Years ago, friend Donna and I were traveling together. As we were chatting Donna said, “I can’t wait for the Lord to return. Won’t that be great!”
“Yeah, it will be,” I replied.
But in that moment, I was sad thinking about all the things on earth that I’ll leave behind. Movies, books, friendships. The comfortableness and routine of my life.
I remembered the Israelites. God appoints Moses to lead his people out of captivity. The Lord hears their heart-wrenching pleas. He sends plagues to Egypt because the Pharaoh will not release His chosen people.
The last plague’s the worst. The first born of every family will die. God’s people are instructed to smear lamb’s blood on the doorpost of their homes so that the angel of death will pass over their homes, foreshadowing Jesus being our Passover Lamb. John the Baptist declares Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, death (eternal separation from God) passes over us and we’re given eternal life in Heaven.
Pharaoh loses his own son that night of the final plague. He relents, releasing God’s people. Of course, he changes his mind. With his army, he chases the Jewish people all the way to the Red Sea.
Have you ever wondered why God led them that way? There were other routes they could have taken that didn’t back them up against the Red Sea. With mountains on both sides and the Egyptians coming toward them, they absolutely cannot depend on their own strength, but must entirely depend on God.
Sometimes we find ourselves in hard places in life. Finally, we say, “I’ve tried everything else, I guess I’ll pray.” But prayer should be our first step. There’s unimaginable power in prayer. It’s direct communication with the Creator of heaven and earth.
In remembering the tough times in my life, I remember the mighty grace and loving kindness the Lord uses to see me through while teaching me things I need to know. Like leaning on him and not myself. Letting go of my stubbornness and pride. Surrendering and trusting him.
Through tough times the Lord smooths off some of my rough edges. God never tempts us, but allows Satan to do so at times. Jesus warns Peter in Luke 22:31, “… Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat." Satan wants to shake up Peter and see if any real faith remains. Satan must ask permission because the Lord has all power and authority.
Proud Peter is certain that he can go wherever Jesus goes.
“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren" (verse 32). Jesus himself prays for Peter, encourages him and gives him a mission. Peter returns and becomes the rock upon which Jesus builds his church on earth.
Back to the Egyptians. Moses and the people are backed up to the Red Sea with no way out. The Lord instructs Moses to put his staff into the water and the waters part. The people cross as if on dry land. Their shoes don’t even get muddy! Wow! I love that God is the God of details.
God provides manna in the desert. It falls from the sky every morning. People are told to collect only what they can eat in that one day. Of course, those who hoard the manna soon discover that it rots. Like the Lord’s blessings, manna is fresh every morning. It’s an act of faith to believe that the next morning it will arrive again. The Lord’s always helping to strengthen our faith.
But the Israelites are a lot like me. They like the routine of their lives. They tire of manna. They grumble and complain, desiring to go back to Egypt where at least they have meat to eat. In their freedom, they long for the meat of slavery.
Those years ago driving with my friend Donna, I believed that I was ready for Jesus’ return, but I wasn’t.
How do we prepare? By reading the Bible and hiding the Lord’s Word in our hearts so that we don’t sin against him. Asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. Letting the light of faith shine through us.
And remembering that Jesus calls us to tell others the Good News. But we can’t do anything in our own strength. We must depend upon the Lord in all things. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “You will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses…” May we all be witnesses in humility and in truth.
Are you ready? Ready or not, Jesus is coming back. Let’s ask him to help us to prepare not only ourselves, but also others.