“People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.” Heb 11:14 (NIV)
It’s been a season of remarkable hurricanes, political and global unrest, and divisive rhetoric. The words ‘unprecedented’ or ‘I’ve-never-seen-anything-like-it’ or ‘what-in-the-world?’ are beginning to feel commonplace. I don’t have to spend time explaining all the hardship you already know about. And I don’t want to drudge up the personal pain you might be experiencing that I don’t know about. What I do want to do is remind you about the country we’re all longing for.
My pastor is currently in a series on heaven and I’m walking our small group through some of the passages we’re studying. Here are a few promises about heaven that have blessed and encouraged my heart, especially in these days where the earth seems to be groaning with more intensity than usual. Whatever usual is anymore.
Don’t Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
In John 14:4 Jesus encourages his disciples not to be overcome with the trials and hardships that would befall them, especially in the days to come. Jesus knew that they would be gutted by His death on the cross and shaken by His departure. Still He gave them a strong imperative—do not let your hearts be troubled. The reason Jesus could say this is because He wasn’t leaving them for eternity, just for the sliver of time they’d be on earth (even so, He wasn’t leaving them as orphans but with the Holy Spirit).
I can get so troubled! I recently took a personality test that additionally tagged you as either assertive or turbulent. I was turbulent with a capital “T”, as in the pilot’s discontinuing the beverage service. It helps me to remember that part of my unrest is because this world is not my permanent dwelling place. Even the patriarchs were looking for their own country. One with a city that God had designed and built for them.
Heaven Is A Place
In John 14 Jesus says that He’s coming back to take us to the place He’s preparing for us. A house. Many rooms. A physical place. So often we think of heaven in terms of clouds and floating, harps and halos, mystical gates and ancient saints. Our often fuzzy ideas keep us from setting our hearts and sights on Jesus’ concrete promise that heaven is a real place—more real than life itself, as C.S. Lewis alluded to in The Great Divorce. Because of Jesus our hopes about heaven aren’t wishful or whimsical, but find their footing in a city that has solid “foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:10.) What if we stepped away from the endless news cycle and pondered that truth for a moment? What if we stopped trying to make this broken world our ultimate home and threw our full hearts toward heaven, oddly enough, freeing us to live more meaningfully here? What if we believed our home in heaven will have a better kitchen than the best of Pinterest? (Wait. I’m not sure if we’ll have kitchens but one can hope.)
Jesus Made A Way
In our small group gathering, a college-age friend of mine from Moldova explained the cultural religious perspective of heaven that pervades her country. “For the most part, people there don’t have a sense of eternal security”, she said. “They strive to reach what they perceive to be God’s demands for heaven, but they have no certainty.” This religious striving combined with a lack of assurance is not unique to Moldova, of course. Cultures and religions and agnostics have wrestled with the idea of heaven since the beginning of recorded history. The author of Ecclesiastes says that God has put “eternity in our hearts”, so it’s natural that we would long to understand it.
What I especially love about Jesus is that He wants us to know about heaven. And He clearly points the way there. He says that He is the only way to the Father in heaven, He is the truth and He is the life. You might not believe what He says, but you can’t argue that He’s hard to read. Or vague. Or one of many ways—He is either the way or none at all.
I believe Him.
I pray you do too. The days are tumultuous. And as much as we want to feel perfectly settled here, our souls will never be truly home until we awaken in that country we’re all longing for. The heavenly country where Jesus lives and reigns. The place where all tears will be wiped away and all hearts made clean in Him. The currency of good works won’t gain you or me entrance, only the blood of Jesus. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Jesus has made a way for you.