, be it today, tomorrow, 2012 or 2099. Our concern must not be “When will my Lord come back,” but, “Will I be ready when my Lord comes back.” The only thing we are guaranteed to know is that the Lord will come back like a thief in the night.  With that being said, let us be vigilant – because even though we won’t know when the thief will come, we can always be ready. And because the thief comes back unexpectedly, the time to get ready is not later, the time to be ready is NOW!

About a year and a half ago, May 30, 2008, my house got broken into. It was on a Saturday afternoon, when I stepped out of my house between 10am and 1pm. The burglars were able to steal 3 laptop computers, one desktop computer, $1000 worth of DVDs, two digital cameras, and open every drawer in our house. When I came home that day, I found every single door in the house wide open and all the lights turned on. Had I expected the thieves to come at that time, they would not have been able to break into my house. Now, we have an alarm system that monitors the house when nobody is home, our house is guarded 24/7. We put in the alarm system one week after we were burglarized, in the same way, do not wait to get ready, but start getting ready now, because you do not know when he will come back.

Again, we will never know when Jesus will come again, but again Jesus says, “You must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (verse 40)” How then, can we get ready? Do we stockpile food when the end is near? Do we sell everything we have, live in communes and dress in black? Of course, the answer is never found in the world, because the spiritual battleground is in our minds. What distracts us from focusing on God? What distracts us from reading our Bibles? What causes us to sin? James tells us that sin is conceived in the mind, so the battle to be ready is fought in the battleground of the mind. If you want to be ready, you must renew your mind.

Romans 12:2 says to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Christ Jesus is revealed.” Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Christ Jesus is revealed.

Again I tell you, the battleground for your spirit is in your mind, therefore make every effort to fill it with the truth, with noble things, with admirable and praiseworthy things, things such as the Bible, the word of God, the glory of God, the salvation and mercies of God. You may not be transformed overnight, but surely, the more you practice, the more you will grow in the knowledge and in conformity to our Lord Jesus Christ. God truly rewards those who seek after him. This goes hand in hand with the first point, it will be good to be found watching, because being ready helps you watch. Because you know the mind of God, you will recognize God when he comes. It will be good to be found ready, even if the master comes in the second or third watch of the night – that is to say, always be ready for whenever the master will come.

Part III: It will be good to be found DOING

I think it is interesting that there is a little break between Jesus’ lectures and Peter asking his question: “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone.” I don’t know why this was asked, but it does show that Peter was very attentive and very active in listening to the Lord. We all also know that he eventually became the top disciple. (That’s just a side note – let’s all be good disciples of Jesus and actively listen to his word.) It’s also interesting that the Lord did not answer his question directly, because he wants Peter to find the answer himself through his parable. That is how the Lord deals with us, he draws us in, causing us to carefully listen to and examine what he has to say.

So Jesus begins again, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?” Some of you may know this, some may not: the food is here means the word of God. Sometimes we call the word of God our daily bread. The Bible says man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. It is what nourishes and sustains us, and the good manager feeds the other servants at the proper time.

When is the proper time? It’s when the servants are hungry, or when it is time for the servants to be fed. Now, I think how we feed the servants depends on our level of faith. I say this because it seems from the passage that this is a manager of servants, someone with some authority over them – but the point of this parable is that a faithful and wise servant is someone who feeds the other servants. The servants are fed by the word of God, and for some people, they might not feel comfortable yet handling the truth in such a way. This is dependently entirely on the level of faith someone has – but I just want to say that even though you feel you might not want to give someone God’s word, you can simply pray that they would be fed – because ultimately, God feeds all of us. Also, intercessory prayer is an oft neglected but extremely vital, if not the most important work of God that we can do. So if you’re not confident to feed, pray.

There are always opportunities to feed just in our normal, common lives. Just look around you and pay attention. Is your friend feeling sad or low in spirits? Encourage them with the word of God, or say a prayer for them. Does someone in your family have some questions about the Bible? Teach them the word of God, or say a prayer for them – asking God to help them. Or, get together and pray together, or read a Christian book together. Feed one another by encouraging, admonishing, exhorting, edifying one another with the word of God.

For those of you who are a little more mature as Christians, I challenge you to try and meet the spiritual needs of those you come in contact with regularly. For the younger, newer Christians, I challenge you to find ways you can get involved and help this ministry feed the campus with the word of God.

And now, I would just like to go over briefly, the price of not being found ready, and the rewards for being found ready.

Part IV: The Price of Not Being Found Ready

After Jesus talks about the blessing of being found feeding God’s servants, he goes on with this warning, in verse 45 and 46: “But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with unbelievers.” So we learned that the good servant waited for his master and honored him. Here the wicked servant did not wait for or honor his master, in fact, he decided to do what he pleased. Instead of wanted to glorify his master, he wanted to glorify himself, and instead of wanted to help his master, he just helped himself. He ate, drank, got drunk, did as he pleased. To let the other servants know he was in charge, he beat them. He forgot that he had a master and that he was accountable to the master – so when the master comes he will get what he deserves. He will be cut to pieces. What’s more, he will be assigned a place with the unbelievers – this place is outside the master’s house. This place is outside the kingdom of God, it is in hell, the eternal lake of fire, where he will be judged forever for his misdeeds.

And finally, Jesus talks about 2 types of servants: one who knows his master’s will but does not do it, and one who does not know the master’s will, but is still wicked. When we receive the truth, when we receive revelation and insight from God, it is our responsibility to use it, or else we have wasted and blasphemed a gift from God. That is why the punishment is much worse for us who have received a trust from God, than those who have not received anything at all.

It is like 2 friends walking together through a pitch-black forest in the night. One man finds a flashlight on the floor, turns it on and finds out that it is working, but then turns it off. It sounds stupid, but that’s how some people treat God’s word. Then what happens is not only does he continue to walk and stumble in the darkness, but he also causes his friend to walk and stumble in the darkness as well.

The truth is meant to give glory to God, it is meant to let God shine among the darkness in this world. It is our responsibility to correctly handle the truth – so, are we a good servant that properly handles the truth, or have we neglected the truth, in so doing neglected to give glory to God and even reject it? Jesus says, we will be punished more severely than one who has not been given the things of God.

Part V: The Rewards of Being Ready

In closing, I hope you now know what it takes to be ready when Jesus comes again, and he says very plainly:

  1. It will be good to be found watching: Like Anna, worship and pray daily
  2. It will be good to be found ready: Battle sin in your mind, and set it on the hope of his return, and
  3. It will be good to be found doing: Feeding and supporting God’s servants.

Now, look again at our key verse 37, which will tie everything up and bring all three points together: “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”  Look at the 2nd part of the verse. It tells of a master who serves his servants. You know, it was also a disgrace for the master when he comes back home after a long journey, and has to wait on himself because the other servants are asleep. Usually, a good servant will wait on his master, but look at what this master does. This master, after returning, and finding the servant watching, then dresses himself up to serve. He has them recline at the table, relaxing, and then he comes and waits on them. Think about how honored the servants must have felt to be the servants of this master! That’s how they could love the master, that’s how they could wait on him for night after night, because the master loved them. They could love the master because the master loved them, and he showed it.

And this is what Jesus does for us. He demonstrated his love for his disciples by washing their feet. Philippians says that he gave up all of his heavenly glory, and took the very nature of a servant. And finally, as an ultimate demonstration of his love, what did he do? He laid down his life for us, he gave us his life. He gave himself up so he could pay our price, so that he could pay the debt that we owe to God. This was his ultimate expression of service, this was his ultimate expression of love – that he gave us his all, including himself – loving us unfailingly to the very end.

Now we can understand the good servant! Now we can understand why the good servant will wait and watch for his master, we can understand why he desires glory for his master, and why he obeys and listens to his master – because he understood and knew that the master loves him, and would lay down even his life for him. Our hearts should be burning with gratitude for what the Lord Jesus has done for us – not only did he save us, he told us even in these times how to be prepared. He gives us everything we need. He will be coming soon, like a thief. The time to be prepared is not later, it is NOW. So let us watch and wait and eagerly anticipate his coming – because we will be ready. And when he comes, and finds us watching, finds us ready, we will be received into His kingdom, and God will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

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