Are You Ready to Jump? :: Alan Stewart
Many people have had the horrifying nightmare of freefalling through the air after falling from a building or cliff. On June 7, 2008, Sloan Carafello lived it as a reality. The 29 year old Schenectady, New York resident boarded a plane at the Duanesburg Airport simply as an observer. His plans were to take photographs of members of the Duanesburg Skydiving Club in action for use in a school project. Moments after the three skydivers made their jump from ten thousand feet, Carafello made his jump from the plane with his camera in hand. For a short period of time, he was enjoying the thrill and exhilaration of freefalling. However, once the skydivers opened their parachutes, Carafello reached for his ripcord and discovered he was freefalling with a camera but without his parachute. Within a matter of minutes, the joy and exhilaration had turned to tragedy. Carafello may have been along for the ride, but he was not ready for the jump.
If I were asked to summarize the state of American Christianity today, I think the phrase that would say it best is: "just along for the ride, but not ready for the jump." As you look at the average church today, do you get the impression we are anticipating with baited breath the return of Jesus Christ? What you are more likely to see is a people engaged in religion, revelry and riot, but void of readiness. Jesus warned in Matthew 24:44, "Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." We have heard this cardinal doctrine of the faith heralded for generations, but do we really believe it? When Jesus took the three disciples with Him deep into Gethsemaneʼs garden to pray, certainly they had grown accustomed to His praying throughout the long nights. However, on that evening, He returned earlier and more often than anticipated finding them slumbering in the moonlight unaware that clouds of judgment were beginning to roll. Darkness has covered our land, but under the soothing moonlight of comfort and complacency, the church has fallen asleep. Clouds are stealthily rolling in, but do they signal rain, revival, or ruin? The answer may lie in our readiness. What does it mean to live ready?
It means living prepared. In Matthew 25, Jesus illustrated this truth with the parable of the ten virgins. All ten possessed lamps, and all ten fell asleep. But, when the Bridegroom called, "...they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage." Only five awoke prepared with oil to burn their lamps. While growing up, I still recall the startling sound of my motherʼs voice waking me for school. The sound of her voice merely alarmed and awakened me, but there was still much work to be done for me to be prepared to leave! When "...the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout...", there will be no time to put life in order or to settle all accounts. If you ever wondered what separates mediocre Christians from eminent Christians it is their state of readiness. Paul said he was "ready to preach", "ready to come", "ready...to die", and "ready to be offered." English statesman Oliver Cromwell said, "put your trust in God, but keep your powder dry." Like a loyal dog ready to hear and heed his masterʼs commands, only those who are willingly and obediently at hand can be considered ready.
It means living presentable. John wrote in 1 John 2:28, "...abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." The word "ashamed" speaks of a life that is disfigured and disgraced. It has been my privilege to conduct many weddings in my ministry. Yet, as different as they have all been, there is a common thread that links each of them together. The bride never comes out until she is presentable! You will never see an ugly bride, although there have been some close calls, because a bride goes the extra mile to look her absolute best for her groom. Before the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai before all the people, He commanded that they "...wash their clothes, and be ready..." The perfume of Godʼs presence will never mingle with the stench of Egypt. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they were caught unpresentable at the Lordʼs presence in the garden. In their cleverness, they covered themselves with leaves hoping to blend in with the trees. No matter the pressure, ready lives can never blend into the scenery because they have nothing to hide. Those who live God-conscious are ever living in a state of perpetual presentation and never have to fear being ashamed.
It means living perceptively. Jesus rebuked the church leaders in Matthew 16:3 with these words, "...ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Meteorologists have technology that can forecast a storm still days away, and doctors know a baby is coming long before there is a movement or a bump. However, with morality disintegrating, lawlessness abounding, financial markets collapsing, and terror throughout the world, you never hear a nightly news anchor say, "I think Jesus is coming again." It has been well stated, "many people will be surprised when Jesus comes again, but nobody will be mistaken." We are looking without seeing and praying without watching. In Matthew 24:42, Jesus said, "Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." It was a call to stay awake. Perhaps you have had a dream that felt real, seemed real, and you awoke wondering if it was real. Slumber has a way of distorting reality and dulling our senses. Discerning eyes are the need of the hour, and the Lord will not trust His voice and vision to mere dreamers.
Jesus warned the loyal church in Revelation 3:11, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Do you still believe He is coming again? Many are choosing to live reckless rather than ready. Losing the art of readiness can have heartbreaking consequences. If life is nothing but a sightseeing journey filled with playfulness and photographs, enjoy the ride, but do not forget your parachute!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 Alan Stewart