January 5, 2021
“If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one…” (Hebrews 11:15-16, NIV 1984).
I decided to visit him at home to discuss the facts around his recently discovered cancer. Michael is a friend whom I have not seen in a while. I was amazed at his smiles and lightheartedness. The first thing he told me was that he had twice been able to use his illness to witness for Christ, “I called my life insurance broker and told him to get plans ready to distribute the funds to my wife and children.” My broker told me, ‘That’s terrible! Are you really dying?’ I told him, “What do you mean terrible? This is what I’ve been living for!”
I don’t think my friend meant that he was living to die. I think he meant he was living to see Jesus face to face. (What have I been living for?)
I believe also that my friend saw the end of this world’s life as a door that opens to a life far more wonderful than he had yet experienced. I think he was looking forward to heaven.
For some reason God has made us leery of death as we walk in our human skins. Perhaps He thinks we might all jump ship early and fail to complete the mission for which He has created us, if we carried a constant longing for heaven. Instead, I suspect God wants us to focus on our part in His redemption story until we have completed the work He planned for us. The truth of heaven might be too great a distraction if we lived with a vivid understanding of our ultimate destination. I assume this is what Paul meant when he declared, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NIV 1984).
Each of us will certainly come to the moment when we face the stark reality of our completed mission, the realization that our life this side of heaven is coming to an end. I’ve witnessed this moment of reckoning over and over again in the lives of many Christian patients. One of the amazing aspects of this hour for many Christ-followers is not only a lifting of the mist that hides the beauty of heaven, but also an awareness of the presence of God’s love in ways they have not known before. Many have told me how grateful they are for their struggle that has brought them so much closer to Jesus. And then, heaven is the icing on the cake.
It saddens me that I and many Christ-followers have access to the same truth: the same offer of God’s presence, the same fact of heaven—and yet we make decisions in life as if neither is true. We need to wake up and live based on the truth of life, the truth that Michael claims.
“I’ve got this,” Michael told me. “The game is decided. The scoreboard says we are behind, but Jesus has already won.”
Draw me closer and open my eyes. Let me see the truth of heaven and feel Your presence intensely, even though You keep me here working for a while.