It seems that much of what we do involves some kind of waiting. In our parable the emphasis is also on waiting. We have a picture of 10 bridesmaids waiting for their groom to come. However, there is nothing they can do in their own power for this event to take place. The people in this parable can do absolutely nothing to bring about this meeting. So they are all sleeping - both the wise and the foolish maidens are sleeping.
For two thousand years Christians have talked about this meeting. We have even given this event a special name and have called it "The Blessed Hope of the Church".
The problem is that five of these maidens were tired of waiting, and so we read that one half of them had given up hope. Sadly, many Christians have lost interest in this event because of the many storms which have taken a toll. So, many have lost sight of the meeting and the message: that someone is coming from the other side who is going to wrap up world's history. When that time comes, we can throw our calendars away. In the meantime, the storms of life have taken their toll, and many folk have just given up on the idea that their ship is coming in.
Someone once said: "It is a glorious thing to be in a ship that may be shaken by storms and waves, but it is even more glorious to know that no matter what happens, it will reach its destination." Our lives will not always be smooth sailing. There will be storms, and sometimes the storms will get very rough. When those storms hit, we are held in suspense wondering when and how it will all end.
In the case of a tragedy we may even know the outcome of the story before we read the whole book, but we read it anyway because we want to know how it could all come about - what went wrong, how could this all happen. From the very first pages of the Bible, God has already revealed how this tragedy all came into being. He not only tells us how it came into being, but he also tells about a great destination and how we can all get back on course with a navigator that He has provided.
Everyone has been given an opportunity to read the book, but not everyone believes it. I have read the book, and it has a fantastic ending. I know that when the storms of life come, I am assured that my ship will reach the harbor, not because I have placed my faith in the destination, but rather because I have placed my faith and trust in the Navigator.
Perhaps there is someone today who is facing some storm. Perhaps there is someone today who is facing an insurmountable crisis. So if the storms of life seem to be hitting you, my question is: "Who is navigating your ship? Who is in control?"
When you have Jesus as the navigator of your ship, He will never abandon the ship. He will be with you through the storm. He will be with you through the wind and he will be with you through the fire. He will be with you during the good times and He will be with you in the storm times because He has promised to take you to your destination.
When Jesus is the navigator all metaphors break down. Not only is He the Great Navigator, He is also the Good Shepherd, He is the Gate, He is the Bread of Life, He is the Light of the World, He is the Father who waits for us, He is the Provider, He is the Watcher, He is the Keeper, He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Solid Rock, He is the High Tower, He is the Strong Fortress, He is the Resurrection, He is the Life - because He has already weathered the storms in His own life and knows how to take us through as well. We may not understand how the navigation will work, but we know the Navigator.
The most important life lesson is: Don't ever lose sight of the navigator. The wise maidens in this parable were living on the strength of that one principle. This doesn't mean that they had their heads so wrapped up in the clouds that they had forgotten all about the present. They didn't know if the bridegroom could come today, tomorrow or ten years from now, but there is one thing that is certain: He will come, and that is why Jesus tells this parable.
God knows that we all have busy lives and that is why Jesus doesn't condemn the wise maidens for sleeping. But in this parable there are also two kinds of sleep and they are different. The foolish maidens simply grew tired of waiting. They had given up on the bridegroom and they had gotten weary. Discouraged, they failed to keep a supply of oil for their lamps. Half of them simply had given up HOPE.
C.S. Lewis once had this to say about HOPE: "Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not as some modern people may think a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we have to leave this present world as it is. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in . . . aim at the earth and you will get neither."
The foolish maidens had let the oil go dry in their lives. They had given up on the groom and finally they had let the oil in their lives go dry. Their lamps were giving off more soot than flame, and eventually they had no light.
How is the oil in your lamp? But, I can hear someone saying, "Oh pastor . . . you don't know I've prayed and prayed. I read the Bible and I come to church but my prayers are not being answered. I feel that my lamp is going dry." My answer to the statement is this: Keep pouring in fresh oil! Keep on praying! Keep on trusting! Keep on believing!
If you let the oil in your lamp go dry then you have fallen into the enemy's trap to believe that the bridegroom cannot come and that he has forgotten about you. Listen: if you decide to believe this lie you will have changed your navigator. Not only that, you will have also changed your destination. When God called you He also promised you a destination.
In these times we must never let our oil run dry. We are not here to play religious games.
Like St. Francis of Assisi, we need to pray that where there is hatred, we may give love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope. When you keep your lamps full of oil you cannot lose.
Perhaps you have let the oil in your lamp go dry because of life's storms and trials, and maybe with the start of this brand new year it is the time to receive a fresh refilling of oil. If that is you, then God can refill the oil in your lamp. That is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is your constant supplier of oil that will never run dry. His oil is refreshing, His oil will renew you, His oil will restore you, His oil will heal you, and His oil will sustain through all the storms of life as we wait for our Great Shepherd who will bring us to our final destination.
This is the "Oil of Hope" that keeps our lamps from going dry!
On behalf of the entire Sunday Line team we want to wish you God's Richest Blessings and for the Holy Spirit to pour His unending supply of fresh oil into your lamps for this New Year, as your prayers get answered while we, with great anticipation, await the coming of our LORD!