Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Child's Thoughts On Death and Heaven

Earlier this week, I had the solemn honor of officiating the funeral of a much beloved Matriarch of a church family in the congregation in which we now serve, Grace Church located in Racine, Wisconsin. While I was getting dressed for the funeral our youngest daughter, Victoria, asked why I was putting on a suit and tie (Not typical dress for the ministry in which I am serving)? I informed her that I was leading the funeral service. She asked, “What is a funeral?” I explained that it is an important ceremony used to say good-bye to someone who has died. She then asked me, “Isn’t that when someone goes to Heaven to meet Jesus forever?” I answered, “Well, for the woman we’re saying bye to today, yes.” Victoria’s eyes grew wide. She clapped, jumped up and down and said, “How exciting Daddy! Getting to be with Jesus forever! I think she’s going to learn a lot!” I was shocked by her matter-of-fact faith and her obvious attention to what we say at home and what she is taught at church. No wonder Jesus delighted in the faith of children! In Mark 10:13-16 the Scriptures give the following account,

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”

Victoria’s joy in contemplating just what it will be like to encounter Jesus at the moment of death convicted me. Though certainly, and rightfully, we possess a strong desire to live and there is so much for which to live, we should always keep the eternal perspective in view, fixing our “eyes on the Prize”. We must also realize that when the time of our passing comes, it will ultimately be a time of total fulfillment and ultimate joy as we enter into the joy of the Lord.

Unfortunately, there are times when I’m pondering the subject of death that I tend to focus on what I would be leaving behind, not what lies ahead. In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul reminds us of just how to adjust our focus on eternal heavenly virtues. He states:

“…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

As a Christ follower I must recalibrate my goal setting beyond savings accounts, insurance policies and real estate. I must focus on the reality that the day will come – an eternally glorious day – when I will encounter the Jesus I have served face to face and give an account for the life I have lived. Because of that powerful truth, I need to align all my thoughts, words and deeds with the reality that whatever difficulties I might have encountered in this life will not have been in vain and that my most important treasures will not be found in a bank or in a Will, but rather in the minds and hearts of the people I have encountered in my life and written on the ledgers of Heaven.

If you know the Lord and inevitably find yourself wrestling with the deep and complex theological volumes written about death, let me challenge you to remember Victoria’s joy that reflects a straightforward embrace of Jesus’ simple declaration:

Jesus said… "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

I believe Lord. Forgive my temporal preoccupations and help me to embrace child-like faith expressed in this simple children’s song:

Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with Glory and Grace
I want to see my Savior’s face
Heaven is a wonderful place!

Until next time…


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