What Are You Waiting For?
One of the downsides of living in the technological age is that we are constantly overwhelmed with what we allow to stream into our minds and hearts from our newsfeeds, social media debates, conversations about world affairs, social agendas, personal opinions and every sort of religious and political ideology. All of this, in turn, has the propensity to animate anxiety, depression, fear, anger, hatred and misplaced zeal in our hearts. People are crying out for change without recognizing that there is only one remedy for all of the social ills--and for the burdens of our own lives.
J.C. Ryle, the great 19th Century Anglican Calvinistic pastor/theologian, would walk to the window of his study every morning, and--looking up--would say, "Maybe today, Lord, maybe today!" Ryle was longing for the coming of Christ. This is one of the definitive marks of every true believer. The Apostle Paul declared that his greatest inner desire was "to depart and be with Christ" (Phil. 1:23). The better part of the New Testament focus on the return of Christ; and, in doing so, links our sanctification in the present to the hope we have of His coming in the future. In short, this teaches us that our actions are directly correlated to the hope that we have in our hearts to see Christ and to be with Him.
When the Apostles wrote to the members of the fledgling churches of the New Testament, they held out the hope of Christ's second coming in order to stir up in them hope and holiness. Here are a few examples:
- "Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).
- "Waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace" (2 Peter. 3:12-14).
- "We are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
- "Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:13-14).
- "Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him" (Heb. 9:28).
- "We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23).
- "Through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5).
- "There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8).
- "Now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming" (1 John 2:28).
- "Keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 6:14).
- "I give thanks to my God always for you because...you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 1:4-7).
- "They themselves report...how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
The passages above suffice to show that the believer's heart is to be wholly set on the hope of the coming of Christ and the consummation. When we do so, we will discover that we want to conform our affections and actions to that hope. The Apostles did not speak about the eschaton in order to stir up intellectual speculations or preoccupation with current events. Instead, they appealed to the reality of the second coming of Christ in order to help the believer settle his or her heart in the distresses and anxieties of the present evil age and to stir up holiness in his or her life.
Ryle, in his sermon, "Are You Looking?" wrote:
"What will you get by looking forward to Jesus coming again? You will get that which is the best remedy against disquiet and depression,--hope shed abroad in your heart about things to come. When the minds of others are cast down with perplexity, you will feel able to lift up your head and rejoice; when all around seems dark and gloomy, you will see light, and be able to wait patiently for better days.
Few things are so remarkable in the present time as the universal anxiety and suspense about the future. On all sides, and among all classes, you hear of want of confidence and gloomy forebodings of coming evil; Church and State alike seem shaken to their foundations: no one seems to know what to expect next. On one thing alone men seem agreed: they look forward with more fear than hope to the future. Governments seem afraid of their subjects, and subjects seem to have no confidence in their Governments; the rich seem unable to satisfy the poor, and the poor seem unable to trust the rich. On all sides you hear of restlessness, anarchy, lawlessness, disquiet, envy, jealousy, distrust, suspicion, and discontent. The cement seems to have fallen out of the walls of society: the bands which kept nations together seem to be decaying, snapping, and giving way. One might think that the devil was putting forth special efforts, and allowed to have special power...
The Christian's expectation is wholly fixed on Christ's second coming and reign. This is the great event to which he is continually looking forward; this is "the blessed hope" that sustains him, and makes him calm amidst confusion. His eye is steadily fixed on his Savior's return. In the darkest hour he does not despair: "Yet a little while," he says, "and He who is coming will come, and will not delay" (Heb. 10:37).
From the bottom of my soul I pity those who look for the perfecting of the Church or the world by any existing agencies. I pity politicians who dream that any reforms will ever pacify and content mankind; I pity Christians who dream that missionary societies will gradually regenerate the nations, and fill the earth with true religion, till it silently and gently blooms into a state of perfection. Both parties are sowing for themselves bitter disappointment: they might as well expect grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. The only comfortable stand-point in looking into the future, is that which is occupied by the Christian who fixes his hope on the second advent of Jesus Christ."
As we consider our own lives and actions--in light of this world and the current cultural climate in which we live--we must constantly ask ourselves the question, "Where am I placing my hope?" I am certain that if we answer this question honestly, we will uncover something of a recurrent deficiency in our souls. We must then turn back to Scripture in order to again discover the promise of the coming of Christ. As we do so, we will undergo the spiritual realignment that we so desperately need in order to again live in light of that hope. The coming of Christ is the great hope that God wants His people to set their hearts upon as we make our way through the wilderness of this world.