The thoughtful watching that grows out of an understanding of our Lord's plans influences subtly and mightily one's whole life. It deepens wondering reverence for the Lord Jesus Himself, His present power and personal glory sitting up yonder in the indescribable glory of the Father's presence, and His patience and strength in this waiting-time. It draws out a depth and tenderness of personal love for Himself and of devotion to Him.
There comes to be a keenly acute conscience about evil, and about compromise with evil; and yet with it a sanity of judgment on particular questions arising, and a gentle consideration for others who see otherwise, or think they do. Evil grows in subtlety and in aggressiveness in our day, and probably will yet more. It seeks especially to make inroads among God's professing people. Yet evil is evil. Its true inwardness is quickly revealed by adding a "d" at the beginning of the word. And it grows increasingly repugnant in whatever guise, as we come to study more its inner spirit as revealed in these disclosures of the end times.
Then, too, this watching affects one's judgment of, and attitude toward, Christian service, and toward movements in the Christian world. The getting-together spirit is getting more and more into Church circles. The fervent heart repeats constantly our Lord's prayer, "that they may all be one." Yet it becomes clear that there may be movements toward union that are not of the Holy Spirit's initiation, and that cannot have his approval.
It is not enough to do good. That may prove to be a low level of action. The thing is to find out what God has planned, and fit into that, with all the warmth of one's being. His will is always good, and better, and best. The good thing may not be the thing He has planned and wants done.
It becomes increasingly clear that our Lord Jesus is a great general. He has the whole campaign of action mapped out, and every detail of it thought into and thought out. As one comes to learn more of His plans, and Himself as a planner, there comes to be a passion for doing His will. One moves from the old position of working for God up to the position of so fitting in that God works through us.
And there comes to be a consciousness that He is doing immensely more through the things we do than we are conscious of. So in all Church activity there comes to be a reaching out in spirit to discern what He wants done, and putting all the strength into that.
Then, too, one's thought of foreign missionary service undergoes a change. The actual taking of the message of Christ to those who haven't heard comes to have first place. Educational work and medical and humanitarian, and the like, in missionary service, are seen to be wisely used when held strictly in place as a means to a direct end. And their value is judged wholly by their being a means of bringing those whom they touch face to face with the Christ that died.
It seems to be possible to spend fifty years and more establishing mission work in the city centres of a foreign-mission country, and all good, blessed work; and yet have the great mass of that country's population in utter ignorance of the Gospel message and its power.
As the Holy Spirit is allowed control increasingly, there comes to be a better understanding of God's purposes and of His plans, an earnest coöperation in the Church movement for making Christ known to all men everywhere, a faithfulness in all the circle of one's own home Church, and a warm personal winning of men to know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour.
So it is seen that watching for our Lord's return affects one's whole life in an intensely practical way. It deepens faith in Him. It leads to an intelligent detachment in social and commercial and even Church circles, while making an increase of thoughtful regard for others. It purifies the personal life. It chastens and deepens and gentles the personal character.
It seems very striking and very strange that when Jesus was born there are just two persons named, outside the immediate circle, who seemed to have the spirit instinct that recognized who He was. There was a man living in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. Who was he? rich? poor? cultured? of lowly station? No one knows. But whoever he was, he had cultivated close walk with God. That's clear. And into his inner spirit came the conviction that the Christ promised for ages, so long waited for, the Christ was now coming, and he would see Him.
And a similar story is told of the woman called Anna. These two were in that simple touch of heart with God that could in spirit sense the coming of the Christ. There may have been others. We are not told. But the emphasis remains on the fact that few seemed to discern the working out of God's tremendous plan.
Will it be so again? It would surely seem that intelligent watching would make one sensitive in spirit to coming events. Yet there would ever be a mingling of deepest reverence, and a thoughtful caution regarding mere speculation, while the fervent prayer that Jesus taught is daily repeated, "Thy kingdom come."
And John's closing Revelation prayer constantly breathes out, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."