When I was growing up I honestly feared for my life most weeks upon leaving church, especially Sunday nights. We were always reminded, multiple times, that this might be the last time we ever see each other again. You never know, our preachers would say, you could be in a car wreck on the way home and your life would be over. Would you be ready to stand before the throne of God? Sometimes, the preacher even told stories about individuals who were close to making that commitment to be baptized, but wanted to wait another week or two (perhaps when family would be in town or on a specific day) and they died before they could ever get baptized and now are eternally lost. You better not wait another moment, they would encourage us, your eternal salvation is on the line.
I can remember being afraid to get in our family station wagon after services to ride home, convinced that I too might die on the way home; or we all might die on the way home. I would even think, what’s going to happen to all of my stuffed animals after I die? I wonder what my funeral will be like?
This is not to complain about the preachers I had growing up. I basically only had two preachers growing up, both of them had long tenures at their churches. (The only reason I had two preachers was because we moved, not that they left.) No, it wasn’t the preachers, they both influenced my life greatly. It was just the style of the time. The invitation section at the end of a sermon was designed to scare us out of hell and into Heaven, or at least I thought. There was an urgency to faith. An urgency to life. And minus the nightmares that it sometimes caused, it really wasn’t wrong to live with urgency. It’s even Biblical. The Lord is coming soon. Be on your guard. Be alert. Be steadfast. These are constant admonitions in the epistles.
Urgency helps us to live righteously; or at least helped me to live righteously. When I messed up, I quickly asked for forgiveness. I wanted to make sure I was right with God. I shared faith with my friends at school, encouraging them to come to church with me. I even encouraged a few to be baptized. Perhaps my evangelism was slightly misguided, but it was sincere. There was an urgency to life, and I wanted my friends in Heaven.
But then something interesting happened, the Lord didn’t come back soon, and I didn’t get in a wreck. As the months turned into years, and I started to age, I came to realize that more likely than not I would stay alive for a while. Obviously, we never know for sure, accidents and tragedies happen everyday. Still, I started making plans for a future life because I realized life wouldn’t be short. The urgency to get things done now started to fade. I had time to share faith. I had time to ask for forgiveness. I had time to root sin out of my life. The loss of a sense of urgency led to a sense of complacency. Not that I didn’t want to be close to God, but there was always more time.
Truth is, however, we live differently when there’s a sense of urgency. We live differently when we know the days are short. As deadlines approach we stay more focused on what has to be done now. A healthy sense of urgency helps us keep the most important things in their proper place.
I wonder, how would we live differently if we maintained a healthy urgency that the New Creation was coming soon? Not that we live with a death wish, or live pessimistically like the end is near. But instead with a healthy realization that the Day of the Lord is coming soon. That soon and very soon we really will see the King, and the New Creation will be ushered into existence. Would we live differently?
Would we love more? Would we be more gracious with others? More accepting, more forgiving? Would we shower more gifts and more compliments on those we love?Would we accept more who are hurting (the broken, the forgotten) and would we welcome them to our table? Would we be willing to reconcile with others more easily?
Would we share our faith more boldly? Would we take the time, and the risk, to have a conversation with a friend that we need to have because we are concerned about their spiritual lives? Would we be more willing to mention God and faith in conversations; not beating people with a Bible, but sharing the reason for our hope in Jesus?
Would we be more diligent in removing sin from our lives? If we knew the Lord was coming soon, would we make sure that we were living righteous lives? Would we find every wicked thought, every cruel deed, and every covetous moment and wipe them from our lives, as best we could? Would we eradicate sin from our lives with the same fight and effort of which we try to eradicate cancer?
Would Jesus be most important in our lives? Not our jobs. Not getting to spend time at the beach. Not the travel sports team our child plays on. Not the yard work or projects around the house. Would loving God and loving others be our guiding principle?
Because it’s coming. The New Creation is coming. The Day of the Lord is coming. There’s an urgency to the truth. We need to always be ready.