“…set your hearts on things above on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
A crazy thought passed through my mind one evening years ago while on a beautiful Caribbean cruise with my whole family. It was a moment in time with no hardship, no illness, no worries….marriages and families flowing together like the waves upon the sea. I brushed away thoughts of heaven and thought, ‘how could it be better than this?’
“But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground…the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.” (Acts 27)
The surprise of tragedy, betrayal and loss serve to shake and crush such crazy thoughts. Grief and anguish can depress and embitter or divinely redirect our hearts and thinking heavenward, and with great gain. Yet, enemy attacks, storms and shipwrecks are tools in the hand of Sovereign God, changing the course of men – as they reset their hearts, their minds and their final destination.
Why is it important – utterly crucial – to long for heaven?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Love for, even friendship with, this world does not dilute our relationship with the Lord – it plants seeds of contempt toward Him. “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” (James 4:4) Loosening our grip on the things of this world…even our health, beauty, and possessions, often prepares us for a greater measure of the Lord Himself.
While a comfortable and benign temperature in the physical realm, lukewarm is a deadly state for those chosen by the Lord (Rev 3:16). To spare us this ‘sickening’ condition, the Lord often stokes the embers in our life, creating a fire in which He will appear. When He burns away the dross of worldliness and our grip upon the temporal, our eyes can better focus on heavenly realms. Beloved Apostle John was a vessel of honor for God’s glory,
“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit….” (Rev 1:9)
Separated from the world in a barren place of loneliness and suffering, John was given astounding revelations of Jesus Christ, the last days and the coming Kingdom of God. We marvel at theses scriptures yet lose sight of the man used by God to deliver them – frail and elderly, at least 90 years old, stripped away from every worldly comfort. Crushed in a place of great deprivation and suffering, heaven was magnified before him. John’s longing for his Savior’s return became a singular focus personified in the ending verses of Holy Scripture, “Come, Lord Jesus”.
Is this yearning within you and me? Today, the Lord’s return seems very inconvenient, even disruptive to our plans; we would rather He return after a pending project, after an upcoming wedding, or following the big vacation. However pious and upright, most Christians do not want the Lord to really interfere with their lives. For the sake of our eternal life and His honor, ‘fiery trials’ often set our agendas and lukewarm lives aflame. Death, anguish, betrayal and loss rout out futile confidence in the things and people of this world.
A dreadful emptiness often overshadows unbelievers when foundations are suddenly shaken. For the believer in Christ however, there is a living hope. We may be knocked down, but not knocked out. The Holy Spirit revives us to fight once again, each round testifying of God’s faithfulness. It is the mauled sheep who cling to the Good Shepherd and with Him find healing, restoration, – green pastures, quiet waters, and paths of righteousness promised in Psalm 23. From the “valley of the shadow of death” comes the renewed focus on eternity as we anticipate “the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
“In My Father’s house are many rooms….I am going there to prepare a place for you”. (John 14:2)
Whether translated as ‘rooms’, ‘dwelling places’, or ‘mansions’ the Lord promises His followers a prepared place in His Kingdom. We cling to this belief in death, but does this anticipation order our priorities and reshape our thinking on earth? Are we ‘storing our treasures in heaven’, towards the things of eternal value?
The Lord may use a fiery furnace to burn off stumbling blocks of sin and compromise, raising our temperature well above lukewarm. Thrashing waves upon our sailing ship often change our focus and our course. Yet, whether through daily seeking and renewal through God’s Word or through the pressing and shaking of trials, it is incumbent upon God’s people to divest from this ‘condemned’ world and align ourselves with the purposes of God. God is not calling us to put our hopes in this fallen world any more than we would invest in a foreclosed bank.
In the ‘last days’ let us join Abraham and other heroes of the faith as they set their hearts and minds,
“…looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…. for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11)
And prepared a city for us.
“Come, Lord Jesus”