Caught off guard?
"Be always on the watch..." Luke 21.36
As I write, Storm Aiden is raging outside. It was relatively peaceful last night when I was listening to the forecast, so I had a rude awakening! Storms are like that. The element of surprise is key to military victories too - and defeats, of course. When Montrose's highland army swept down out of Leanachan Forest it wasn't that kind of storm that the Duke of Argyll was expecting, as he peered up at Ben Nevis from Inverlochy Castle on that fateful February morning of 1645. But it took him off guard and so Montrose scored a famous victory.
The notion of divine judgment hangs over history. Jesus' followers associated the so-called Day of the Lord with Jesus' coming again - to judge the world and establish God's eternal kingdom. Jesus himself warned his disciples to be ready for both: judgment and redemption. The verse above continues: "... pray that you may escape all that is about to happen." That sounds scary! The inhabitants of Jerusalem got a taste of what he meant just a few decades later when the Romans destroyed the temple in AD70. But there is more because Jesus adds: "... that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." This is a clear reference to his coming to bring justice.
So how can we secure our position against whatever is unleashed upon us, should the end of the world come in our lifetime? And how shall we stand with confidence before Jesus, when he appears as our judge? Jesus himself provides the key, in his command to pray. Prayer is like the wind. You cannot see it but it's effect is transforming, whether gently like the welcome breeze on a hot day or powerfully like the wind that's howling outside. And as a skilful sailor catches the wind in the sails of his boat, so our prayers can harness us to the wind of God's Spirit, taking us out of danger and onto a new course through life.
In the meantime, Jesus' disciple Peter used the image of a prowling lion to draw our attention to the devil's constant threat to throw us off course. Peter's solution is the same, that we stay alert and rely on the Lord - ie praying watchfully. And he adds a word of encouragement: "... the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5.10)