Living with the End in View involves
Watching and Praying
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34–36)
These words were spoke to Christ’s disciples, those who had believed on Him, and who were certainly worthy of salvation. Why must we watch as we pray for escape? We are to watch for the sinful heart’s inclination to turn from God, and the tendency of the enemy to capitalize on our weaknesses. When we care more about the concerns of this life than the life to come, we have not been watchful.
The cares for this life will weigh on our hearts depending on many factors. Richard Baxter, in his book, A Christian Directory, wrote that if you are a rich person, the enemy will use a different set of temptations on you (to turn you to idleness and frivolity, and make you overly mindful of status or display of wealth) than he would for a poor person (playing on inner anger and bitterness against the circumstances, building hopelessness and despair).
If you are a young person, the enemy will capitalize on your feeling that death and judgment are far off, and stimulate your barely-restrained passions. If you are old, you will be convinced that you cannot change, and should remain in the comforts you are accustomed to.
These many weaknesses are some of the reasons we pray that we may be counted worthy when Jesus judges us in the day of judgment. By our faith in Christ, we are already counted worthy of salvation. But it is by our actions that we’ll be found worthy of a reward in the kingdom to come. When we do not recover from a failure to watch against sin, we may lose our reward and a standing of honor before God. (The words “counted worthy” do not appear as such in the Greek text. The New American Standard, for instance, translates it as, “But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things.”)
When I look over the many verses detailing God’s judgment, I am struck by two things: a judgment’s severity and its strictness.
First, for its severity, we have only to consider the Bible’s portrayal of being cast into fire (as was the rich man in Luke 16), cut asunder (Luke 12:46), weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12), being hurt of the second death (Rev. 2:11), and being tortured until we pay the full amount owed (Matt. 18:34–35). These all portray the severity of the sentence to be handed down.
If we spiritualize these terms, we must not lessen them. Fire is painful. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth indicates unbearable suffering. Being tortured or hurt of the second death is fearful. The warnings are to persuade Christians, not unbelievers, to a holy walk, and to strive for purity. (Unbelievers are persuaded to faith in Christ, not good works.)
Second, we pray always to avoid the judgment’s strictness. We have examples of severe judgments over single instances of sin. For instance, Moses was refused admittance to the Promised Land because of one act of anger when he struck a rock rather than speak to it (Num. 20:8–12). An unforgiving servant did not imitate his master’s generosity to a servant who owed him, so his master turned him over to the torturers until he could pay (Matt. 18:32–35). We are in danger of hell fire for calling someone a fool (Matt. 5:22). Five foolish virgins were refused admittance to the wedding feast for their lack of oil at the one time it mattered (Matt. 25:1–13).
By discounting the warnings, we deprive ourselves of an urgent reason to strive against sin. Without the warnings, we accommodate sin. Being able to arrive with a good conscience before Christ will take watchfulness and suffering on our part. Life’s cares will distract us from what really matters—our purity and holiness that we may reign with Christ a thousand years. Those who cannot endure Him “who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Rev. 2:12) must temporarily suffer.
Living with the end in view means praying always that we may be able to escape.
Steps of faith:
Strengthen your resolve to watch against sin.
Leave cares in God’s hands so you won’t be distracted.
Learn how God helps you avoid the traps laid for the unwary.