Mark 13.33-37 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man, away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock crowing, or in the morning – lest he come and find you asleep.”
A sobering passage, if there ever was one.
There are certain events in life that most Americans have in common (many others experience these too in other countries). These “special days” occur in an age-related pattern. They are “strategic days.” Mark uses the word translated in the New American Standard in 6.21 as “strategic.” It has also been translated as “opportune,” or “convenient.”
These are days that we can anticipate. Days we can plan for. Days we either look forward too or are anxious about.
Let’s start with your 13th birthday. On that day we step across the line toward adulthood. We are TEENAGERS! We are not children anymore! It is an often greatly anticipated day.
Your 16th birthday. For me, a highly anticipated day. It meant I could get my driver’s license. A greater measure of freedom and independence.
Your 18th birthday. You are legal. For me, there were a number of things I could legally do which I will not mention! I could vote.
Close to your 18th birthday is your high school graduation day. Another giant leap into adulthood.
For many people, we fall in love and plan a wedding. A big day indeed.
All of these days hold promise, and hope. They are cause for euphoria.
There could be other “strategic” days that are not looked forward to as much. In my era, there was the specter of the Vietnam War. Being drafted. Scared of reporting to duty. Maybe you have had the experience of knowing beforehand the date of a scheduled operation or other times that bring back bad memories.
So not every “strategic” day is one to anticipate with excitement.
So either excitement builds, or worry. The point is this: there are days in our lives that we mark on the calendar in ink and await their arrival, if we live to see them.
Our Bible is full of the experiences of men and women who seemed to be minding their own business when out of the blue, it seems, God invaded their time and space.
Exodus 3.1-12 tells us that Moses was busy pasturing the flock of Jethro when, out of the blue, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a burning bush. Do you think Moses anticipated this? Moses became the vessel through whom God delivered all of Israel from 400 years of slavery.
In Judges 6 we see Gideon, busy threshing wheat in a wine-press to save it from the Midianites when suddenly the angel of the Lord appears to him and calls him a “valiant warrior.” Gideon is used by God to defeat Midian.
1 Samuel 3 relates the call of Samuel. It is similar to Moses and Gideon. Samuel is busy at his work. God speaks to him.
David was tending his father’s sheep when God sent Samuel to anoint him (1 Samuel 16).
Elisha was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen when Elijah located him and threw his mantle over him, signifying the call of God on his life (1 Kings 19.19).
Out of the blue, the angel Gabriel was dispatched from the Father to Nazareth, finding Mary, walking out her engagement period with Joseph. (Luke 1).
Out of the blue, shepherds were keeping their flocks, when an angel of the Lord appeared to them with the announcement that a Savior had been born. (Luke 2)
Out of the blue, as Simon and Andrew were casting their fishing nets into the sea, Jesus appeared to them and called them to “follow Me”. (Mark 1.16)
Out of the blue, as Saul (Paul) was on his way to Damascus with his posse to round-up “any belonging to the Way” – as he was breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord – “a light from heaven flashed around him” and he fell to the ground. It was that moment – out of the blue – that Jesus spoke to him and changed Saul’s life. (Acts 9)
I could go on and on, but the pattern seems clear. In each of these situations, the individuals were doing nothing special, nothing extraordinary. They were simply living. They were simply going about their normal everyday activities. These were not days they could have anticipated. They had not made any special plans. These were not days marked on calendars.
But these “out of the blue” days were certainly strategic. From this point forward, nothing would ever be the same, for the living God had invaded their time and space.
It should be obvious what this says to us.
Like most of you, I want to walk with my Lord in close, personal, intimate fellowship at all times. Like most of you, I desire God to touch my life – to intervene – in dramatic ways. I want my Lord to touch me and use me in miraculous fashion. And He has at times. Maybe not in the unique ways described above. I have never heard the audible voice of the Lord. I have never seen an angel like Moses and Gideon and Mary did.
But God has “spoken” to me. I sense His presence through Holy Spirit. I know that He has directed my paths in so many ways. He has indeed blessed me in ways beyond measure.
It is given to humans to only have one 13th birthday. Only one 16th birthday. Only one day when we turn 21. Those special days, and others like them are few and far between.
There was but one day when I gave my life to Christ. There was but one day when I was baptized in water. There was but one moment when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I have had only one wedding day. I have had 4 days when I experienced the birth of our children.
The bulk of my days are more alike than different. The days – the years we spend at work. Don’t they kind of seem the same in most ways? Routine. Common. Ordinary.
I must report that I am as guilty as anyone and perhaps more so for allowing my attitude about this life I have been given to be one of taking it all for granted. How often I have just made it through until the weekend, and dreaded the thought of Monday coming and starting over again.
We talk about Wednesday – hump day. We talk about TGIF. Then we drag ourselves into work on Monday.
I have been recently challenged by a brother in Christ who has publicly stated that he hates meetings. He has to go to a 2-hour meeting every Wednesday, and he has to drive over an hour to get there. He is a brother who has walked faithfully with God for over 40 years, and pastored for several of those.
He told me that a few weeks ago he was driving to one of these meetings, brooding over the “time wasted”, when the scripture song “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118.24)
He became convicted over his attitude. He pulled the car over, weeping, and asked forgiveness for his attitude. He realized that the only person wasting precious time was him.
God has made today. It is the only today I have. I may not have a tomorrow. I must rejoice in today.
John Denver wrote a superb song that I have often thought about. In fact, it is called “Today”.
Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows will have pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mine – today.
Like Moses, Gideon, Elisha, David, Mary, Simon, Andrew, and a host of others, I need to redeem my time. Their faithfulness put them in a position to receive.
I need to be faithful to wherever I am today. Faithful to whatever I am doing today. Faithful to work AS UNTO THE LORD. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3.17)
Living before an audience of one.
We do not know when our next “out of the blue” moment might come. Any day now.
Well, enough said. For now.