“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Romans 5:1-9
Strong Faith for Hard Times
What makes a strong person able to withstand hard times? How can one remain steadfast in spite of suffering? How was it possible that Lenora could evidence peace in the midst of pain? Eleven years fighting the curse of cancer, yet, Lenora was an example of rejoicing in spite of suffering. Victorious faith. Overcoming faith. Steadfast faith.
An Example of Excellence
Lenora was an example of excellence in hospitality, service, creativity and industry. Lenora was an example of joyful sacrificial service, energetic sports, wholehearted worship and enthusiastic encouragement of others. She strove to live life to the full. To fill her time with productivity, service and creativity.
Firm, Faithful and Fruitful
Lenora was a loyal friend. A faithful family member, especially to her parents. She felt deeply and was hurt by cancer, by cowards and by compromise. Despite being deeply hurt by friends and family who deserted us in times of difficulty, Lenora was fiercely loyal and was offended by disloyalty. Lenora was a faithful friend and grieved by betrayal and backstabbing from people we had poured heart and soul into helping. This passage in Romans 5 gives us some insights as to how it was that Lenora was able to remain firm, faithful and fruitful, in spite of fearful suffering, pain and failing health.
Perseverance, Character and Hope
Lenora knew what it was to be justified by faith. She had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Suffering can produce perseverance. Perseverance develops character. Character produces hope.
Source of Steadfastness
It was obvious that the love of God was poured out into her heart by the Holy Spirit. Even when she was physically weak, Lenora was spiritually and emotionally strong. The secret of Lenora’s steadfastness, despite suffering, is that she had a real, vibrant relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, who transformed her life in her early twenties.
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of two types of people, the wise and the foolish, who build on two different foundations, the wise on the Rock and the foolish on the sand. It describes two buildings, which may outwardly not appear too different, but when the rain fell, when the wind blew, when the floods rise and the storm rages, the house that is built on sand will collapse, but the house built on the Rock will stand firm.
Steadfast in the Storm
During recent months and years, Lenora has been steadfast in the storm caused by cancer. She not only survived for 11 years, she thrived and was an enthusiastic, elegant and eloquent encourager of friends and family around her.
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord speaks of two roads: The Broad Road, which is smooth, safe, easy and therefore popular. And The Narrow Road, which is narrow, steep, rocky and difficult. Even a dead fish can float downstream. It takes courage, tenacity and strength to go upstream, against the flow. Lenora chose the narrow, steep, rocky and difficult road, because the broad road leads to destruction and the narrow road leads to life eternal. Ultimately, there are two destinations. As Lenora said: “I know where I am going!”
In the Sermon on the Mount, we read about two different trees, the good tree and the bad tree. You can discern a tree by its fruit. The fruit of Lenora’s life was good, because her roots were firmly in the Word of God, the Bible. Lenora knew what she believed, why she believed it and Who she was trusting. Therefore, she was firm, faithful and fruitful.
Not a Fair-Weather Paddler
Lenora was not a fair-weather paddler! Even in cold, rainy and stormy weather, she was game for paddling, running or hiking. Lenora was a tough PT instructor, demanding, courageous, tenacious, inspiring and dependable. She was someone who seized the day: Carpe Diem! She did not take life for granted and sought to make the most of opportunities.
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9
God has created us for eternity. Heaven is mentioned 550 times in the Bible, by that name alone. Heaven in also referred to by many other names. It is described as "the better country" that the prophets sought after. It is described as "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:10
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:1-2
Heaven is a real place. Jesus said He goes to prepare a place for us. The Greek word for place is Topos from which we get topography and typology, the writing and study of places. The Bible distinguishes between three different heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2): air, where the birds fly (Matthew 6:26); space, where the stars shine (Acts 7:42); and paradise, which is God's home (Matthew 6:9-10). “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100).
Communist Cosmonaut's Campaign Against Heaven
Atheists have always campaigned vigorously against the concept of Heaven (because it would imply a Creator and require accountability as to our ethics). After the Russians sent their first cosmonaut into space, they used him for propaganda purposes on his return. The cosmonaut was sent on speaking tours throughout the schools in the Soviet Union to inform the teachers and students that he had been into space and he could assure everyone that he had not seen God nor Heaven.
At one school a young girl stood up and replied: "But comrade, the Bible tells us that ‘only the pure in heart will see God!'"
Recently this cosmonaut undertook a far more significant journey than his space voyage. They lowered his body into the grave. By now he knows that there is a God, although he may not get much time to see Heaven. We do not know if he turned to God before the end of his life, but we do know that the premise of his propaganda looks more and more laughable as we discover more about our universe. Our solar system is only one of millions, there are millions of suns in countless other galaxies from which our sun and earth would barely be visible. Considering the extremely small section of space between the earth and the moon that this cosmonaut was able to travel through, his confident assertion of atheism is ludicrous.
There is one appointment none of us will miss. In fact, none of us will even be able to be late for this appointment. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this to face Judgment." Hebrews 9:27. There is nothing more certain than death and nothing as uncertain as the time of dying. We should therefore be ready at all times for that which may come at any time.
The Rich Fool
Someone in the crowd urged the Lord Jesus to help him obtain from his brother a better share of the inheritance. The Lord responded with a warning: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:13-15
And Jesus told them this parable: There was a rich man, a productive man who had plenty. He had power and prosperity and possessions and he could live for pleasure, "Take your ease; eat, drink and be merry."
But God said to him: "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" Luke 12:20. This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich towards God.
This rich man was productive. He had plenty of possessions. He had power and prosperity and could live for pleasure. But he was unprepared for Eternity. He had no greater purpose than accumulating wealth and living for pleasure. The Lord calls him a fool. It is a foolish thing to fail to prepare for Eternity. We plan and prepare for even the shortest journey. If we fail to prepare for Eternity then we are foolish.
Psalm 14:1 declares that "The fool says in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." This rich man was living like a practical atheist – as if God did not exist.
The Beginning of Wisdom
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Proverbs 9:10
The Complacency of Fools
But this man did not fear God, he did not even seem to think about God. That is foolish. Proverbs teaches that those who do not choose to fear the Lord, "the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them." Proverbs 1:29-32
The rich man was a fool because he was unprepared for Eternity. Each of us should constantly be ready to die and face God's judgment – because death can strike any one of us at any moment.
The rich man in this parable was a self-centred fool. Eleven times in these three verses the man says: "Me", "Myself" and "I." He was a self-centred fool. A godless fool. Purposeless. Unprepared for Eternity. Therefore he was a doomed fool.
Lay Up Treasure in Heaven
Jesus warned us: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Prepared for Eternity
C.S. Lewis wrote: "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who had thought most of the next."
C.S. Lewis also observed: "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither."
E.M. Bounds wrote in his book Heaven: a Place, a City, a Home: "Earth is but a pilgrim stay, a pilgrim's journey, a pilgrim's tent. Heaven is a city, permanent, God-planned, God-built, whose foundations are as stable as God's Throne."
Chrysostom, the pastor of St. Sophia in Constantinople, declared: "If one man should suffer all the sorrows of all the saints in the world, yet they are not worth one hour's glory in Heaven."
John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, observed: "When I get to Heaven, I shall see three wonders there – the first wonder will be to see many people there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; and the third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there."
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed that: "Creatures are not born with desire unless satisfaction of those desires exist. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water." He noted that although many of our desires can be satisfied on earth, there are many deep and fundamental desires which cannot be fulfilled on earth and which point to the reality of Heaven. "I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same," he concluded.
C.S. Lewis wrote that: "Joy is the serious business of Heaven."
Are You Prepared?
The real question is not, has a place been prepared for us? The question is: are we prepared for that place? Will your name be called? Is your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life in Heaven? Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me." John 14:6
What is Heaven Like?
What will Heaven be like? We are told that there will be no more hunger or thirst (Revelation 7:16); no more sorrow, crying, pain or death (Revelation 21:4); and no more night (Revelation 22:5).
The Apostle Paul wrote: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
In Heaven we will enjoy reunion with loved ones who have gone ahead (Genesis 25:8, 17; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Numbers 31:2; Deuteronomy 32:50).
We will experience glory (Psalm 73:23-24); the presence of God (Ecclesiastes 12:5-7); Divine comfort (Luke 16:25); the Tree of Life (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7); Communion with God ( Matthew 22:32); coming into possession of the treasures we sent to Heaven while on earth ( Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:21; 33-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19); opportunities to please God (2 Cor. 5:9); gain (Philippians 1:21); being with Christ which is far better (Philippians 1:23); perfection (Hebrews 12:23); safety from the second death (Revelation 2:11); authority over the nations and The Morning Star (Revelation 2:26-28); Christ will confess your name before the Father and His holy angels (Revelation 3:5; Matthew 10:32-33); the waters of life (Revelation 7:16); and opportunities for worship (Heb. 12:22-24; Revelation 4:9-11; 5:8-14; 7:9-12; 11; 16-18; 19:1-7).
We will have glorified bodies. Our senses will be enlarged greatly in their capacities. We already know that, compared to some other creatures in this world, we are almost deaf and blind. What will it be like when we are released from the bondage of sin? If we can hear beautiful music which causes our hearts to thrill now, when we are limited to such a small range and scale, imagine when we have perfect hearing on every level.
Compared to the eagles, when you consider the telescopic, microscopic, ultraviolet and infrared sight capabilities of these magnificent birds, we are almost blind. What will it be like in Heaven when our vision is enlarged in perfected resurrected bodies?
Imagine the incredible intellectual stimulation of inhabiting a sinless universe. Our fallen human minds can barely contemplate what tremendous intellectual adventures we will enjoy in Heaven. Even the greatest geniuses barely use 4% of their mental potential on earth. Imagine when all sorrow and aches, and pains, and grief, and selfishness, and anger, and temper, and pride, and deceit, and darkness, and malice is removed. If we can enjoy so much beauty, even in this fallen world and under the burden of sin imagine what indescribable beauty will be enjoyed in the Paradise of God?
"And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor sighing. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:4
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” Isaiah 55:6-13
We Will Stand Before Our Creator
We do not know when, or under what circumstances, our lives will come to an end. But we do know that when we die we will stand before Almighty God, our Creator and Eternal Judge, and we will have to give an account of our lives to Him.
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:28-29
In the Light of Eternity
If you are prepared to die then you are ready for anything. Until you are free to die, you are not free to live. It ought to be our business of everyday to prepare for our last day. If we take care of our life, then God will take care of our death.
In the Bible we are told that it is better to go to a funeral than to a party, because the living should always be reminded that death waits for us all (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven; a time to be born and a time to die…" Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Being mindful of death should make us serious, industrious and conscientious.
"Only one life, it will soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last."
We need to work out our priorities in the light of Eternity. We need to invest our time and talents and treasure into those things which are going to last for Eternity: the people of God, the creatures of God, the Word of God and the Kingdom of God. These are what are ultimately important
“I know that my Redeemer lives and that on the last Day He shall stand on the earth.” Job 19:23-27
In the light of Eternity, and knowing that you are going to die and stand before the Creator and Eternal Judge, you need to review your life's work, your family relationships, your habits and your activities.
One day you will be standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ where "God will judge men's secrets…" Romans 2:16; "All the harsh words…" Jude 15 and "Judge each man's work impartially…" 1 Peter 1:17
Jesus said: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have ever spoken." Matthew 12:36
"So then, each of us will have to give an account of themselves to God." Romans 14:12
In Eternity: will any of us regret praying too much? Studying the Bible too intently? Sacrificing too much for God's Kingdom? Being too forgiving? Being too generous? Too evangelistic? Too sacrificial or too unselfish? “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5
Are You Ready?
If you knew that you were to die next year, what would you do differently this year?
Work out your priorities in the light of Eternity.
You must be ready at all times for that which can happen at any time. As Lenora as Helm would enthuse her dragon boating friends: Are You Ready!
Can you say with Lenora: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21
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Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa