Pastor Skip Heitzig of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Calvary Church recently shared tips for how Christians should live, love, pray and serve in the last days before Jesus’ “imminent” return.
In a Feb. 14 sermon titled “How to live (and love) in the last days,” the 66-year-old pastor said that Christians should follow three elements to help them stand strong and be effective in the world during the last days.
The three elements, based on 1 Peter 4:7-11, are “pray diligently, love deeply and serve wisely.”
“Notice that prayer is first on the list. … You can always do more than pray after you’ve prayed. But, you can never do more than pray until you’ve prayed,” Heitzig preached.
“Prayer is the key that unlocks the door of all the other blessings of God,” he added.
Heitzig, who has served in ministry for nearly four decades, said he has noticed when he preaches on the subject of prayer that audiences seem nervous and quieter than usual because many people struggle with prayer.
The pastor reassured the audience that they are not alone if they struggle with prayer.
He cited statistics revealing that just 16% of pastors are very satisfied with their personal prayer lives.
“Don’t feel too bad,” he said. “Pastors aren’t a whole lot better. … I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. ... I think we can figure out ways to inject our daily lives with a little more prayer.”
Christians need to pray harder as Jesus’ return approaches, according to Heitzig.
“I don’t know if you know this or not, but every day we live, our days become fewer,” he said. “So, as the days take their toll, as life casts its long shadow, as life [becomes] harder, it is prayer that will sustain you.”
The Food for The Soul author said that engaging in one-on-one prayer wasn’t always the norm in his own life. However, he noted that discovering “authentic” prayer was “life-changing.”
“I grew up in a church where prayers were all memorized and said without a whole lot of thought or meaning. And suddenly, I’m around Christians who are talking to God like He’s standing in front of them, and it was so awesome to me,” Heitzig recounted.
Eventually, the pastor began going on three-day camping trips to fast and have conversations with God.
“It was pretty exhilarating and exciting,” he described. “But then, I also noticed, I’d come back and that fervor would sort of wear off. And I would kind of get back to cold, professional, infrequent, contained forms of prayer. I discovered that I was much like the church of Ephesus, to whom Jesus said, ‘You have left your first Love.’”
In addition to prayer, Heitzig said Christians will be better equipped in the last days if they love others. He cited 1 Peter 4:8, which reads, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
“The icing on the cake, the cherry on the whipped cream is love because love is supreme,’” Heitzig said.
Christians should display two forms of love. The first type of love “covers,” and the second type of love “recovers or restores.”
“Love like you’re trying to win the love Olympics. Love people like you’re trying to get the gold medal in love,” Heitzig said, adding that the love Christians should show shouldn’t expose those who have wronged them.
“You can expose it ... and share their dirty laundry with everybody … [and] just slander them. Or if you’re a mature Christian, you want to discreetly cover that up, not because it’s a cover-up, but you’re trying to restore that person,” Heitzig said. “So, you don’t want to kick them while they’re down. ... ‘Love covers a multitude of sins.’”
Heitzig added that “love is what makes an invisible God visible to an unbelieving world.”
“Nobody can see God. … Love makes an invisible God tangible to an unbelieving world,” he said.
Finally, Christians should serve. The pastor explained that “a spiritual gift is a God-given capacity to serve others so that they may be edified and God may be glorified.”
“Every believer has a gift. … My guess is you have a bunch of spiritual gifts. You have a cluster that compliments one another, and it is our responsibility to discover those gifts and to use them,” he said.
Heitzig said that believers can be gifted in similar ways, but every Christian’s spiritual gifts are different in some ways.
“Spiritual gifts are like snowflakes or fingerprints,” he contended. “They’re unique to you. When you do whatever thing God has called you to do, it is so important because it is so uniquely an expression of God’s grace that can’t come through anybody else.”
“By our unwillingness to get involved … you are robbing God of a certain portion of His glory that He would get if you did get involved and serve others.”