In the past week or so, the world has gone just a little bit crazy. Schools were closed, sports venues and amusement parks have shut their doors, and states and even nations have declared this time to be an emergency. Already people are faced with uncertainty. How do we navigate our world with variables that seem to be changing by the minute? As for Christians, the Bible makes our directive clear. No matter what situation we are facing, we are to occupy until He comes. But what does that look like? I believe 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 hold the answer to that.
“Occupy Until I Come”
First of all, the phrase comes from a parable in Luke 19:12-27 called “The Parable of the Pounds” (or Talents or Minas, depending on your Bible version). Jesus told this story because the people thought He was on earth to set up His kingdom right then. Jesus wanted them to understand that He would leave and come back a second time. In this story, a nobleman was going away to a far country to receive his kingdom but would one day come again. Then the nobleman says the line:
“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come.’”Luke 19:13
As the rest of the parable goes, the citizens of the land hated the nobleman and did not want him to be their king. He did, in fact, however, return to reign over them. His servants were then called to account. Two traded successfully and were rewarded. One hid his pound in a napkin and was called “wicked.” His pound was then given to the one who did the best with his original pound. As for those citizens who didn’t want him to be their king, he commanded them to be brought before him and slain.
An Interesting Historical Side Note
Interestingly enough, Charles Spurgeon has a sermon called The Servants and the Pounds. In it, he tells the story and makes the comment that Josephus the Jewish historian gives the account that this very situation had actually occurred some thirty years before Jesus had told the story. Apparently, on King Herod’s death, the citizens wrote to the Roman officials begging that his son Archelaus not be made king over them. They were tired of the Herods and petitioned to be made a Roman province instead.
Caesar didn’t give either side what it wanted. He divided the kingdom and made Archelaus an ethnarch (a ruler with less power than a king), and when Archelaus returned, he rewarded his faithful servants and cruelly punished those who opposed him. Archelaus had built himself a castle near Jericho, so those who heard the parable would definitely understand the reference.
The Meaning of the Parable
There are only two kinds of people in the kingdom: those who serve God and those who oppose Him. God has given each one of His servants talents and provisions in our lives. Christians can’t just keep them to ourselves or hide them in fear. No matter what is happening in the world, we must get out there and “trade” with others for the good of people and for God’s glory. We must be about our Father’s business. Jesus IS coming again. His servants WILL be held to account. Those who use what He has given them will be rewarded. Those who cower in fear will lose their reward. As for those who reject and oppose Jesus, they will not keep their lives in the new Kingdom.
So What Does “Occupy” Look Like?
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Definitions come from the DAKE Annotated Reference Bible.
Steadfast (Greek: hedraios):
“Be seated, settled, and firm in the truth of the resurrection and of victory in Christ.”
We are NOT to panic. We are children of the light. That means we see. We understand what is happening and know what will happen because the Bible has already told us the end from the beginning. We are to be wise but not troubled by the coronavirus. In Matthew 24, Jesus told us pestilences would come. Toilet paper fights at the store should not surprise us. Jesus told us iniquity (lawlessness) would abound, and the love of many would grow cold.
The mocking, scoffing, and ridicule for those warning of God’s judgement and our need to prepare and pray was already foretold in 2 Timothy 3. There, we see a picture our society today and are told there will be “perilous times.” We should not be surprised at the idea that our monetary system can and will collapse. The whole book of Revelation deals with the world-wide beast system that will come after the old one is destroyed.
We have been told what will happen so that we will have peace in knowing that God is in control and victory is certain. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Unmoveable (Greek: ametakinetos):
“Unmoveable. Let nothing shake your faith or move you away from the hope of the gospel.
We must never forget that this life is not all there is. So far most of us have led fairly easy lives. If that changes, we can’t despair. The Apostles, on the other hand, suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 15:19. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” Whatever happens, the world is not our home, and our hope is in our Savior and eternity with Him.
In fact, Jesus is the ONLY hope for everyone. We must never forget that one of our main instructions as God’s servants is to make disciples of all nations. Taking the gospel message of hope to others has to be first and foremost on our minds, especially now. People who might not have been willing to hear about Jesus last week might be scared and ready to listen now. Our peace and calm in the face of the storm will be noticed by panicking people. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
Always Abounding (very plentiful, abundant)
“Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that what you do will be rewarded.”
The bottom line is that we are here to work. While there is still breath in our lungs, there is no retirement for the child of God. Even if we can’t physically do the things we used to do, we can always pray. We can offer to listen, we can comfort, we can console, we can share resources. We can be a blessing and serve others. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says that the Father “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Our lives are not our own. We have to be thinking about how we can take our earthly resources (time, talents, and supplies) and make them multiply for the things that count in eternity: God’s glory and people’s souls.
It is more important than ever that the child of God hear God’s voice for him/herself. We have to listen and be ready to move when God requires it. The very safest place on earth is the center of God’s will. He will protect us to accomplish His purposes. And when our purpose is complete, we will go home to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:8-10 boils it down: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
We Must Occupy Until He Comes
We don’t know exactly what will happen in the coming weeks and months. What we do know is that God is with us. He has a plan for our lives to bring good things to others and glory to Himself. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Right now, today, start asking God to show you what you can do with your “pounds.” Ask Him to show you how to best occupy until He comes. Because He IS coming, and His reward is with Him.
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