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Proverbs 30:24,25 – God praised ants for their wisdom, because they provide food in the summer and so are prepared for winter. Preparation is a sign of wisdom.
God Himself prepared for many of His works.
Psalms 9:7 – He prepares judgment for the wicked.
Psalms 31:19 – He prepares goodness for His people.
Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:17 – He sent John the Baptist to prepare for the coming of Jesus.
Obtaining a good job requires preparation by training or education.
A good education requires preparation by studying for tests and assignments.
Good meals require preparation by planning a menu, buying groceries, cooking, etc.
A successful marriage requires preparation by maturity and responsibility, learning to get along with others, choosing the right person to marry, etc.
In many areas of life success is directly proportional to good preparation.
To be prepared means to be ready, to provide ahead of time the things needed to accomplish a task. It includes anything we need to do or provide ahead of time in order to succeed.
This whole life can be viewed as a time of preparation for eternity. But note some specific ways we need to be prepared spiritually in order to serve God successfully:
Ezra 7:10 – Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Before one can serve God properly, his heart must be right.
2 Chronicles 12:14 – In contrast to Ezra, Rehoboam did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek God. As the son of King Solomon, Rehoboam had abundant opportunities to learn and to serve. So why did he fail? He just did not have the right attitude.
Romans 6:17,18 – To be freed from sin and serve righteousness, we must obey from the heart the doctrine delivered. When their hearts are not right, some people will not even attempt to serve God. Others go through the motions of serving God, but are not really dedicated. God will not accept such service.
Many people today fail like Rehoboam. They may wish God would accept them, but they lack the will to put forth the effort and make the sacrifices to please Him. They prefer to please themselves and other people.
Like Rehoboam, those who fail to prepare their attitudes will simply never serve God successfully. Those who truly wish to please God, like Ezra, must first prepare their hearts with a sincere desire and dedication to do His will at all costs.
[2 Chronicles 19:3; 27:6; Job 11:3]
Titus 3:1 – Christians must be ready to every good work. Diligent practice of good works does not happen by accident. Anything good requires preparation. How do we prepare?
2 Timothy 2:21,22 – To be suitable for the Master’s use and among those who have a pure heart, we must be prepared for every good work. This requires us to flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. We must determine to avoid sin and to develop good qualities in our lives. Notice other references about the need for faith and love.
Romans 10:9,10 – To be saved we must have faith in our hearts. Some people hear God’s word but resist it. They cannot please God because they lack faith. Or they may have a little faith or a weak faith, so they frequently fail in their efforts to serve God.
Matthew 22:37-40 – We must have love in our hearts for God and man. If so, we will keep the rest of God’s commands (compare 1 John 5:3). Attitudes determine our success in service.
1 Samuel 7:3 – To return to God, Israel had to prepare their hearts for the Lord and serve Him only. Returning is another word for repentance. In repentance, we change our attitude and commit ourselves to live righteously.
Why do some people refuse to become Christians or stumble through their lives claiming to be Christians yet often falling into sin or neglect? Like Rehoboam, it is often because their hearts are not right. In almost every area of life, poor attitudes lead to failure: on the job, in school, in marriage. And the same is true in serving God.
But if we properly prepare our hearts like Ezra did, we are well on our way to faithfulness and eternal life. How well prepared is your heart for service to God? Is your attitude keeping you from being faithful, or is it leading you to maintain faithful, obedient service?
Ezra 7:10 – Ezra prepared His heart to seek God’s law. Proper attitude led to proper study.
Acts 17:11 – The Bereans received the word with readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to know truth. Note again the connection between attitude and beneficial study.
Matthew 13:13-16 – The Jews heard Jesus’ teaching but misunderstood because of the condition of their hearts. But the disciples heard the same teaching and understood. The difference was attitude. To benefit from study, we must have a proper frame of mind.
In particular, the Jews were not willing to accept teachings that differed from what they had believed in the past. Learning truth requires an open mind to accept whatever God says, even if it contradicts our past beliefs and proves we or our loved ones have been wrong. The Bereans and Jesus’ disciples had ready minds to accept truth; but like the Jews, many do not.
We often wonder why people study the Bible and even have the truth clearly explained to them, yet they end up following error instead. Often the reason is attitude. Their hearts are not prepared and their minds are not open. Like the Jews, they simply are not ready to accept truth.
But Ezra, the Bereans, and Jesus’ disciples show that we can know and believe truth if we approach Bible study with honest hearts and diligent daily effort. Are we diligent in Bible study? Are our minds open to truth? If so, we can learn God’s will.
What is true of Bible study is true of all worship. Proper worship requires proper preparation.
Exodus 19:10,11 – Before God met with Israel to give them the law, He instructed Moses and the leaders to make sure the people were ready (compare verse 15).
2 Corinthians 8:11,12; 9:2-7 – In order to give properly, the Corinthians needed readiness of mind. Their gift should be prepared ahead of time so it would be ready. In particular, proper giving requires each one to purpose in heart. Don’t just decide at the last minute what to give. Proper giving requires forethought and planning.
In fact, all aspects of worship require preparation. We must prepare our attitude by meditating on God’s greatness and appreciating His blessings to us. We must plan to take the necessary time and effort to honor Him and do His will.
What effort do you make to prepare your frame of mind for worship? Do you rush around doing other things till the last moment, then jump in the car, scurry to the building, rush in at the last minute or maybe even late, and then try to worship acceptably?
Do you plan ahead your giving? Do you prepare for Bible class with your lesson studied and make sure your children have prepared their lessons?
If you are scheduled to lead singing, prayer, or the Lord’s Supper, how well do you prepare?
Even a good night’s sleep beforehand is helpful. Do you stay up late Saturday night and then struggle to stay awake and concentrate during worship, or worse yet skip Bible class period altogether? Or do you plan your schedule and prepare your family routine so all of you can be ready and arrive ahead of time for Bible class, alert and ready to participate?
Do you focus your life on entertainment, sports, and other things and then come, worship half-heartedly, and hope God will be pleased? Or are you a prepared student and worshiper like Ezra and the Bereans?
Anything useful to proper worship and Bible study should be given forethought and effort ahead of time so it is done right.
Preparation is required, not just to learn God’s will, but also to teach God’s word.
Ezra 7:10 – Ezra prepared his heart to seek God’s law, to do it, and to teach it.
Book of Jonah – God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh. When Jonah refused, notice the preparations God made in order to teach Jonah.
* God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (1:17). That fish did not just happen to be there when Jonah was thrown overboard; God had prepared it.
* Then God prepared a gourd plant to shade Jonah (4:6), then a worm to eat the plant (4:7), then an east wind to beat down on Jonah (4:8). If God makes such preparation to teach lessons effectively, what are the chances that we can be effective teachers with little preparation?
Romans 1:15 – Paul was ready, as much as was in him, to preach the gospel to Rome. Paul was ready to do the very best he could. Is that our attitude? Some do not take the time and effort to diligently prepare to teach. As a result they do not do their best. Are we satisfied to give partial effort, or do we want to do our best?
1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. Being ready to teach is not the responsibility of just a few leaders in the congregation. It is a goal toward which every member should work.
How much effort do you make to be prepared as a teacher? Are you preparing yourself to teach your children, neighbors, relatives, and other Christians?
Hebrews 5:12 – The Hebrew Christians were not ready to teach because they did not know the truth, despite the fact they had been Christians long enough they should have known.
Some people excuse themselves from teaching friends, neighbors, or Bible classes saying: “I just don’t know enough. I need to be taught more myself.” That reason may work for a while. But some people use that excuse year after year. What are we doing to get ready to teach?
Other people accept teaching assignments but still don’t do the work or spend the time necessary to prepare and organize useful material. How well do you prepare teach?
Jeremiah 1:16,17 – God told Jeremiah to warn the people about God’s judgments against their sins. He had to prepare to speak all God’s word and not be afraid. To teach others, we must begin, once again, by preparing our attitude. We must approach teaching assignments with a proper love for God’s word and courage to speak what people need to hear, even if they don’t want to hear it.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 – Be ready in season or out of season to preach the word and rebuke people so they don’t fall away from truth into error. The responsibility of teaching includes telling people when they are wrong. This takes courage, patience, and a proper attitude toward those in error.
Many people are ready to preach in season: when people are receptive. But what about when it is out of season and people reject truth and resent us for preaching it. Are we still ready to preach?
Are you a Bible class teacher? How much time and effort do you spend diligently preparing your material?
If you are scheduled to preach, give an invitation, or speak before the Lord’s supper, do you prepare diligently? Do you wait till the day you are scheduled to speak, then prepare for half an hour or an hour? Or do you begin planning days ahead of time? Do you spend sufficient time preparing and practicing your material? It is not unreasonable to spend 10, 20, 30 hours or more preparing full-length sermon.
What about leading singing? Do we appreciate the fact that singing is teaching? “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” – Colossians 3:16. A song leader leads the congregation in praise and in teaching. How well do you prepare and practice ahead of time to do your very best?
What about teaching your children and talking to friends and neighbors about the gospel? Are you doing this to your very best ability? If not, are you working to prepare yourself?
James 3:1 – My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. The statement is made, not to discourage us from teaching, but to warn us to realize the seriousness of the responsibility.
Teaching Bible classes, preaching sermons, giving invitations, giving talks before the Lord Supper, and leading singing are not just honors bestowed on people. They are serious responsibilities that can influence where souls dwell throughout eternity. They must be taken seriously.
What about you and me? Are we prepared to teach? If not, how diligently are we preparing ourselves to teach?
We need to be ready for judgment, but have you considered what God has done to get ready?
Matthew 25:34,41 – Jesus will come, all nations will be gathered to be judged (verses 31-46). The righteous will receive the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (verse 34). The wicked will enter eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (verse 41). From the foundation of the world God has been prepared to give men their eternal rewards.
John 14:2,3 – Jesus has gone to prepare mansions for us in His Father’s house.
Hebrews 11:16 – He has prepared a city for His people.
1 Peter 4:5 – God is ready to judge the living and the dead. We do not know when Jesus will return and judgment will occur. But all the arrangements are made. Whenever God chooses, judgment can occur, because God is ready.
God has prepared a day of judgment and He has prepared eternal rewards for the righteous and for the wicked. God is ready. The question is whether or not we are ready.
Amos 4:12 – Amos challenged Israel: Prepare to meet your God, O Israel. God was about to bring judgment and punishment upon them. We too will meet God in judgment. Are we ready?
Luke 12:40-46 – Jesus is like a master who left a servant in charge and went away, intending to return later. We do not know when He will return, so we must be ready. How do we prepare? By doing the Master’s will. If He returns and finds us not doing His will, we will be punished with unbelievers. (Compare verses 36-49.)
Luke 12:16-21 – Consider the rich farmer. He had many goods and was well prepared (verse 20 – ASV) for this life. But he was not ready to die, because he was not rich toward God. Many of us prepare good things for this life: nice home, car, clothes, food. But are we ready for death?
Matthew 7:21-23 – Sometimes people are convinced they are ready to meet Jesus, when really they are not. The only way to really be ready for judgment is to be doing the will of God.
Your eternal destiny will depend on how you have lived your life (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus will come again. God is ready to judge us. Are we ready to be judged?
[Luke 22:33; Matt. 24:42,44; 25:8-13]
Revelation 19:7; 21:2 – God’s people are compared to a bride prepared and adorned for her husband.
At our daughter Susan’s wedding, our son Tim made the opening remarks. One thing he said was that Susan had been making plans for her wedding day since the day she was born!
Probably there is no time in a woman’s life when she more wants to be completely prepared than on her wedding day. If we can understand how well prepared that bride wants to be, then we can understand how, spiritually, we need to be fully prepared to please Jesus.
But what if the bride does not know what day her wedding will be? If it could happen anytime, then she would need to be ready all the time!
You and I need to be ready for Jesus to come again. We must prepare our hearts to serve Him, we must prepare to study the Bible and worship God, we must prepare to teach His word, and we must prepare our whole lives for judgment by living faithfully according to Jesus’ word.
But we never know when the judgment day will come. Are you ready to meet Jesus at the judgment?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2018
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.