Jesus spoke about preparation when He told the parable of the wise and the foolish men. He said the wise man “built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock” (Luke 6:48). The foundation, or the preparation, was what made the difference between the house that fell and the one that stood the storm.
Many careers require years of study and practice before someone is allowed to assume much responsibility. Rightly so, because often, as in the case of the medical profession or airline flight controllers, lives are at stake. The Christian calling is also a place of great responsibility. We are responsible, not only to save our own souls but to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of others. Special preparation is needed to fill this role.
A Christian’s preparation has two aspects. The most important is the preparation that comes from God alone. It begins with the new birth. No one can build in a spiritual kingdom unless he has been transformed from his carnal, earthly way of thinking into one who has a spiritual mind. He is transformed when he meets God’s conditions of genuine repentance from his sins and true faith in Jesus as his Savior. Secondly, the Holy Spirit illuminates and empowers him. Even young Christians who are filled with the Holy Ghost often speak and act powerfully in a way that carries God’s message. All further preparation is anchored in this core source of life and light.
Just as in academic preparation, the fundamentals are indispensable, yet no student or professional is properly equipped if he has learned only the fundamentals. So also, as God’s family, continued preparation is needed. Blessed is the youth, woman, or man who voluntarily sets himself to prepare. This is done in various ways. One young man said, “I want to go as far as God will take me.” His will had joined God’s will in pursuing the divine purpose for his life.
Walking with God is the foremost school for preparation. This involves separating one’s self from the distractions and busyness of life for quiet contemplation. It involves listening to the Spirit, observing God’s work in creation and everyday occurrences, and meditating on His Word. Time spent alone with God is fertile soil for a productive life. In such a spirit, prayer will not be an obligation but natural spiritual breath.
Accepting responsibility is an important part of growth. Often no one obligates us to involve ourselves in the spiritual realm. One can easily excuse himself. But growth in experience and ability are reserved for those who will risk themselves to act on their convictions, speak a word of encouragement or warning, or put their hand to some need. They are the ones who will multiply their one, two, or five talents.
Part of growth comes in the form of discipline. Though sometimes painful, discipline which deals with the remnants of sin is of great value. Using personal inspiration, the circumstances of life, and fellow Christians, the Holy Spirit will further every believer’s training by discipline at the pace he is willing to follow. His purpose is to bring every aspect of the believer’s life into agreement with the message he is to convey.
Yet another aspect of preparation is study. Bible study is essential not only for inspiration but to establish a basis for faith. Some would like growth and maturity to come effortlessly, but what do the Scriptures say? The Proverbs teach that we should seek wisdom as diligently as men do when they seek after hidden treasure (2:4-5). Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The believers in Berea were judged to be more noble than others in that they searched the Scriptures to see whether what they heard was true (Acts 17:11). Paul exhorted Timothy to give attendance to reading and to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13). Clearly, God wants His people to engage their minds to confirm themselves on the rock of truth.
We need to prepare ourselves for several reasons. Sooner or later we will be challenged, either by earnest seekers, by critics, or by inner doubts, whether what we believe is true. A born-again person is usually satisfied with what he has in his heart, because his relationship with God satisfies the inner cry for peace and truth. Yet he may still not “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Tit. 1:9). “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Parents need preparation for the salvation of their children. Noah was a heroic example when he, “being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). Children need a foundation beyond a mere cultural concept of religion. When Father and Mother are fully convinced of the reasons for their practice of the faith, they will be able to convey it to their children. The urgency of saving their souls and keeping themselves unspotted from the world will be transmitted by word and without words.
We must study and yet be aware of the danger of intellectualism. As we use the term, “intellectualism” refers to religion that is in the intellect rather than in the heart. It is not confined to people of superior intellect. It is knowledge and experience set above faith, when it should be just the opposite. The dictionary definition is “the viewpoint that knowledge is derived from pure reason.” Intellectualism is the fleshly substitute for walking in the Spirit. Sincere Christians need only to grow lukewarm to be susceptible to this peril. Not willing to surrender their long-held convictions and practice, they continue in the power of the flesh.
In many ways, intellectualism can imitate true spiritual living. The intellect is capable of producing many enticing and convincing arguments. It can be bolstered by attentive study and thought. The spiritually minded, however, are strangely unmoved and unsatisfied by the eloquence and talent of those who are intellectually driven. They long for the witness of the Spirit, of which David observed, “deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts” (Ps. 42:7).
So we observe that there is preparation according to the Spirit of God and preparation according to the world and the flesh. We prepare according to the Spirit by learning to walk by faith and obedience. We also prepare by believing study of God’s Word and godly literature, especially that which has stood the test of time.
“To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail,” was the statement of one of the nation’s founding fathers. Having prepared for life, we will be prepared for death and meeting our Maker.
Messenger of Truth, 2015, No. 11