REVELATION 21:1-4, JOHN 14:1-6, JOHN 16:33
Years ago I had a job as a waiter at Pappadeaux. I was horrible. Seriously. To be a good waiter or waitress you have to be able to multitask like crazy. I am a one-track thinker (although I have been known to talk while sleeping—does this count as multi-tasking?) Waiting tables wasn't the job for me. I remember being in the break room one time when a conversation about religion broke out. Someone asked a general question like, "What do you guys think about the afterlife...you know heaven and hell?" No sooner had the question been asked when one of the head waiters, Pete, sternly retorted, "None of it is real...religion is a bunch of lies made up by humans who can't accept the fact that when we die we just become dirt." I remember hearing him speak those words and thinking that what he said was not nearly as upsetting as the fact that he really believed that. It bothered me greatly to think that someone could be so calloused and cold in their heart to not believe that there might be a God, or that heaven and hell might be real. A couple years ago I learned that Pete died. He was only 35.
The world lives without the hope of something better after this life. Many people are like Pete. They believe this life is all there is. That is why they try to get out of it all that they can. Buy the fastest cars, the biggest houses, the nicest clothes. Party all you can. Sex, drugs, and rock-n- roll, baby! If this life is all there is, why not right? Well the reality is that this life is not all there is. Our life is only a temporary little speck in light of eternity. James said that our lives are like a vapor (see James 4:14). So what should set us apart as followers of Jesus Christ is that we have hope! Hope that one day we will live in heaven for all of eternity. Hope that we will dwell there not only with Jesus, but also with all those who have died and trusted Christ as Savior. We will all be reunited! How awesome will that be??? I have hope knowing I will see my Grandpa again. I said goodbye to him on June 30, 1992. I have hope knowing will see my brother again. I said goodbye to him on September 18, 2003. I will see them again. I will hug them, kiss them, and tell them how much I have missed them. Heaven will be so amazing, so incredible. It will be so great, and yet I truly cannot imagine just how great. The Apostle John writes about heaven in Revelation 21:1-4:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Did you see that??? No more crying. No more pain. No more death. This is the hope that we have as believers. And when we have this hope, it gives us the strength to accomplish two things while we remain here on earth:
1) STRENGTH TO OVERCOME. If you have been in a season of difficulty or depression lately, know that this life is not all there is. There is a glorious home God has prepared for those who have trusted in His Son as Savior! We will live with Him forever! Did you know Jesus is preparing a place for you as we speak (see John 14:1-6). Please don’t think I am trying to minimize what you may be going through right now. Life can definitely be tough. But hope gives us the strength to overcome. Sometimes the undercurrent of trials and tribulations can pull our hearts out into the sea of despair. We lose hope. We get so caught up with life and all that we endure in the here and now, that we forget the incredible inheritance that awaits us. Today I encourage you to take hold of the hope that God has promised you. May our Lord graciously grant you an uncommon strength to confront the pain and struggles of this life. May he renew your passion for living. Consider Jesus’ words in John 16:33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Your God has overcome all that comes against you right now. When it’s all said and done, you WIN. When the dust settles and the final chapter is written, you WIN. Knowing the final outcome makes the trials more bearable.
2) STRENGTH TO WORSHIP. Have you ever walked into church on a Sunday morning and just not “felt it” during our time of singing? Your mind was elsewhere. Your heart was weighed down or divided. Maybe you had been laid-up or laid-off that week. Maybe you had a falling out with a close friend or loved one. Perhaps you were trapped in the clutches of loneliness and isolation. When life gets hard it’s easy to withhold our worship. It’s a temptation all of us face. But this is where hope steps in. In times when your flesh says “let’s sit this one out” hope reminds you of who God is. His everlasting excellence. His supreme splendor. His guaranteed goodness. When you recapture even a glimpse of our Lord’s majesty, the only proper response is to worship. In that sacred moment, everything around you vanishes and all that matters is your heart connecting to His. A shallow bank account won’t keep you from lifting your hands. Betrayal from a loved one can’t silence the shout in your praise. Nothing or no one can hold you back. God IS good and He DOES good. Knowing that He went to the cross in my place, I have to worship. Knowing that my sins have been washed away, I have to worship. Knowing that He saved me from an eternity in hell, I have to worship.
Sadly, many of you reading this have lost sight of hope. I really hope you will be with us tomorrow night for our church-wide Night of Worship. My good friend Sam Deford will be on hand to lead us in worship. He has led our students numerous times and they absolutely love him. I am so excited for you as a church to meet him and be blessed by his ministry. It starts at 6:00. We will sing a little bit of the old and the new, we will have a little something for everybody. It is not a concert to entertain you, but rather it is a connection to encourage you. We are bringing Sam in to give our worship team a much deserved break. I want our entire church to be able to show up for no other reason than to glorify God. To worship. To have hope renewed. Won’t you join us? I promise you will be glad you did. See you guys tomorrow morning.