The last year has been tough—no doubt about it. Many people have asked me how I've stayed so positive during such a difficult time.
Here's my answer: I've read the end of the story. I know we win. I don't know when Jesus will return (no one does), but I know we're closer than we've ever been in the history of the world.
Many Christians know that Jesus is coming back some day, but it doesn't affect their lives. They don't understand how the truth of Jesus' return connects to the problems they're facing. But James 2:12 (CEV) says, "Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free." Jesus wants His followers to be ready for His return.
So as we lead our churches through this tough season, one of our responsibilities is to help people get ready for the Second Coming of Jesus.
How should we live in light of Jesus' return? Here are six actions to take from the book of James:
1. Clean up the garbage from our lives. "Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls" (James 1:20b-21, NLT). When we're expecting house guests, we clean up our houses. In a similar way, we need to prepare our lives for Jesus' return by confessing our sin and inviting God to remove it from our lives. Let's urge our congregations to do the same.
2. Remain close to Christ. "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8a, ESV). As we get closer to the climax of history, it's important for us to draw near to Jesus. The Bible also says, "Remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame" (1 John 2:28b). We are to be "full of courage" for whatever comes our way as we await His return. Our ability to face the difficulties on the horizon is connected to our closeness to God. Now isn't the time to stray from Him. We need Him more than ever.
3. Use trouble to become spiritually strong. "You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won't need anything" (James 1:3-4, GW). When Jesus returns, it won't matter if we made a ton of money in our careers. It won't matter if we're famous. God is more interested in us becoming spiritually strong. Whether we face vocational, financial or relational troubles, used correctly, they won't stunt our spiritual growth, but instead, they will spur us to grow even more.
4. Practice loving everyone. "You will do all right, if you obey the most important law in the Scriptures. It is the law that commands us to love others as much as we love ourselves" (James 2:8, CEV). This is particularly important in our world today as it becomes less loving, more bitter and more polarized. As we await the return of Christ, we need to see people with eyes of love and refuse to look down on those we don't agree with. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (BSB), Paul says to "increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, so that [God] may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
5. Invest in the bank of heaven. "Faith that doesn't lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!" (James 2:17, CEV). Five times in his book, James emphasizes God's generosity toward us. He also reminds us that God's generosity should inspire us to be more generous with others. As we live in light of eternity, it becomes more clear that we don't need all we have. So as we give to others what God has given to us, the Bible says we're storing up treasures in heaven.
6. Use our gifts to reach others. "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it" (James 4:17, NLT). God created every one of us with certain gifts, talents, abilities and skills. God doesn't do this for our own good but for the good of others. And He gives church leaders the responsibility of helping people discover what their gifts are—and how to use their gifts to help others. When pastors don't equip their congregations to serve, it's as if they're encouraging them to waste what God has given them.
The truth is the more your congregation understands the reality of Jesus' return, the more motivated they will be to apply these six actions to their lives.
I'm asked often, "Why do you think Jesus hasn't returned yet?" It's really not a hard question. Peter answers it in 2 Peter 3:15, "Our Lord's patience gives people time to be saved."
God isn't lazy; He's patient. As we help people make these actions a part of their lives on a regular basis, more people will get saved.
Jesus will come back. We don't know when. But let's help people get ready as we wait.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.
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