Our Heaven Father Watches Over Us

We do not have much information on the early years of Jesus’ life, but the Bible does give us bits and pieces of what happened during the first few years. It tells us what a fabulous job Joseph and Mary did in raising the child to manhood. As we study the life of Jesus as a human, we are also aware that He is divine. He is no ordinary child.

My sermon is divided into two parts. The first is a historical view of Jesus’ early childhood and God’s protecting hand on Him. The second part confronts us with the question of what it says to us.

We know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small town down the road from Jerusalem. On the eighth day, according to the law, Jesus was circumcised. He was called Jesus, a name given to Him by the angel. Forty days after the birth of her son, Mary went to the temple to observe the right of purification and to present her child at the temple. It was there she met Simeon. This righteous and devout man took Jesus in his arms and uttered this hymn of praise:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

You now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the sight of all people,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

What must Mary and Joseph have thought? Again they heard their Son was the fulfill-ment of prophecy. Having received this affirmation of their Son’s mission, they were met by Anna, an 84-year-old lady who never left the temple. “Coming up to them, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” Luke 2:36-38. It was an overwhelming experience, and Luke summarizes it well when he writes, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” Luke 2:51-52.

Some time within the next two years, Magi made their visit to the Christ Child. These men were astrologers from Persia. They came asking, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” When Herod heard about this King who had been born, he was furious and was determined to kill Him. He sent the Magi off to find the child, and after they had worshiped Him, they were to return and tell Herod where Jesus was.

However, the Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, for he would kill the Child. When Herod discovered the Magi had tricked him, he issued an edict that all the boys, two years and younger living in the Bethlehem vicinity, were to be killed.

In the meantime, Joseph received a message from an angel in a dream telling him to take the child and his mother to Egypt for their safety. They remained there until Herod died. Then, Matthew’s Gospel tells us, word came from the Lord saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (19-20). Traveling back to Israel, Joseph learned that Archelaus was the new king. Since he was even more vicious than his father, Herod, Joseph went to live in Nazareth. This was Jesus’ home until his ministry began at the age of 30.

Nazareth was on the trade route. People from all parts of the world passed through Nazareth, which gave Jesus exposure to the cultures and philosophies from many lands. This had to have a broadening effect on Jesus. God loved all people, and the Kingdom of God was for all people. Myron Augsburger writes, “Jesus was not focused on a revival of Judaistic religion, as was known in Jerusalem, but on God’s grace for all people.” Our Lord lived there in Nazareth, working in His Joseph’s carpenter shop and chatting with the townspeople as they passed by, then the appointed hour came and His mission began, which ended on a cross and an empty tomb not many miles away.

And now the second part of the message: What does this story say to us? The answer is clear, “Our Heavenly Father watches over us!”

You could ask, is God’s protecting hand only for Jesus? Granted, Jesus was on a special mission to redeem the world. But we also can conclude from His three-year ministry that all people are precious and important to God. He warns, guards, and protects us so we might escape harm. He speaks to us, not through angels or dreams, but through His Word. Follow what He tells us in that Word and see how we are delivered from many of life’s difficult hours.

Let’s take one simple warning from God’s Word from I Timothy 6:10 Ð “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It is quite simple for many of us to overlook this message. Notice it does not say that money is the root of all evil, but the love of money. Has this proven to be true?

How many marriages could have been saved if that advice had been heeded? How many children would have had both parents in their homes during their formative years? Think of the friendships that could have been enjoyed, but instead were ruined because of fights over money. Consider the heart attacks that could have been avoided if the tensions caused by money had not been experienced by the patient. Think of the wars that would never have been fought if there had not been a desire to be the wealthiest, the strongest, the most influential nation on the face of the earth.

Our Heavenly Father watches over us and has given us great counsel on a very practical subject Ð how to have an abundant life.

Does protection mean our lives will be free of trouble? Did it mean that for Jesus? No. Although His Father was with Him, Jesus was not spared from death on the cross. Jesus promised the Apostles He would be with them, but many died as martyrs of the faith. Recently I visited with two brother pastors who have had tragic deaths in their family. One pastor lost a 38-year-old son, another lost a daughter-in-law who left behind a 2-year-old son. Some would say it doesn’t look like He is watching over us. However, talk to those men of faith and they will tell you how God has walked with them in their perilous times, and how He has provided for them.

What if Joseph had not followed the instructions God gave to Him concerning the protection of Jesus? From a human point of view, Herod would have killed Jesus. You might argue that God would have protected Jesus in some other way. Perhaps you are right. Nevertheless, it is important that we follow God’s Word so many of our unpleasant experiences in life can be avoided.

Another year has passed. It might have been a difficult year for you, but think back how God has watched over you, and then be filled with the faith that He will do the same in the coming year. With this confidence we move into another year of grace under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Voices Are Speaking

In this Advent and Christmas season, we hear words though voices that we don’t hear as often during other parts of the year. We hear these words spoken through the lips of angels, prophets, and evangelists. These voices tell the story of Jesus Christ and His coming to this earth.

The first voice is that of Joseph. In our text taken from the Gospel of Matthew, we find a story about Joseph that is very interesting. It tells of an angel of the Lord who visited Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid but to take Mary as his wife. It is interesting that the Scriptures say nothing about how Joseph reacted verbally. He simply did what the angel of the Lord told him to do. He had no union with Mary until after she gave birth to a baby boy. Then, being obedient, Joseph gave Him the name Jesus.

Then we hear through the voice of Mary, who was engaged to be married to Joseph from the town of Nazareth in Galilee. One day, an angel visited her and told her that she was going to have a baby. Mary was very afraid and troubled, for she had never been with a man. But the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”

Mary did not know how this could be, since she was a virgin. So the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

These two accounts are parts of the story that tell how God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Those voices are still speaking to us today. Although I have not heard the voice of an angel, I do hear the words of God through the Holy Spirit as I read Scripture. Luke writes a lengthy account of how God came into the world. So as I meditate on the Gospel message in my quiet time, especially at this time of year, I acknowledge my sins and my need of a Savior. I pray, “. . . Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the things I have done that are contrary to your Word. Thank you for forgiving me through what you did in coming to earth.” Jesus came to earth as a baby, died on the cross for my sins, rose again in victory Ð that is the Gospel! What a wondrous gift!

I also find the voice of the Gospel in my church. I belong to a church that believes the Gospel and as I go to church services, I hear the pastor proclaim the truth of Jesus. It may not be anything I haven’t heard before, but the application will be new. It is important to be able to hear that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world from the pulpit. If you do not hear that message in your church, find some other church where it is proclaimed, for that is the message of the Church.

We also hear the words of the Gospel through the Christmas carols sung this time of year. How good it is to sing, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, ÔGlory to the Newborn King,’ !” Jesus is the King referred to in this carol. We are taught that He is building a kingdom that will reach the uttermost parts of the earth. How blessed to know people in every language have heard the message, “. . . in Bethlehem of Judea, there was born a Savior who was Christ the Lord.”

We hear through another voice as we read our Christmas cards. Some of these beautiful cards contain poems that depict Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. It causes me to wonder how the sender came to know Christ. I have thought of some who were unbelievers but then send a card with the Gospel message. It causes me to be in awe of our God who calls us out of our unbelief into a right relationship with the Savior.

There are also voices of doubt and questioning. The Christmas story is heard in the Christmas Eve worship services. In my day, the services started in the afternoon. Many people came. Some hadn’t come for years, but we were glad to see them. During that service, they heard that Jesus was the Son of God. And, if we had asked them if they really believed what they heard, they might have responded, “No, not really, except tonight I am unsettled. Those words Ð born in Bethlehem keep coming to my mind. My pastor knows where I’m at in my relationship with Christ. He is discouraged with me. He has said, ÔYou were such a nice young man in confirmation classes. As you became an adult, you truly believed in Christ.’ I am wrestling with these feelings, and God isn’t done with me yet.”

Many people find the words of the Christmas story too unbelievable. I have met some highly educated professors who have received Jesus as their Savior and in faith believe the Gospel. They meet for weekly Bible studies, they are leaders in their churches, and rejoice in their relationships with Him. However, I have to admit that most are indifferent to the message. They are unable to see understand intellectually.

We should never forget, believers are found everywhere, and people have listened to the Voice that started 2000 years ago and is still being heard today. We have a King who was born in Bethlehem and is still at work today in all parts of the world. Don’t forget that.

We have a King Ð this Gospel has been preached around the world. Millions of people through the years have come to say, “He is my Savior; He is my Lord.” That is the most important thing. Think about it. Think about how Jesus was born as a babe, grew into a man of 33 years, died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose to new life.

The message Jesus preached was celebrated through the gift of the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost. Peter’s voice echoed the truth, “Jesus is the Son of God!” Three thousand people were saved that day because the heard the words of the Gospel and received the Holy Spirit into their lives.

Many people, I grant you with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, say “no” to Jesus. Some are my close friends. Some are my relatives. Even though they say no, it matters not. Keep on preaching; keep on witnessing; keep on telling the story of Jesus. Be the voice that carries the Gospel. Don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is powerful and He can give you the strength and the perseverance to carry the message to the far parts of the world.

Friend, the words of the Voice may sound like a strange message. But it is also a glorious, glorious time when the newborn Savior comes into our hearts and we can sing, “Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

I am soon to be 90 years old, and the Voice that carries the Message is just as clear to me today as it was when I was small. It has brought me peace, comfort and joy. If you have it, you know what I say is true. If you are wrestling with it, you know how heavy it really is. If you resist it – don’t. Heed the Voice and listen once more – a great miracle can happen in your life!

When Doubts Creep In

John the Baptist was one of the original believers in Jesus, and he was in a quandary. He pointed his disciples to Jesus and said, “There goes the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He had no doubts that Jesus was the One they’d been waiting for. He even insisted that Jesus baptize him down at the Jordan River instead of him baptizing Jesus. He had seen the heavens open and heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son.” It all seemed so clear in those early days.

Later, John publically denounced King Herod for a marital indiscretion, and so Herod had John arrested. Now, as John sits in the hot dungeon, he is perplexed and troubled. Some say he had sat there for about a year when a question concerned Jesus began rolling around in his head. This foreboding feeling about the future troubles him, and he begins to wonder if Jesus is really the Messiah or if he was mistaken. And so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

A variety of reasons could have caused John to ask this question. It could have been disappointment in the ministry of Jesus himself. He had thought the Messiah would come to breathe fire and judgment upon the people Ð separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead, Jesus was healing people. “Where’s the judgment?” John was asking.

Perhaps John was frustrated that Jesus hadn’t overthrown the powers that be to get John out of prison. Or perhaps Satan was playing with John’s mind, casting doubts in his heart. To be honest, we don’t know with certainty what caused John’s question, but we do know he sent some of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him the question. “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

As I look to John and his question, I can’t help but be reminded of similar questions that can arise in our own minds, even to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Perhaps they come up because of disappointments along the way. Maybe a prayer Ð like a healing Ð wasn’t answered the way you’d hoped. Or perhaps an unexpected tragedy happens, and your faith is shaken. You wonder, Why is this happening to me? Jesus, are you for real?

Others may face disappointment with the church or a church leader. In despair you say, “It’s all just a bunch of malarkey!” Or perhaps the state of the world gets the best of us. We proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” yet the world looks gloomy as if it’s not going to get any better.

For some, it’s an intellectual issue that has gotten their attention. We live in a pluralistic age, and our world is shrinking. We are surrounded by all kinds of religion, all clamoring that they are the truth. Some of the people with whom we work or go to school believe in various philosophies. Their arguments seem valid and intelligent, which can cause us to scratch our heads and doubt if we have really know what we are talking about when we claim Jesus is the only way to salvation. After all, we don’t want to appear narrow-minded or be offensive to others. Perhaps we should just keep our beliefs to ourselves.

Television programs can also call into question the legitimacy of Christ’s identity and claims of the church, which bothers some of us. And in the midst of all this is Satan, that old, devouring lion who is out to destroy our faith. He is planting the seeds of doubt and fanning the flames.

All these things can cause storms of doubt to kick in, like they did for John, and make us wonder if this stuff is for real. I like what Max Lucado wrote in one of his books: “There are snow storms, and there are hail storms, there are rain storms, and there are doubt storms. Every so often a doubt storm rolls into my life bringing with it a flurry of questions and gale-force winds of fear.”

Notice, though, Jesus’ response to John’s question. He tells John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

Jesus was pointing John back to the Old Testament. It says in Isaiah 35 that all these things would come to pass when the days of the restoration of Israel came about in the time of Messiah. Hearing the good news preached to the poor is a fulfillment of the Messiah’s coming in Isaiah 61. Everything Jesus was doing and saying had been prophesied many years before John was born.

Jesus’ advice to check the evidence is a good message for you and for me to hear. Jesus is saying the same thing to us! You are having some doubts about me? Look at the evidence! Where is that evidence? Find it in your Bible. Go back and read the Gospels. Read that Jesus was who He said He was Ð the Son of God. He did not promise that believers would never go through hardships and suffering. However, He did say He would suffer and die upon the cross and on the third day rise from the grave. And it happened! The resurrection did occur as God’s affirmation of everything Jesus did and said.

Jesus tells us to go back and look at the Old Testament prophesies of what the Messiah would say and do. Everything that was prophesied actually came to pass with Jesus’ ministry. Look at the lives that were changed. People, who were absolutely opposed to Christ, who thought everything about Christianity was bogus, became serious followers of Him.

Look at the lives of people who have been changed by Jesus over through the years. I recently called a book called Seven Men, written by Eric Metaxas, which I found to be very inspiring for my own faith. It is about some men who were inspired by Jesus Christ and had their lives changed. It’s a great read!

Look at what the scholars and the researchers have said about Jesus when you have questions about his validity. A book by Lee Strobel called The Case for Christ also is a great read for people who are struggling with questions about Jesus. Ravi Zacharias has a wonderful book called Jesus Among Many Gods, which I have on my own shelf as well.

In conclusion, Jesus says to say to John, “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” This has been referred to as a beatitude. It assumes the questioner, John, has begun well and must avoid stumbling. It’s a challenge to hang on, stick to the faith. Jesus is asking John to reexamine his presuppositions about what the Messiah should be and do in the light of Jesus. Look at the Old Testament prophesy and bring your understanding and faith into line with Jesus.

“Hang in there, John,” Jesus seems to be saying. “Take another look at the evidence. Don’t fall away from me. Trust me. I know what I am doing.” It is important to do these things when doubt storms arise in a believer’s mind, because life can get difficult. Satan is on the prowl seeking to destroy your faith.

John was honest enough to ask his question out loud. Be like John in that respect. Jesus’ words to us are quite clear: Check the evidence if you are having doubts and struggles in your faith life. Read the Gospels. Get familiar with Jesus’ fulfilment of Old Testament prophesy. Ask questions of others who are believers and strong in their faith. Don’t back away or stumble over Jesus. Keep the faith. Stick with Him. Happy is the person who does just that.

If you have fallen away or rejected Jesus, this is an appeal for you. Blessedness is available to all who accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The blessedness of forgiveness is yours, for He died on the cross for your sins. The blessedness of having a place of having a place prepared in heaven for you is yours, for He has prepared it through His resurrection. The blessedness of having a friend who will never desert you nor forsake you is yours as you place your trust in Jesus Christ.

Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at Jesus, but places his trust in Him.

God Was Coming Into the World

Today we are going to visit about some of the people in that first Advent season. I refer to Joseph and Mary.

Joseph was a carpenter and owned a carpenter shop. It seems to me that it was a type of gathering place, like a coffee shop today. The people who gathered there visited about what was happening in town. It was a great place for fellowship. The people liked Joseph and his Son, Jesus. Joseph was a good man. He loved Mary very much, and she loved him.

Joseph, who was a descendant of David, received a message in a dream from an angel. The angel gave Joseph some understanding of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Mary was going to give birth to a Son, and Joseph and Mary were to care for Him until He had grown into manhood. This child would be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Joseph didn’t understand what was happening, but he was obedient. When the dream was over, he took Mary as his wife, but they had no sexual relations.

Joseph’s fiancŽ, Mary, was a virgin. She also received a visit from an angel. The angel said to her, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” she asked, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Then came Mary’s response to this Advent message: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

As she approached the time when she was going to give birth to the baby, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be enrolled, because Cesar Augustus wanted a census of the kingdom. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph made a bed for Mary in a stable, and she gave birth to the Child in a manger, because, as the Bible says, there was no room for them in the inn.

This is the message of God coming to earth to save us from our sins. It is filled with mystery and is far beyond what any of us can understand. Some people, because they cannot understand it, reject it. So they celebrate Christmas without an emphasis on the virgin birth, for they know not who Jesus was and is.

On the other hand, many others accept the message. Those of us who believe the Advent story know the understanding will come when we enter our heavenly home.

Is it necessary to understand everything? Can we not also benefit from what we do not understand? I drive a nice car, yet I do not understand how it works. It’s huge motor moves me down the highway at a rapid speed if I want it to. It can take me to the coasts of California or Maine, or some other place where my loved ones live. If we treated our cars like some treat the Virgin Mary, we would not drive them simply because we can’t understand how they work.

This is the Incarnation Ð God coming to this world in the person of Jesus Christ. He took on a body and was tempted as we are, yet was without sin. We think of Him at the cross where He said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” When we sometimes feel forsaken, it is good to remember that Jesus, this holy God who put on flesh, also felt this way. As a result, He can get right into my heart and know how I feel. I have shared that thought many times with people who are losing a loved one.

I think of the day when I went with a mother whose her son was being sentenced to prison. As we sat in that courtroom and listened to the judge pronounced the sentence, God was with her; He had been sent there himself. He understood.

He understands when we are in the hospital and death draws near. He is with us when the Christian faith is not completely accepted by all. He walks with us when we are hurting and will reveal all things to us when we meet Him face to face.

When we live with Jesus Christ in our hearts, our life is happy, for whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord. Even though the heart is very heavy, we can know beyond all doubt that He knows us and walks with us.

Think of the people who have invited Jesus into their heart. They still have problems to be sure, but God walks with them, and they are comforted. One day, as I walked into a dying man’s hospital room, I heard him ask me, “How is it that you escape all these terrible things, but I have to bear the tremendous pain of knowing I will finally die?”

All I could say to him was, “Tom, I can’t understand it. But if you’ll put some of these angry feelings aside and let Jesus work in your life, I can assure you that the peace that passes all understanding will be yours. Christ has come into this world. He was born in Bethlehem’s manger, died, was buried, and rose from the grave, and He’s going to come once more. Let him into your heart.”

That’s my prayer, but more than that, it is the message of God’s Word for this day in Advent.

Jesus Answers a Common Question

The Bible tells us the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. We will meet Him either at our death or when He returns at the end of the world. The big question in our text today is this: Are we ready to meet him?

Jesus describes, in the book of Matthew, the awful state of the world. He then goes on to say that, just as in the days of Noah, many are outside the will of God. They live as though their life will go on and on. Our text, however, tells us this is not true.

It is interesting, pathetically so, that many professing Christians are actually unbelievers. When you ask one of these people if they will go to heaven when they die, their most common response is, I hope so. They may have been church members for many years, but joined for ulterior motives. One person joined because their spouse came from a church-going family, and it was only right to continue that tradition. Another person joined the church because it was a good business move. A third person joined because their family had always belonged and were very active, even though they never prayed or read scriptures outside the church walls.

Our text tells us that as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be when the Lord returns Ð a kind of godless existence. Life is what it is Ð take it or leave it Ð we’re all the same. However, this is not true, for even within the same family are those who believe and those who do not believe. The Bible clearly tells us not all will enter the kingdom of heaven. When the Lord comes, some will be taken and some will be left.

The joy of knowing a believer has gone to heaven can easily be seen at a funeral service. However, when the deceased is not been a child of God, Jesus Christ is hardly mentioned. So that person is eulogized as a saint, even though he never was.

The big question today is, where do you stand as far as your relationship with Jesus Christ is concerned? Your answer to that question determines your eternity.

Once in a while I find a person who says, I hope I am going to heaven when I die. One day, I visited an elderly woman in the hospital, and I asked her, “How is it going?”

“Well,” she replied, “the doctor has told me that my disease is incurable. I am 80 years of age and going to die. But I thank God, for ever since I was a little girl, I trusted Jesus as my Savior. That is all I need. I don’t want to leave this world; I enjoy my life and my family immensely. But the time comes when life on this earth is over, and because of Jesus Christ and his merits, I know He has granted me the forgiveness of sin, and I am going to heaven.”

A few days later, I met Lars who had just gotten out of the hospital. He didn’t look very good, so I asked him how he was. “I’ve been sick, but I’m pretty good now,” he said.

“Well, what would have happened if you had died in that hospital, Lars?”

“Well,” he said, “I hope I would be going to heaven.”

“Let’s have a cup of coffee,” I said to him. Then, as we drank our coffee, I told him that if he would only repent of his sins and acknowledge that he is a sinner and Jesus has died for him, then trust Jesus as his Savior, his sins would be forgiven and God would give him a place in the heavenly habitation.

“Yes,” the old man said. “I have heard that many a time. You know, I am not a complete unbeliever. I go to church once in a while. I like to hear you speak, and they have a great choir there. It pleases my wife to go, so I go, but I don’t know about trusting Jesus this way.”

“Well, would you like think more seriously about this now that you know you have this illness?”

“No, I will just take my chances and hope for the best.”

That’s as far as I could get Lars to commit to Jesus.

When someone like Lars dies, some have a need to hear that he is in heaven with all his friends. While we can always find something nice to say about the deceased person, if we are to be true to the Word of God, we must acknowledge the difference between the death of a believer and that of an unbeliever. Only those who trust Jesus as their Savior will go to heaven. Those who don’t trust Him will not! Where are they going? The Bible says they are going to hell. Even so, some will say, even on the day of their death, “I’m going to take my chances.”

This is not just true of elderly persons. I think of a middle-aged lady who raised her children. Her house was paid for, her car was paid for, the children had left home. Now she and her husband could plan some nice vacations. So she visited her doctor for a routine examination, and he finds a large tumor. The vacation gets postponed as they remove the malignancy. Then the doctor says to her, “I’m sorry, but you will not live very long.” She is only fifty-five years old.

She and her husband were terribly broken up, but both of them are evangelical Christians. When I entered her room, this is the way her husband greeted me: “It’s an awful, awful disappointment. We had looked forward to better days in life. Now those dreams are over. However, we are trusting the Lord Jesus to take my wife into the kingdom of Heaven, there to be forever.”

And she, with tears rolling down her cheeks, said, “That is true. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” Then she asked me to pray with them, and so we thanked God that His Holy Spirit was able to instill within their souls the promise of everlasting life.

I tell you friend, faith in Jesus Christ makes quite a difference! For although her funeral was terribly, terribly sad, it nevertheless ended with a great note: I am prepared, I am ready to meet my Lord.

What about teenagers? One night I was sitting at home, when the telephone rang. One of the young men in our congregation had a motorcycle accident and was killed instantly. As I thought of all the dreams, opportunities, and talents that ended with that young man’s life that night, I wondered how to minister to his parents.

Sometime later, I received a telephone call that a young man, traveling on his motorcycle to get his college grades, was hit by a truck and killed. Years later, another young man, who had just returned from college on his motorcycle, hit the back of a car and was killed.

The reality of these events can really shake a person. Life on this earth can end so quickly. Where will your faith lie when you leave? If your faith is in Jesus Christ, you know a better day lies ahead with Him.

The most important question of our text is not so much when the second coming of Christ will occur Ð whether at the end of the world or in death, but if we are ready to meet Him.

I ask you today, are you ready?