Two hikers greet each other in the parking lot of a trailhead. They exchange pleasantries and observations on the weather that day. One of the hikers is planning to be out several days exploring the deep wilderness. As such, this hiker has a large pack of gear to carry.
The other hiker is just going out for a quick morning hike. As you would expect, this day hiker has much less gear than the other.
Both hikers face some danger going into the woods. But which of these is facing the highest risk? Is it the hiker headed out for days in the wilderness or the one headed out for just a couple of hours?
Without question, it is the day hiker. One rescue worker at a National Park estimated that 90 percent of all their rescues were to help day hikers. It was very unusual for a call to come in to provide search and rescue help for hikers out for days at a time. Why is it more dangerous for day hikers?
The reason is preparation. Day hikers expect to only be out for the day. So, when they get into trouble, they may not have what they need to spend the night outdoors. It is necessary to have warmth, water, and a little food for energy to survive overnight. These needs are even more significant when a hiker is injured. However, many day hikers may only pack a small water container and a sack lunch for gear. Without something warm to wear, and a water source, a night in the woods becomes dangerous.
Hikers who go on overnight trips, on the other hand, are well prepared if they get lost or injured. They have shelter, warmth, food, and water in their pack. Also, these hikers typically let others know when they plan to return. When they don’t return on time, searchers find them a little hungry, but usually warm and hydrated.
Wise Christians are like well-prepared hikers. Prepared hikers are not only ready for the expected; instead, they are also well prepared for the unexpected.
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the parable of the ten young women waiting for a wedding party to begin. As was customary in those days, the party would start when the groom arrived. However, it was impossible to know exactly when the groom would arrive.
Jesus used this parable to explain His return someday to usher in His kingdom in its glory. Jesus’ return will be like the groom: the party starts when He arrives, but we don’t know precisely when that will be. Notice what He says to help us understand what to expect about His return, illustrated by the groom in Matthew 25:5, “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all [the young women] became drowsy and slept.”
The important thing to note here is that the groom “…was delayed.” He came later than expected. In fact, the parable says that he came at midnight – which is the one time he would have been least expected to arrive.
We learn that some of the young women were prepared for him to arrive later than expected. Others, though, only prepared to wait a normally expected amount of time. As a result, the unprepared were caught unawares and ended up missing the party.
What does it look like for Christians to be prepared for the unexpected? First, we need to learn to expect the unexpected. We don’t know when Jesus will return; however, we do know it will be later than we expect. We don’t know what life will bring our way between today and the day we see Him, but we do know there is no way to be able to predict what lies ahead.
Second, we learn to trust God in the unexpected. It is normal to get discouraged when things don’t go the way we had planned. Doubts can set it as we wonder if God will ever come for His own. But, since the Bible has already told us things aren’t going to go as we plan, and His return is certain (but later than we would want) – we can allow these times of unknown and uncertainty to be occasions do build up our faith in God.
Finally, we can learn to live each day knowing that someday there will be a “today” that is our last day before seeing Jesus. When we seek to live in that manner, we increase our effectiveness for the Lord and live prepared for His unexpected return.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Matthew 25:1-13.
See you Sunday,