Be alert & expectant while waiting
At times, Christians have been accused of being so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.
Paul had that concern about the believers in Thessalonica (in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). They had become so excited about the prospect of Jesus coming back that they lost sight of their place in this world. In 1st Thessalonians 5:6, Paul challenges them, “So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”
What does it mean for a Christian to be awake and sober?
It means that while we wait for the incredible happiness of heaven, we need to keep our eyes open on this earth—alert and attentive to what is going on around us.
Joyce Meyer compares our waiting for heaven to the diligence of an expectant mother: “It’s just like when a woman is pregnant; it’s said that she is expecting a baby. She carries inside her the promise of a baby, and even though she can’t see it, she knows it’s there. The moment she learns of her pregnancy, she begins to plan for her baby’s arrival. She starts collecting items she’ll need and busily gets the nursery ready. She actively prepares for the arrival of the baby because she knows the promise will be fulfilled—it’s just a matter of time. She is expectant, and she’ll wait as long as it takes…. Our act of waiting isn’t supposed to be spent sitting around passively hoping that something will happen sometime soon.”
While we wait to enter the joy of heaven, or while we wait for Christ to return, we are to do so expectantly, alertly, actively.
What should we be alert to?
1: We should be alert to the presence of God. Though heaven is the place where we will experience closeness to God without any kind of barrier or interruption, we should be attentive to His presence now as well. In verse 10, Paul expresses his concern that “whether we are awake or asleep, we may live with Him.” David Benner points out, “The Christian spiritual journey is unlike any other journey. Christ’s call to follow Him is a call not simply to obedience but to a relationship in which He leads us to the source of His life—the source of all life…. God’s intended home is our heart, and it is meeting God in our depths that transforms us from the inside out.” Be alert to God’s presence.
2: We should be alert to dangers to our soul. In verse 8 Paul repeats that we should be sober; this time he adds that we should “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” We need a breastplate and a helmet when we are in danger, and the reality is that our souls are in danger everyday of our lives. The former mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia remarked, “The devil is easy to identify. He appears when you’re terribly tired and makes a very reasonable request which you know you shouldn’t grant.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn comments, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” So be alert to the sin in each of us, to our tiredness, and to the devil’s temptations.
3: We should be alert to opportunities God opens up to us to do something good. Paul ends this passage with this challenge: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.” F.B. Meyer once lamented that if he could live his life over again, he’d spend much more time in the ministry of encouragement. One of the greatest things we can do in life is to encourage others. It is encouragement that builds others up, making them greater. Let us be alert to such opportunities to build others up.