The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
What if we knew we only had a little more time? How would we live differently? That kind of question has stirred hearts for thousands of years. And people have expressed their sense of urgency in different ways. Moses prays in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Peter reminds us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). Are we living like our days are numbered…like the days are evil…like the end is at hand?
I remember the beginning of my senior year in college. I looked around and saw people living for themselves and missing opportunities to use their platform to bless others. I knew I was nearing the end of a significant season in my life, and I didn’t want to waste it. I had noble intentions, but I also had a problem. My desire to extend myself to the fullest for the Lord was producing more anxiety than joy, more exhaustion than energy. Just a few weeks into my campaign to “change the world”, I was on the verge of burnout. Over breakfast a wise mentor reminded me that the calling was no different than any other year. Day by day (and moment by moment), the Lord was calling me to find my life in His love…and then to share His love with others. I had the sense of urgency; I just didn’t know how to channel it. I needed a word from an older Peter, the same apostle whose youthful intensity often got him in trouble.
In light of Christ’s certain return, Peter commands us to pray and to love. The thought that we’re running out of time can be terrifying. And if we’re honest, we lack the power to do what we long to do. Prayer is the answer to both fear and powerlessness, so Peter calls for self-control and sober minds so that we can pray. In the chaos of life, are we following our Savior in seeking the quiet, lonely places where we can be alone with God? When we bring our helplessness to the Lord in prayer, we find that His grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Prayer rarely seems productive, but it’s the most important part of the work. And even here, Jesus leads the way, “since He always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25). We say we want to extend Christ, but are we moving forward on our knees?
When we’re still in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Word and Spirit, the mission becomes clear. Above all, we’re called to love one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8). The Lord consistently raises love for Himself and for others to the preeminent place in the Christian life (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:34-40; 1 Corinthians 13:13). God is love (1 John 4:16), and the glory of His love is most evident in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for sinners who do not deserve it (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). In our urgency, we think the lost world needs a lot of things. But are we convinced that, more than anything, people need to see the love of Christ, and that starts with the way we stretch and strain to love one another? Do we remember that our most impressive spiritual gifts and acts are a “noisy gong” or a “clanging cymbal” if we have not love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)?
It’s easy to lose our heads about extending Christ. It’s easy to bypass connecting and abiding as we race off to extend. But we don’t want to hand out flyers to places that we’ve never been. The Lord is calling us to walk in the ancient paths of prayer and love. This is not the way of the world, but this is the way of the church. This is the way to draw near to God as He draws near to us. This is the way to find the urgency that only comes from being close to the One who came and is coming again. This is the way to extend Christ when we only have a little more time. And in light of eternity…that’s the reality for all of us.