Life is about a series or sequence of waits. There are a number of things we will wait for in our journey of life. We keep moving from one season or chapter of waiting, to another season or chapter of waiting. For example, if you just took an exam, you are waiting for your results to come out. If you are not married, you are waiting for the day you get married. If you are married and don’t have a child, you are waiting and looking forward to the day you have children of your own. If you are unemployed, you are waiting for the day you are offered a good job. For those employed or in business, you are waiting for a better job or for bigger contracts and clients. And for every believer, we are waiting for the day we will meet face to face with Jesus Christ, our Lord, Saviour, Redeemer and King.
SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM WAITS
We have established that we all have something we are waiting for. Now let’s look at the duration or time frame for some of the things we have to wait for. Some waits are short term or for a short interval while some are long term; they last for a longer period. For instance, waiting for a bus or taxi to take you somewhere is a short term wait. So also is waiting to pay for a ticket, waiting at a petrol station queue to buy fuel, waiting at the ATM machine. In John 4, when Jesus was going through Samaria, Jesus was tired from His journey and sat down at a well to rest. The time between when Jesus sat down at the well to rest and when he continued His journey, was a short interval. It was a short term wait, but within that short period, Jesus was able to affect, impact and transform the life of the Samaritan woman at well. This goes to show that God wants us to use our waiting period wisely.
The period between the time Abraham and Sarah got married and the time they had their son Isaac was a long interval. This was a long term wait (Genesis 11:29-30, Genesis 15:1-4, Genesis 21:1-2). Joseph waited for 13 years before he saw the fulfillment of the dream he had when he was 17 years old. This was another long term wait. Joseph didn’t spend his waiting period daydreaming. He used that time wisely to strengthen his relationship with God, to develop and utilize the skills and gifts God blessed him with (Genesis 39:1-4, Genesis 39:21-23, Genesis 40:6-22, Genesis 41:14-49).
When Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to be careful how we live not as unwise but wise and that we should redeem the time; we should make the most of every opportunity, it means even when waiting, whether it’s waiting for a bus or waiting to see the fulfillment of the promises God has given us, we must wait wisely; we must make the best use of our waiting period.
THE CERTAINTY OF JESUS’ COMING
Today, we will be focusing on waiting wisely for the Lord; waiting wisely for the coming of the Lord. Of all the things we are waiting for, this is one event that is certain to happen. I cannot say with 100% certainty that everyone waiting for a spouse will get married. I can’t also say that everyone that has applied for a visa and is waiting for the visa will get the visa. This is not being negative; this is not a lack of faith. The reality of life is that not everyone will get everything they are waiting for. Even scriptures tells us that some of the great heroes of faith though they had God’s approval through their faith, they did not receive the fulfillment of what they were waiting for (Hebrews 11:39). The one thing that is certain out of all the things we are waiting for is that Jesus will come back again, and that’s what I would want to focus on in this message.
In Acts 1:9-11, when Jesus ascended to heaven in full view of His disciples after His resurrection from the dead, His disciples were staring into the sky in amazement, then two angles came up to them and asked them why they were staring into the sky like something strange or unbelievable had happened. They made it clear to the disciples that the same way Jesus has been taken up to heaven, is the same way He will come back. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Paul said he doesn’t need to start writing to us about times and dates, which date and time Jesus will come. We should just know in our hearts that the day will certainly come. So there’s no dispute, no controversy, no confusion, no question about Jesus’ coming. Jesus will come back. The important thing is for us to wait wisely for His return.
Our text for today is Matthew 25:1-13. This Bible passage contains three important lessons that can help us wait wisely for the Lord:
1.) STAY FOCUSED; KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS WHILE YOU WAIT
When we look at these two groups of the virgins, the wise and the foolish virgins, we see that they actually had more similarities than differences. Here are 7 things they had in common:
• They were all virgins (Matthew 25:1) – Virgins in this context isn’t referring to those that have never had sexual relations but to believers generally. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul talks about believers being presented to Christ as pure virgins. We are presented or promised to Christ, the same way a bride is presented to her husband because the relationship we have with Christ is similar to the marriage relationship and connection between a husband and wife (Ephesians 5:25, Revelation 21:2).
• They all had lamps (Matthew 25:1) – Lamps in the Bible is used to symbolize things that give spiritual light. The light giving thing we have as believers is the Word of God. Psalm 119:105 tells us that the Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path and Psalm 119:130 says the unfolding of His Word gives light. So all the virgins had lamps; they all had the Word of God, they all had Bibles. I can imagine that some had King James Version, some New King James Version, some Amplified, some The Message Bible. Others had New International Version, while another set had the New Living Translation. There were some who read their Bibles with their IPads, some with their phones. Note that the form, size, design and structure of their lamps wasn’t an issue, it wasn’t what disqualified them. Meaning that so far as you are reading your Bible and it isn’t a Bible that contradicts or distorts the truths of God’s Word or presents Jesus Christ as someone He isn’t, heaven doesn’t have a problem with the version you use. What heaven wants to see in believers is the word of God dwelling richly in us (Colossians 3:16). We are to treasure the Word of God and have the Word of God stored up in us (Job 23:12, Psalm 119:11). Reading from a hard copy Bible or using your phone or IPad to read is not a problem to heaven, what constitutes a problem is when you do not meditate on the Word daily (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2), when you don’t study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
• They all went out to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1) – They all went out to meet the bridegroom because they were all expecting that they would be received by the bridegroom; Jesus Christ. But we see from this parable that it is not everyone who believes that they will go to heaven that will actually go to heaven. Not everyone that calls on the name Jesus or reads the Bible or even performs miracles for Jesus will go to heaven. It will take more than that to reign with Christ in eternity (Matthew 7:21-23)
• They all became drowsy and fell asleep (Matthew 25:5) – While waiting for the coming of the bridegroom; for the return of Christ, at some point, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. So they were virgins, they were believers, but they were not perfect. Not one of them was perfect. They all had times in their walk with God when they were spiritually asleep and didn’t hear the things God was telling them or see the things God was showing them. There were times they were tired and weary and slept at home instead of coming for an all night prayer meeting, the same way the disciples were drowsy and sleeping when they should have been praying in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). So, they all had their low moments in their walk with God, times when their zeal, fire and passion for God went down. Note that this imperfections in their lives, wasn’t even what disqualified them when the bridegroom returned.
• They all heard the midnight cry that the bridegroom was here (Matthew 25:6) – They all heard messages and warnings to the effect that the coming of the bridegroom is near. Jesus is coming soon, now is the time to get ready, wake up and put your life in order. They all heard. Not one of the virgins could give it as an excuse that the reason why they missed the bridegroom was because no one told them the coming of the bridegroom is at hand, is near; is here.
• They all woke up from their sleep (Matthew 25:7) – Now this is where it gets really tricky. They all appeared to have woken up from their state of spiritual sleep and slumber. They all appeared to be on the same page spiritually, but where they really on the same page? We will soon find out.
• They all trimmed their lamps or prepared their lamps (Matthew 25:7) – They all appeared to be getting themselves ready, putting things in order in preparation for the return of the bridegroom.
The lesson from the last two similarities of the ten virgins is that you can’t make decisions and conclude based on the surface value of things or on outward appearance. The fact that two people appear outwardly to be headings heavenwards doesn’t mean they are both actually heading heavenwards. One may just have a form, likeness or appearance of godliness but deep within, something vital is missing (2 Timothy 3:5).
The only difference between these two groups of virgins was that the wise had extra oil while the foolish didn’t. These virgins were so alike, so similar. They both appeared to have the attributes, character and conduct of people that are heaven bound but something essential was missing from the lives of the foolish virgins. With these similarities between the wise and the foolish virgins, it goes to show that it’s very difficult to vouch and say I am certain, I have no doubt in mind based on what I see in this person that she or he is going to heaven or is in heaven. God has a different marking scheme than we do. By our own marking scheme, by our own human standards and judgement, so many people we think are going to heaven aren’t really going to heaven. This is why one of the most dangerous and foolish thing anyone can do while we wait for the return of our bridegroom; Jesus Christ is to make people our focus. The danger of focusing on people is that you may fall into the same error or mistake of the person you are focused on, you may end up in the same place as the person you are focused on. But if you are looking unto Jesus the Author and Perfecter of your faith, if your eyes are on Jesus, you can’t fall into error; you can’t end up in the wrong place (Hebrews 12:2).
2) KNOW WHAT IS IMPORTANT OR ESSENTIAL TO GOD
I said earlier that the foolish virgins even though outwardly they appeared to have all it takes to make it to heaven, they had something essential that was missing from their lives. What was that thing? They didn’t have extra oil. The foolish virgins knew that their lamps had to be on and working when the bridegroom came. They also knew that there was no way their lamps could stay on and work if they didn’t have oil in it. Having oil was vital to their meeting the bridegroom this was why they had to go in search of oil.
Let’s try to throw more light on what the lamps of the virgins represent. Apart from being symbolic of the Word of God, lamps in the Bible are also symbolic of the kind of relationship we have with God. In John 5:35, the Bible tells us that John the Baptist was a lamp that burned and gave light. In other words, the kind of relationship John had with God was the kind that gave light; the kind that added value to other people. John’s relationship with God blessed other people. Matthew 5:15 also tells us that you don’t light a lamp and put it under a table, instead you put it on a stand so that it can give light to everyone in the house. This means we can’t have a relationship with God and we put it under the table; we hide it, are shy or secretive about our relationship with God. We should boldly acknowledge and declare to men who we are in Christ Jesus. Beyond acknowledging God before men, our relationship with God should give light; it should add value to others.
The foolish virgins had their lamps; they had a relationship with God, but the essential thing to keep their lamps on and working was missing. They didn’t have the oil that keeps our relationship with God on and working. The Holy Spirit is the oil that keeps our lamps on; the Holy Spirit keeps our relationship with God on and working. Our relationship with God is as good as dead without the help, presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
– Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we can’t pray aright (Romans 8:26-27).
– Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we won’t feel any remorse when we sin. He is the One that convicts us of sin (John 16:8), and purges, cleanses and sanctifies us when we sin (Romans 15:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
– Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be in a state of perpetual confusion; we won’t know which step to take, which decision to make. The Holy Spirit is our guide, the still small voice telling us this is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21)
– Without the help of the Holy Spirit we can’t even understand the Bible. It will just be an ordinary story book to us. It is the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes to wondrous things in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:14, John 14:26, Psalm 119:18).
– Without the Holy Spirit we can’t endue the hardships and trials that come with the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is the one that strengthens us in our inner man and comforts us at trying times so we can keep pressing on and not give up (John 14:26, Ephesians 3:16).
Lamps can’t work without oil. Without the oil of the Holy Spirit, there’s no way our relationship with God can work.
The foolish virgins went to get oil so their lamps could work. This in itself was a good thing. They were doing a good thing by trying to get the oil of the Holy Spirit into their relationship with God, but they should have done that before the bridegroom arrived. May God help us to redeem the time so we don’t end up doing the right thing at the wrong time.
Jesus is coming back for those who have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a seal or stamp of God’s ownership placed on us (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit in a person’s life indicates that the person belongs to God, God owns you, you are God’s property, you are secure in God. The Amplified Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is like a security deposit to guarantee the fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life. Without the oil of the Holy Spirit, there is no proof, no evidence, nothing to show that we belong to God. That’s how vital the Holy Spirit is to our lamps; to our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit is so important to God that God says He can forgive any sin or blasphemy except the one committed against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).
We should not be fooled into thinking that our wedding with Christ is like a physical wedding that the English phrase “something old, something new, something blue and something borrowed” applies. The foolish virgins asked the wise virgins to lend them some oil (Matthew 25:7). No one no matter how much the person loves you can borrow you the oil of the Holy Spirit. You must receive this oil from God, you must have this oil in you to see you through. You can’t depend on the oil in another person to see you through. You can’t be banking on the oil with another person. You can’t be relying on the Holy Spirit in another person to qualify you to go in with the bridegroom to the wedding banquet.
I pray that our lives will be filled and overflowing with the help, presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I pray Jesus won’t meet us with lamps lacking oil, but our lamps will be burning bright because we are filled and overflowing with the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 23:7).
3) DON’T WASTE ANY OPPORTUNITY TO CALL ON GOD AND CONNECT WITH GOD
While we are alive, while we have the breath of God is us, let’s not waste opportunities we have to call on God and connect with God.
After the door was shut in the face of the foolish virgins, they started calling on the Lord, pleading to the Lord, praying to Him to open the door for them. But it was too late! The Lord didn’t answer their request not because His bowels of mercy had run dry, but because it was no longer at a time when He could be found in the place of prayer. Isaiah 65:6 tells us to seek the Lord while He may be found. Psalm 32:6 says let all the godly pray to God while He may be found. Now is the time when God can be found in the place of prayer and this time shouldn’t be wasted or squandered. Now is the time God is telling us to call on Him, seek His face, knock at His door and He will open the door for us (Matthew 7:7). A time will come when this privilege will no longer exist. Now is the time to knock at God’s door for His mercy, grace, protection, provision and intervention before death strikes or you are called back home or Jesus returns.
We are in a time when all restrictions and limitations to prayer have been removed by Jesus. In Matthew 27:51, when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn. The curtain that kept people away from the Holy of Holiest, the manifest presence of God was removed. The curtain that prevented people from going to the Holy of Holiest at certain times of the year was removed. The curtain that made entering the presence of God so strenuous and demanding was removed (Hebrews 9:7, 12). Jesus tore away the curtain by His death and has given us access to God in prayer, anytime, any day, anywhere.
Now more than ever before we as individuals, our families, churches and nation need prayers. The question is what are we doing with the countless opportunities we have to access God in the place of prayer? Are we going to be like the foolish virgins who started calling on the Lord to open the door when it was too late or are we going to cease every opportunity we have now to seek the face of the Lord, call on God, knock at His door and connect intimately with Him? Are we going to be like the foolish virgins who appeared to have woken up from their sleepy and drowsy spiritual state, who appeared to be putting their relationship with God in order; who gave an outward show to people that all was well with them spiritually when it wasn’t?
This is the summary of the error or the foolishness of the foolish virgins. The foolish virgins went to get oil for their lamps. There was nothing at all wrong in that. It was their timing that was wrong. The foolish virgins called out to the Lord, pleaded on Him to open the door for them. There was nothing at all wrong in that. It was their timing that was wrong. So one prayer we must keep praying if we don’t want to be foolish, if we want to live wisely is: Lord, help me not to be found doing the right thing at the wrong time, help me to redeem the time. Lord, remove from my life every misuse of time that can shut me out off the wedding banquet with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jaime on Unsplash