Between now and the time of Christ’s advent we have a job to do. Further, Christ tells us things are going to get bad before they get better.
Do we operate in a proactive or a reactive state of awareness? According to StratFor, a global intelligence Web site, people typically operate on five distinct levels of awareness: “tuned out,” “relaxed awareness,” “focused awareness,” “high alert,” and “comatose.”
The analogy applies to us spiritually. There are believers on both ends of the spectrum: from those who have no spiritual awareness of the times in which we’re living (tuned out) to those who are absolutely paralyzed with fear because of our high-stress times (comatose).
So what does it look like to live with the spiritual, situational awareness Jesus encourages? How do we keep up our guard and stay alert and watchful?
First, we should avoid two extremes: spiritual apathy and situational obsession.
Many followers of Jesus wrongly live as though they have the option of opting out of His call to readiness in Luke 21:5-36. They become completely uncaring about the world around them, which, Jesus says, demands our attention.
The result of such situational apathy is missed opportunities. Being engaged in the raging cities, secular suburbs, and far-flung corners of the world around us results in opportunities for “being witnesses” (Luke 21:13). As this broken world increasingly shows itself for what it is, in all kinds of strife, struggle, and persecution, disciples in the midst of it all will be afforded the chance to share with their friends, their families, even their enemies, just why this world is so broken, and how only Jesus’ return will make it all better.
On the other end of the spectrum are some who’ve sold out to situational obsession. Understanding that this world will eventually crumble, we stare at the news, take note of all the troubles in our relationships, and look for the straw that will break the eschatological camel’s back. We develop intricate theories and last-day scenarios preached by the TV preacher who draws straight lines from current events to Old Testament prophecies.
But Jesus says that the key to situational awareness isn’t apathy and obsession but a loving awareness of and obedience to Jesus’ counsel for the times in which we live. Although Jesus paints a stark picture of what the road to “the end” looks like, He did so not to stir up worry and angst in our hearts but to do the exact opposite (see Luke 21:9). He told us the truth of what is coming so we could have peace, the kind of peace that says, “Even though you have to endure, you’re going to get through it.” It’s the kind of peace produced by the fact that Jesus is surprised by nothing and therefore capable of everything.
Despite the chaos, God’s plan is moving on. In fact, Jesus wants us to see such “fearful” events as signs of God’s activity in bringing things to a joyful conclusion.
Practicing situational awareness in the spiritual dimension comes down to three simple but important actions:
First, let’s open our eyes and link with revival and reformation activities and reverse the ever-present lukewarm tendencies. Let’s use 2011 to get involved with character building and gospel sharing habits that will take our spiritual growth to the next level. “Revive me according to Your word” (Ps. 119:25, NKJV).
Second, let’s activate our spiritual resources. When struggles arise, pray not just for them to end, but for the strength to endure them. Trials and struggles will occur. God will bring Himself glory and give others opportunities to draw close to the truth of Christ, not in our avoidance of struggles, but through the witness provided by our endurance of them (see 1 Peter 3:15).
Last, while staying aware of what’s happening in the world around us, let’s keep our hearts focused on the promises of God’s Word. Then, with eyes wide open, let’s remember Christ’s word: “But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life” (Luke 21:18, 19).
* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Delbert W. Baker is a general vice president of the General Conference. Prior to this assignment he served as president of Oakwood University. This article was published February 24, 2011.