Like every Boy Scout, at a very young age I learned the scout motto, “Be Prepared!” It is a lesson that has served me well, and the older I get, the more I see the deep wisdom contained in those two simple words. Today as I was driving to work I was reflecting on all the fall seasonal changes that are occurring around me. Of course, leaves have turned to red and orange hues and are falling to cover the ground, and the animals are also preparing for the coming winter snows. They too know they need to be prepared!

I live in the north, where winters can be quite cold with lots of snow and freezing temperatures. People here know that fall is a time of preparation, a time to stockpile firewood, secure the outdoor furnishings, and lay aside some extra food supplies. This week I also put snow tires on my wife’s car, changed a car battery, and gassed and fired up the snow blower so that when the snows arrive, we will be ready.

Preparation is a vital key to success in life. Only a fool would start off on a long journey without filling his car’s gas tank. Likewise, every farmer knows that if he wants a bountiful harvest, he must spend the majority of his time on preparation—tilling, planting, tending, weeding, watering, and fertilizing.

Anyone who has ever developed any level of skillfulness has only done so by spending hours and hours practicing. Special forces warriors are so adept at their tasks because they have literally fired their weapons thousands and thousands of times. Whether it be the concert violinist, the skilled woodworker, or the open-heart surgeon, they all have one thing in common: they have all spent hours and hours, even years, practicing and preparing in their craft.

Preparation plays an integral part in spiritual maturity and success. Throughout the Bible, we read stories where God prepared people for His plans and purposes. Much of the receptivity of the people to Jesus’ message was due to the work of John the Baptist, the one who went ahead of him as “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Luke 3:4 NIV). Jesus also warned people not to become complacent, but to watch and be ready—to be prepared! In the final days before his death, the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ head did so to prepare him for burial (Mark 14:8). Jesus also indicated that he was going to prepare a place for his followers (John 14:2), and as his followers we are also admonished to “…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).

Spiritual preparation can be done in many ways, but one sure way is to examine your heart, the center of our thoughts and emotions, and strive to live a life of love and self-sacrifice, just like Jesus did. Being spiritually prepared helps keep us from being caught off guard by the evil of the world and the attacks of the Enemy. Too often we respond inappropriately to slander, false accusation, and persecution because we are not properly prepared in our minds.

Jesus promised that one day he will return, and he also predicted that when he does, many will not be prepared. So, let’s be like “spiritual–scouts” and make sure we take the time to “Be prepared!”