I was late to church.
Let’s just say that it isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence for me.
But the whole time I was driving to church, knowing I was going to be late, I was feeling really bothered by it. I mean, I’m never thrilled when I’m late to church, but today was different. I was genuinely bothered by how I’d spent my morning and that my attendance at church had suffered a bit as a result.
I’ve been thinking and hearing a lot about preparation lately – not about emergency preparedness or necessarily anything like that – but spiritual preparation for the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Sure, we don’t know the day and we don’t know the hour. We don’t even know the week, month, or year that He’s coming.
But we know that He is coming. And we know that that day is approaching quickly.
So thinking about preparing for the Second Coming and preparing to meet Jesus face-to-face – I was scared by how unprepared I was that morning. How I didn’t fret about being late because I had plenty of time, only to rush about the last few minutes and still be late.
It hit me that if Jesus had returned today, I wouldn’t have been ready. I felt like the foolish virgins, ready with their lamps of good intentions, but no oil to actually light them.
Maybe I’m being dramatic. But I can’t shake the feeling that He’s coming sooner than we might expect. It’s an exciting thought, but it’s also sobering when I have realizations like this. Maybe you’re in a better place than I am, but I think it’s time for each of us to make sure we’re living prepared each day because none of us want to be unprepared when our Savior does return. So here are some of my thoughts on how we can live prepared:
Remember We Aren’t Perfect
This might seem like a strange thing to start with, but I think it’s important that we remember we aren’t perfect. If we think that we need to be perfect in this life so we can be saved, we might develop perfectionism tendencies, and those tendencies can be unhealthy.
Let me be clear – we are commanded to change, improve, and progress. But we are not expected to be perfect right now. God knows that we live in a fallen world and that we fight the natural man inside ourselves each day. And He knows that we’re going to fall short and mess up.
And He has already planned for it.
The way I see it, trying to be perfect in everything we do will just convince us that we are failures because we can’t be perfect on our own. But that’s the thing we need to be careful of – that we aren’t trying so hard to be perfect that we try to save ourselves.
Because we can’t save ourselves.
If we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need a Savior. The fact that Christ suffered and died for us is proof that we cannot go it alone.
So recognize your imperfection. It may not be an enjoyable experience to look at yourself and say, “Okay, I am not perfect. I’m not where I’d like to be.” But the great thing is, you can also tell yourself, “But God is in my corner. He’s ready for my mistakes, He loves me in spite of them, and He’s always holding out His hand for me to take so I can come back to Him.”
The plan of happiness is built on covenants for a reason – when we make covenants with God, we can receive more of His strength and guidance. We become partners with Him. And that relationship will help us progress more than perfectionism ever could.
However, recognizing that we aren’t perfect should not give us an excuse to not progress. God has given us the way to salvation and growth, and if we don’t follow His way, we are rejecting Him and will not be saved.
There’s a fine line between recognizing imperfection and being apathetic about imperfection. Again, we are commanded to follow God and repent, become better. We can’t do that if we think, “Well, I know I can’t be perfect, so why try?”
Try. It’s worth it. If you look at modern prophets and at others in the scriptures, you’ll see so many people who made mistakes but kept trying to obey and become better. Those are the people who make great examples for us.
We don’t have to be perfect today. But we do need to be prepared, and trying each day to be a bit better than we were yesterday is a big part of that preparation.
Daily repentance is something several leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have taught recently. It’s also something I feel I overthink a lot.
How do I know if I’m repenting daily? I should feel different every day when I do right? It should be a big moment that makes it clear I’ve repented and been forgiven, shouldn’t it?
I’ve had moments in my life when repentance felt like a big event. But I’ve also had times when repentance has come gradually. The thing is, when I feel like I need to repent, I usually expect the big event repentance, not the gradual repentance – even though gradual repentance is probably more common.
Again, I think it comes down to trying each day to be a little better. I love this quote:
Nothing draws you closer to the Lord Jesus Christ than a desire to change.Elder Joaquin E. Costa, “To the Friends and Investigators of the Church,” 2017
If we try to stop bad habits in our lives, that’s daily repentance. If we’re trying to focus on God even just a little more today than we did yesterday, that’s daily repentance. If we make the effort to put God in our lives a little more, that’s daily repentance. It’s made up of the efforts we make, even the tiniest ones, to make God the center of our lives and follow Him in all things.
Repentance is the great message of the gospel. It’s one of the first things we’re taught in the gospel, and it’s one of the most repeated teachings as well. We need repentance, but we don’t need massive events to change our hearts. Even a small desire to change can bring us to repentance.
Choose the Better and Most Important Things
A significant tool of Satan’s is distraction. It doesn’t matter what the distraction is – if it’s turning us away from God, then it’s a problem.
I talked more about this in my article “Seek the Better,” but it’s so important that we assess our lives and our choices to make sure we are choosing the things that bring us closer to Christ. Again, some distractions might not be bad things. But if we’re struggling to feel close to God, there might be better things that need to be part of our lives.
Of course, the most important thing is that we follow our Father and our Savior, closely followed by our families. Those are the first things to assess if we feel something needs to change in our lives. After that, it’s up to us to determine what really is most important for us. And when we’re faced with various things that are good, it’s our challenge and privilege to choose what is better for us, with the help of our Father.
Emphasize the Prophet’s Words
God has given us prophets so we can receive His words modernly and learn from ancient revelation as well. If we pay attention to what the prophets are saying and have said, we’ll be mentally and spiritually prepared each day.
It’s amazing, really, to see how prophets are so well forewarned. They do what they can to prepare us for the coming of our Savior, and they see all the struggles and threats that we will face until He does come. These revelations protect us and help us plan how to defend against Satan.
Whether we study these words on our own or with others, we need to emphasize them in our lives. We will find great power and support and answers when we do. And with General Conference coming up, now is the time to make the most of this chance to hear from the prophet and other leaders.
Testify Boldly of Our Savior
We are blessed to know the gospel of Jesus Christ and to know about His atoning sacrifice. When we have a testimony of these things, we need to share that testimony with others – friends, family, other members of the Church of Jesus Christ, and complete strangers.
I’m not saying that we should go stand on street corners and give speeches, but there are a lot of ways to show people that you care. Following Christ does involve teaching people about Him, but it’s just as much about living like Him and leading by example.
Testify in whatever way the Spirit guides you to testify – through music, through the internet, on an airplane – just testify somehow. You will be led when you have the desire to share. Kneel down and ask God how He’d have you testify. I promise He’ll give you a clear answer.
And when Christ does come, we’ll be able to meet Him, knowing we did what we could to be His disciples. We can be prepared when He comes. Why not prepare for that day now? It’s never too soon to begin, and it’s never too late either. We have the chance now, and hopefully, we can all make the most of it.
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