For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Throughout history, great Christian writers, thinkers, and philosophers have written a lot about Heaven. C. S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”
The more we think about the next life, the more effective we become for God in this life. I have experienced that in my own life. Three times, I have been serving in a church and then was called by God to another church. There was a period of time after the new church called me that I had to go back to my old church and finish my work there. Ironically, that was usually the most productive time in my entire ministry in that church. I was highly motivated because I knew I would be leaving soon. I wanted to leave things in good shape at that church. Not only that, I had a certain freedom. I could make the decisions I felt were best without worrying about what other people thought because, after all, what could they do to me? I was already going someplace else.
That is a good metaphor for what our life ought to be like here on earth. The fact is, we are all leaving here. Our departure is certain. It will not be long till we go to that place called Heaven. Knowing that our future is secure ought to motivate us to live effective lives for God right now. That was certainly true of the Old Testament saints Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah. Notice what Hebrews 11:13 says about these men and women of faith: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” They were focused on that future country God had planned for them, and that future country motivated them to live obedient lives.
The same was true for the Apostle Paul. His citizenship was in Heaven, yet he was on earth to fulfill God’s will. In Philippians 1:21, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He was saying, “It works out for me either way. As long as I am living, I will do what He wants me to do. But if God decides to take me, it will be better for me.” He went on to say, “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (1:23-24). Paul wanted to go to Heaven and be with God, but at the same time he wanted to stay and fulfill the ministry God had for him. That is the kind of life God wants us to have–being focused on our future home but effective in this world until God calls us home.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “What Difference Does A Future Heaven Make In My Life Today?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity” (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 134.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)