Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world.
People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. Hebrews 11:13-16 The Message Bible
I can recall the very morning I heard a sermon that changed my life forever. Although I had spent years in a wonderful Presbyterian church (a very on fire for Christ kind of place) with talented pastors and teachers, this sermon was preached by a middle aged preacher in a Pentecostal country church whose Hell fire style was one I normally shy away from.
I was twenty-seven or twenty-eight at the time, really just starting out in life as a young wife and mother. But I knew about death after losing my father in childhood and my firstborn son soon after his birth. I understood the brevity of life (although at that time I had no idea how quickly the decades could pass).
So when the country preacher began sharing about living a life with our eyes on Eternity... I was extremely interested. He was a simple preacher. The message was simple. The Truth of it all changed my life.
- We are just passing through this life, pilgrims on our way to our True Home.
- That is where our rewards will be found.
- And the way we live our lives in this fallen of planets has an eternal consequence.
Although I was a very dedicated Christian, I was also part of a that Baby Boomer female population that had been told we could do it all, have it all, and should want it all. We were encouraged to grab for the golden ring on the Merry Go Round of life and "go for the gusto" as we all deserve the finest of... everything. We were to work hard, live hard, and play hard... even within the Christian community.
I lived this for quite awhile and I even admit that I look back to the old corporate days with a certain fondness. Especially wearing nice clothes, dining at fine restaurants, and having my own money to spend as I like.
But God changed all that (which is an entirely separate and very long story) and the way those changes came about, He pulled my clenched fingers from all that was glitz and glitter to show me what really mattered. Eternity.
Not only my eternal life and rewards but what my daughter would become (my son was only a wish at that time), and how He wanted to use my hours and days and weeks and months and years. For that which had Eternal importance and not the temporary abundance of this life.
I worked in ministry but was never called to full time service. Mostly I wrote, taught Bible studies or Sunday School, or helped in the church office. But I spent time with training my daughter and later my son, too. I chatted with those who were hurting and cried with those who cried.
I enjoyed having friends over to enjoy a meal, talked with women I cared about over morning coffee, and kept the cookie jar filled for neighborhood children. Life went by and my little girl grew up, a son was born and also grew up, a wonderful son-in-law joined the family, and then a lovely daughter-in-law. Not to mention those amazing grandchildren.
Life was lived each day for better or for worse, in sickness and health, for richer for poorer. Just like everyone else on the planet.
And how did we survive the joys and trials, the griefs and gains, the pain and the tribulation of life? What about those times when what we hoped for did not come to pass and we waited a long time for an answer? How about the realization some dreams would never be fulfilled?
It all comes back to that Sunday morning in a country church. For it is all a matter of perspective.
If this was all there was then it would be different. If we lived life only waking up, going to work, raising our children, cooking dinner, watching a little TV or reading, and going back to bed only to start it all over the next morning... how futile it would all have been.
But I learned to be as one of those who went before me who learned to walk Due North... with their eye on that city whose builder and maker is God. This my friends, is not our home.
- Any rewards we receive here... temporary.
- Any objects we own here no matter how glorious and beautiful... they will eventually rot or decay or burn or at the very least end up in an antique store a hundred years from now.
- That promotion we long for... eventually it becomes a job with overwhelming hours to keep it from the next person climbing the ladder of success.
- Time not spent with loved ones... gone forever.
For you see, this life was never meant to make us happy. Oh, we have moments and sometimes even days of pure joy. He wants us to have a goal if it does not take us away from His purpose for our lives. He wants us to run for the gold if it is pure gold at the end of the line... and not fool's gold.
He has us on a journey and we have an enemy of our souls who is constantly nudging us off that path. For he knows when we are walking towards the Heavenly City, keeping our eyes on the Savior's purpose, knowing the Holy Spirit is guiding us and leading us... then even when that path seems the darkest... we are safe in the will of God.
But if he that is the father of all lies can whisper in our ears that God has abandoned us, that God has not fulfilled all He promised, that we have been good people and have not obtained what we deserved, or an even worse lie... that we are so sinful and fallen He would never forgive and redeem us... then the father of lies pulls us off that God given path into utter despair.
We are not Home, yet. Children are still dying from starvation. Illness eats away at this earthly dwelling we call a body. Christians are in prison and dying for their faith. Cars break down and the amount in the checking account does not stretch to the end of the month. Drought takes away water needed for farmers and floods sweep away houses in their path. There are storms and whirlwinds and winters with no end and blazing heat withering crops.
This is not Heaven. This is not the New Earth to come. All has not been put right, yet. Even the trees and the fields and the flowers and the mountains and the morning stars cry out for redemption from that which is the result of the fall of man.
But don't give up. Look just over the horizon. Can you see it? Surely you can. Shut your eyes and think of the Savior, of Easter, of the coming Resurrection morning... can you begin to see it now?
Yes, there it is! The light. The Heavenly light of the finish line. You will make it. You will finish strong, even if you feel as if you were the last one to cross the line in the marathon... you did it. Out of breath and sweating and sore and your head is pounding and you are sobbing and you didn't think you would do it but... you did.
Look around at the City. Do you recognize it? It was in your heart all the years you walked the fallen planet of earth. It is Home.