Preparation...one of the most important things we can do, but one of the ways we consistently try to take short cuts.
Think about it: "I want to run a marathon"...but I don't want to run every morning leading up to it; "I want to bake a cake", but I don't want to check beforehand to see if we have the ingredients; "I want to be closer to God", but I don't want to prepare my heart, or to discipline myself to spend time in His Word and in prayer.
So, what is the logical outcome of a failure to prepare?
Some things just do not have shortcuts to them!
As I've moved into reading the Gospel of Luke (the part after the Christmas narrative), I come to Luke 3, which introduces the ministry of John the baptist.
John brought a message of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’” (Luke 3:2-6, quoting Isaiah 40:3-5)
In Isaiah's mind, this writing was about the restoration of Israel through the coming of the Messiah--the One who 'holds the nations in his hands', and for whom 'the nations are like a drop in the bucket'.
...so in Isaiah's mind, 'every mountain shall be made low', etc. is all about the Messiah's power.
...but John used it as a way of preparation.
John was the one 'crying in the desert' that we should prepare for the coming of out Lord. That WE should 'fill in every valley' and 'level every mountain' so that 'the crooked ways become straight and the rough places smooth'...and THEN "all will see God's salvation" or (as another version says it) "the glory of the Lord will be revealed".
Here's the important point: In John's mind, it's not something that happens 'out there', but rather something that happens 'in here'--in our hearts. This "preparing the way for the Lord" happens through repentance, confession, prayer and an oppenness to a move of God in our lives.
THAT is how the glory of the Lord is revealed within us.
It is part of the work of Preparation. We simply MUST pray, confess, and repent for our sins if we are to really experience God's glory and the power that comes with it in our lives.
IF we prepare our hearts, we WILL reap the benefits.
Later in that very chapter, Isaiah says these famous, inspiring words:
"The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)
The Lord has more than enough strength to support you, renew you, and make you 'soar like eagles'!
But it won't happen, if you don't prepare.