By Pst. John Musyimi
Of all beneficial Christian practices, the most neglected is the practice of meditation. In our busy world, we do not often take time out for deep and focused reflection on various Biblical themes. When we do get round to doing it, rarely do we think on heaven and the glories to come. If themes on which we meditate are like members of Jesse’s family, meditation on heaven is the forgotten David that no one even thought to invite to the party. Yet, it turns out that it is the very child that will bring much blessing to us.
The Bible clearly encourages (even commands) us to think often of heaven. Here is a sampling of texts that show this: ‘Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.’ (Col 3.1-3) ‘But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3.20) ‘For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,’ (2 Cor 5.2) ‘If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.’ (Heb 11.15-16)
This also includes the New Testament instinct to long eagerly for the glorious return of Christ. ‘so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ (1 Cor 1.7) ‘..waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,’ (Tit 2.13) ‘Our Lord, come!’ (1 Cor 16.22b)
Plainly then, heavenly mindedness is not something we can ignore. It is important to look forward to heaven and the glories everlasting. We are commanded to be often in that frame of mind. To do so, we must endeavor to familiarize ourselves with the Bibles teaching on this subject.
But what good does it bring? What does a Christian gain by thinking often about heaven? Here are three major benefits:-
When we think of heaven often we become more motivated to fight sin in our lives
Heavenly mindedness is a powerful motivator for earthly godliness. ‘. .we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.’ (1 John3:2-3) It naturally follows that if one desires to see Christ and enter into Christ’s heaven, then they must strive for Christ’s Holiness. Thus, John tells us that it is those who have this hope in him that purify themselves. What hope? The hope of Christ’s glorious appearing.
As our longing for it grows so does our desire to be the kind of people who belong there. In the same way we clean house when we expect someone important, we clean our lives because we are expecting the most important person ever. Heaven is a place for the Holy. Only Holy creatures can be happy there. C.S Lewis is famous for saying that ‘only the pure in heart will see God because only the pure in heart want to.’ It is this desire that leads us to strive for the holiness without which no one shall see the Lord. It motivates us to fight sin in our lives.
We will not achieve sinless perfection in this life. However, we are driven to strive for it and want to get as far along in holiness as we can before death’s dew lies cold on our brow.
When we think of heaven often, we are better prepared to deal with suffering.
Heavenly mindedness is a powerful tonic for dealing with earthly suffering. It does so by sheer contrast. ‘The sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed to us.’ (Rom 8.18) It is only in light of eternal glory that earthly suffering pales to insignificance. According to Paul, it is not even worth comparing. It is like the famous story of the man who discovered that he had inherited a huge estate. A mansion, horse drawn carriages, land and a pretty sum of money were his. On the journey to receive his inheritance, he was robbed of the little money he had along with his shoes. Thus he was forced to walk barefoot a considerable length of the journey. He had to eat severally from dumpsters and sleep under a bridge in the cold. None of these troubles bothered him much. It wasn’t because they were not troublesome. It was because he knew what was ahead. That perspective enabled him to joyfully endure the trouble.
This doesn’t mean that the suffering is less painful. It does not mean that we enjoy suffering or are glib about it. It does mean that we put suffering in its proper perspective. No matter how much or how bad the suffering is, eternal glory awaits us. A vivid vision of what is ahead will make us joyfully endure trouble now. When the baby glory comes, we shall forget the birth pains that preceded it.
When we think of heaven often we are more empowered to seek the world’s highest good.
Heavenly mindedness is a powerful driver of earthly usefulness.
There is an oft quoted phrase. ‘Don’t be so heavenly minded that you become of no earthly good.’ It is a phrase that is meant to ridicule Christians who think of heaven often. They are accused of being out of touch with reality. ‘Focus on the real issues affecting the world today’ the critics say. Heavenly mindedness is thought to steal attention away from what’s practical. But is meditation on the next world filling one’s mind with an empty ‘pie in the sky’ notion? C.S Lewis disagrees. He said ‘it is precisely those who thought the most of the next world that did the most good for this one’. Indeed a brief glance at Church history will show that generally speaking, Christian witness in the world shone brightest when Christians were least beholden to it. The more the Christian church became earthly minded, the less Spiritual good it did to the world.
This should not perplex us. After all, who is better than the one who is most unhinged from this world to help it? If one seeks not the applause of the world because they have the applause of God in view, they will boldly tell the world what it doesn’t want to hear but needs in order to be saved. If one isn’t addicted to the world’s fleeting toys and their pleasures because they have solid and eternal rewards in view, they will be most given to sacrifice time and resource for the good of humanity. To summarize, it is those who need the world least, that help it the most.
So, dear Christian, are you looking for some motivation to fight sin in your life, endure suffering and be of earthly good? Try building into your life a deliberate culture of meditation on Christ’s return, your entry into heaven and the glories everlasting. All the material is there in your Bible. It will be meat indeed and drink for your soul. I must warn you that it will not come without effort. If you apply yourself, little by little, it will yield a good harvest.