With the holiday season already on our doorstep, even Seventh-day Adventists are probably hearing the word “Advent” more than usual. Long before our denomination even had a name, faithful followers of Jesus were looking forward to the “Advent” or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Millerites, a ragtag collection of people from a range of Christian denominations, believed they would witness the Second Coming in person on October 22nd, 1844. So convinced that they knew the day Jesus would return, some even stopped harvesting their fields and keeping up with their practical responsibilities. Years later, after Seventh-day Adventism emerged as its own Christian denomination, generation after generation of faithful Adventists believed that they might be the ones to see Jesus’ return in their own lifetime.
From sermons and evangelistic series to household worships and small group discussions, looking forward to Jesus’ soon return can often become so central to the posture of our faith that we can ignore the things God is calling us to do right here, right now, with the earth we have. You may have heard an offhanded comment from a church member along the lines of, “Why should we take care of the planet? It’s going to burn anyway.” or met those whose one goal seems to be getting their neighbors to agree with their theological points and Sabbath school lessons.
But is that what Jesus wants for us? And, if not, what do we do with our present?
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares what we often call “The Parable of the Talents.” He tells the story of a wealthy man who leaves home for a while, trusting different amounts of money to three of his servants. While he is away, two of the servants found ways to take their master’s money and invest it so that when he returned they could present him with even more. But the third servant was so afraid of his master that all he did was bury the money. His instinct was to preserve what was given to him––unlike his fellow servants whose instinct was to multiply theirs. When the master in the story returns, he praises those two servants who took what they had and did something good with it but grows angry with the one hid his money.
I wonder if there’s a lesson in that story for us Adventists. Maybe “accepting the Truth” isn’t just about sitting on what we know or ignoring our present reality. What if one lesson we can glean from this story is that our present is actually incredibly important? Or that the short time we’ve been given on this earth should be used to multiply the places where God’s character shows up in the world? We see all through the Bible that God is always at work through the love of His followers. From the unexpected heroes like Rahab that hid Israelite spies from their enemies in Jericho in the Book of Joshua to the well-known Good Samaritan, we see that God’s character is most often revealed through the actions of those who live it out right here on earth.
God calls us to be good stewards of the lives we have––to be responsible managers of our time, our money, and our actions. Jesus spent much of His own time on earth healing the sick, listening and spending time with the people around Him, and caring for them! So, while we may find ourselves lost in our hope for what will come next, we shouldn’t neglect the present.