Summary: When time runs out, what will you be doing? This is a message of encouragement to be ready.
WHEN TIME RUNS OUT
INTRO: Some years ago Willie Day Smith, a Dallas radio preacher, made a startling announcement: the rapture was to occur on April 1, 1980, around two o’clock in the afternoon. Smith was quoted as saying: “Things are coming to an end; time is very short, we’re in the final countdown.” The newspaper reported that Smith was unavailable for comment on April 2 (Fort-Worth Star Telegram April 2, 1980).
Many people today interpret present volatile political and social events as an indication that the end of the world is just around the corner. One point is clear from reading the N. T.: we should live as if Christ’s return could happen at any moment. Christians should respond to imminent disaster (whether personal or global) by honoring God through sober prayer and unfailing love.
I. WHEN TIMES RUNS OUT, PRAY WITH A DISCIPLINED MIND (v. 7).
“The end of all things is near” (NIV). The end of the world has its terrifying aspect, but to believers it is also an exciting hope. Here it is used as a challenge. The text states “be clear minded and self-control-led” (NIV). These two verbs together suggest a disciplined life with all faculties under control.
The purpose of this discipline is prayer. The discipline must be developed before it is needed if you are to continue praying when persecution and catastrophe strike. Most people see prayer as a form of wishful thinking, not a means of influencing world events.
Peter spoke of critical times, and our age is no less critical. If any of the other prophets of doom are correct, then what should our response be?
Even in the face of persecution or utter disaster, our first reaction should be quiet, disciplined prayer. This prayer should be regular and often. You should be praying in such a way that you would be ready for Christ’s return right now.
Prayer is aimed at God, but it should spill over into our earthly relationships through our loving actions.
II. WHEN TIMES RUNS OUT, PUT YOUR LOVE INTO ACTION (vv. 8-10).
This love is a result of disciplined prayer. Love passes over faults in silence. Love does not look for weaknesses in others under stress. It looks for opportunities to serve and help others. Love strives for unity.
These verses give specific, concrete examples of what love is. Hospitality is one of the outlets for this mutual love.
The proper use of our gifts is another outlet. God has given each one of us certain gifts, and each should exercise those gifts in the spirit of love for the benefit of others.
ILLUS: A magazine author once compared the hospital with the church. The church came up short. He contended that the hospital is a twenty-four-hour-a- day haven for those who are hurting. He said, “It is from the emergency department of the great hospital that a voice is heard: ‘Come unto me all ye who suffer.’ The great doors are never shut. The church by comparison, sits as a wistful void.”
That is a highly idealized view of the hospital, but it is an image the church should fulfill. The church doors should never close; it should administer God’s love to those in need as a hospital administers medicine. Christians should be in the business of helping individuals turn their lives to God.
The key to success in serving God is to remember this idea: all strength for Christian service comes directly from God, and to Him goes the glory.
III. WHEN TIMES RUNS OUT, HONOR GOD IN EVERYTHING YOU SAY AND DO (v. 11).
This verse is a summary of the preceding verses. Whatever you do, whatever you say, do it in a way that brings praise to God. Ministers do not simply impart a message; God speaks through them. Servants serve only through “the strength God provides” (NIV). God is only glorified through Jesus Christ and indirectly through his servants.
When things go wrong, we blame God. When something turns out right, we take the credit.
Peter illustrated the opposite of this attitude in his own life. In Acts 3, Peter healed a crippled beggar. The verdict of the Sanhedrin is revealing: “After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened” (Acts 4: 21 (NIV). Peter and John said nothing and did nothing which would draw attention to themselves. Does this happen whey you help people?
This is the goal of all Christian activity: the glory of God through Jesus Christ. The activity is self-continuing. The more we glorify God, the more power and success God gives us.
CONC: As we search for meaningful behavior in a chaotic age (which very well could be the last stages of history), we must strike a balance between a heavenly and an earthly orientation. Prayer should be our first resource and love, our primary virtue.