Jon for President!!

REWARDS IN HEAVEN

What is the reward for faithfulness?

To be sure, there are different rewards in Heaven. Whenever the subject is broached upon in scripture, it is affirmed that different futures await each of us as individuals. This is not to say that there will be those in Heaven who rejected Christ in this life. Far from it. It is merely pointing out that those who end up in Heaven will find that while the gift of eternal life is the same for everybody, the gifts for faithful living will vary widely.

And now here is where I intend to have some fun. NO ONE knows what those gifts will be. So I have much liberty to speculate and to dream, which what I intend to do right now…

To the lame and the slow of body, to the ones who had to take twice as long to do anything as the rest of us (who seldom reflected upon our gift of a fully functioning body or mind), to the ones who remained faithful and cheerful and loved God all the more and put their complete trust in Him and His Son – Quickness. No, I don’t mean being just being fast-er. I mean awe-inspiring, time-bending, lighting-fast quickness. Speed that the angels will envy. Quickness such that everyone will want to be like you. Quickness such that those who were impatient with you or neglected to invite you to go with them will regret that they left you out. Quickness such that you will be the first one chosen when a message (or a person)(because you can do that) needs to be taken to the other side of the heaven (which is a pretty big place, let me tell you). It will be wonderful.

To the deaf – Hearing. Ah, but now you will be able to hear like God! You can hear the thoughts of the heart. People will come to you because you can “understand” them because you can hear what their heart is saying, the words that cannot be expressed with the lips but desire an outlet anyway. You can hear that! Have you ever noticed how pleasant it is to be in the company of someone who understands you? Boy, are you going to have a lot friends in Heaven!

To the blind – Vision, Superman-like Vision. It’s going to be sooo cool! To be able to see microbes and distant planets from one glance to the next, to be able to see to the center of the Sun or see a heart beating, to be able to see every created wonder in God’s created universe… wow! So get ready for it. Get ready for the question you will be asked a million times and more. “Tell us what it looks like? Tell us what you see?”

To the dumb or slow of speech – Transparency. “Transparency?” Yes, transparency. You won’t need to use your mouth if people can read your mind. You will be able to communicate with any person of any language on any planet. But even more, you will be able to communicate with the animals, and maybe even plants. Which is better? To understand or to be understood? St. Francis said “to understand”, but I’m thinking that BOTH have a marvelous place in God’s Heaven.

Where you not born with all your body parts? Without a doubt, there are no crutches in Heaven. But faithful living for a lifetime without the comfort and convenience of a thumb or an arm or a leg or an anything, will be rewarded with an eternity of dexterity or strength or endurance or whatever you were deprived of in this life, only in wondrous proportion. The book of Job hints at this prophetically by concluding Job’s life with having twice as much as he had before. And Matthew 19:29 boldly bumps this up a couple orders of magnitude.

And the homely or deformed or ugly? For the brief time you spent in this life being looked away from or teased or ridiculed or ignored, your reward for a hopeful spirit and a pleasant patience will be an actual body that reflects your inner person. You have doubtless heard the expression “inner beauty”? Yes, I know the phrase is presently used to console the plain and repulsive. But what if in heaven, with God bestowing all these amazing gifts, you should receive a body (you do know we’re all going to receive resurrection bodies?) that really IS inner beauty turned inside out? So you tell me, how would a person look on the outside if inside they were compassionate, kind, generous, forgiving, and trustworthy? If you thought a beautiful woman can turn heads in this life, imagine crowds that will follow you around just to see you, just to be inspired at the sight of you. And all this without lust or envy. We don’t lust at or envy a beautiful sunset however much we want it to linger. It will be like that.

And the retarded or mentally ill? Clarity. Insight. Understanding. Wisdom. Composure. All the things that those who thought they were so smart and so clever never had, namely God Given intelligence and perception. You were never sought out for advice or input in this life. In the life to come, no one will ever attempt a thing without first asking you for  your opinion.

But all these are physical things. What about other things which we had no control over but nonetheless were held captive to? Like poverty. Why “riches” will be the reward, of course. When your daddy is God, you have a bank account that has no bottom. “But what kind of riches?”, you may fairly ask. “There is no money in Heaven.” True. Neither is there want nor waste in Eternity. So I guess it may mean feeding the sparrow or sending the rain at the right time. You must remember, God doesn’t need any of our help to do anything. He doesn’t need angels. He doesn’t need  people. He doesn’t need animals or plants either. But for whatever reason, God asked Adam to tend His garden. I’ll bet it will be something like that with you, only now it will be planets or civilizations or eco-systems. You know, HE said whosoever is faithful in little will be faithful in much. You had little and were faithful. In Eternity, you will have much to be faithful with (and you will have satisfaction to go along with it). It makes sense to me.

How about race? When you were in the majority, you never gave a thought to being surrounded by people not like you. God has a sense of humor. It wouldn’t surprise me if things were reversed in Heaven, namely, those in the majority now, will be the minority in the kingdom of God, and those presently in the minority will be in the majority in Eternity.

Naaaw… that’s too vindictive. Moreover, where’s the provision for faithful living? Where’s the provision for faithful living regardless of whether you were in the majority or in the minority? Why the provision is ‘love’, silly. Genuine love for others overcomes bigotry and arrogance. So, were you loving in this life? Did you bring people into your sphere of concern and prayer, instead of excluding them or neglecting them or despising them? Well, the more you loved in this life, the more opportunities you will be given to love in Heaven. The more mercies you will be able to extend, the more hope you will be able to offer, the more compassion you will be allowed to spend. If you love ‘loving’ now, you will be in ‘loving heaven’ in Heaven.

But even more, it seems to me that the ones who were oppressed by the majority in their lives here on earth will receive a double benefit for bearing their faith in Jesus patiently and stubbornly. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of “Soul Power” in the 50’s and 60’s. And altho he borrowed the concept form Gandhi, to the typical black in the south, it had more meaning than Gandhi ever imagined. It capsulized 400 years of oppression. It spoke of the dignity that happens to one’s soul when they do not respond ‘in kind’ to hatred or violence. It spoke of a nobleness that one acquires when they peacefully resist those who hate for no reason or kill out of spite. Sadly, we have lost touch with this understanding of “Soul Power”. But God hasn’t. For those who bore their Christian testimony in honor and humility, like Uncle Tom of old, there shall indeed be crowns and honors in the Life Immortal.

It would proper to include here, in this speculation about faithfulness, the faithfulness that is maintained in times of hardship or persecution. Having a baby or teenager die prematurely is hard. Seeing a loved one waste away in protracted pain or dementia is HARD. Being tormented or tortured for just believing in Jesus is harder still (especially when to deny Him will easily avert the suffering)(just ask any Jewish or Islamic convert to Christianity). But didn’t the writer of Hebrews put it well when he said of them, “…of whom the world is not worthy.”

May I recommend to you a casual reading of the Lives of the Saints by Butler or The Martyr’s Mirror by van Braght or Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Maybe go to www.persecution.com or find a copy the magazine “Voice of the Martyrs” (you won’t find it at the bookstore).When I read of the lives of those patient witnesses, my heart ACHES for how unworthily I bear the name “Christian”, who never has had to suffer for my faith nor has ever had to endure extreme trials (read “tragedies”).

Indeed, “But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” There is no sorrow or plight or pain or ANYTHING that man or Satan can do to us that shall not receive a “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” from our Lord AND a surpassingly excellent name in Heaven as one of His intimate “friends” for having clung closer to Him in our times of affliction in this life.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  /  For I am persuaded…” Well, you know the rest.

Oh, concerning those infants (or unborn) who died without seeing the beauty of the world or the evil of humanity or the knowledge of a Savior. Now there’s a theological nut that most are afraid to crack. But not me. Not if I am allowed a little more of my pious musings. (By the way, thank you for your forbearance thus far.) Jesus hinted at their fate when He said, “Their angels do always behold the face of my father which is in  heaven.” There are (at least) 2 kinds of innocence in Heaven: imparted and created. We are the beneficiaries of imparted innocence (called “justification”). The angels were created innocent and remain so to this day. I am thinking that these little ones shall obtain BOTH and enjoy a presence before God that we, even in our saved and justified state, would tremble to contemplate.

Have you ever noticed how unafraid children are? Unless they are hurt or scared by a thing, they will go anywhere and pick up anything. So why won’t it be something like that in Heaven? The Innocent and Loved ones will wander the far reaches of Paradise and return again and again to sit on their Father’s lap, if one may put it so. I envy them. And if I am allowed to speculate even further, I believe they will want to play with us and we will be happy to play with them.

PS – If you ask me if these will ever grow up, I suspect not. I have personally known those who cannot mentally attain beyond the age of 12 tho they possess bodies of many decades. In this life the condition is from a genetic disorder or brain trauma (and is evidence of a fallen world). In the life to come, perpetual simplicity is a blessing conferred on a life that was cut short. Won’t life in heaven be different and the people who populate it interesting?

I think it would also be well to include diseases of the mind and body in our list of “things put upon us”. However when we approach diseases, we must remember that some come upon us without our complicity and some we get because we did stupid things. In all the afore mentioned hardships, there is nothing that can be repented of. They are the manifestations of a fallen world and things that won’t be in Heaven. But things like AIDS, lung cancer, drug addiction, and others are usually our own fault. Being “faithful” while you are having illicit sex or shooting up amounts to hypocrisy in the extreme. Ah, but having become saved and repenting of the sin and sins that got us diseased, then faithful living (such as warning others of the snares of the devil) does have eternal worth.

Moreover, God understands the causes of our illnesses and addictions better than we do. We should quit trying to sort out ‘whose fault what is’ and just let HIM be glorified in whatever circumstance or oppression we are facing, even if we have to face it for the rest of our lives. Is that too long? Eternity is much longer. Moreover, if there is any agreement with the ‘spirit’ of this paper, then surely one will agree that hardship not only produces patience and endurance in this life, but also has benefits in the life to come… amazing benefits!

It is small wonder that so few people receive instant healing. Aside from the temptations to pride and loss of compassion for others, instant healing forfeits the sweeter fruit of faithful living in weakness and woe. [Nevertheless, I’ll never cease praying for deliverance and healing, both for myself and for you and for the world. That’s how paradoxical Christianity is. We believe in Divine Providence and God’s Will, but nevertheless we pray, believing God answers prayer. We’re nuts. ][Thank You, Holy Spirit !]

Romans 5: 3-5 – “And not only so , but we rejoice in our sufferings [that’s nuts too], because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope; and the hope does not disappoint us, because the God’s love has been poured forth into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” This is the present condition and future heritage of the faithful.

So what is the future reward for present faithfulness with a debilitating illness? “Health” is not an answer because all will be ‘health’ in Heaven. Nor may we choose the power to heal since there is nothing to be sick from in the next life. Perhaps it will be “something to do”. You know, that hardest thing for a person who wants to serve is being unable to do so. I personally know people who are suffering from arthritis or Parkinson’s or lupus or just old age who nevertheless try to serve wherever their bodies will allow them to. I want to be like them. For as long as there is breath in me, I want be dedicated to making myself useful whenever and wherever the Lord will allow.

Needless to say, illness and disease and addiction can drag you down. It becomes a real sacrifice to serve when you body aches or your mind can’t remember. It is indeed a sacrifice to avoid things or situations that others don’t have a care for but which for you, who must always guard your recovery, must forsake for the rest of your life. But maybe ‘sacrifice’ is the operative word here. We don’t do animal sacrifices anymore, but sacrificing our lives and comforts and best thoughts has to have some sort of value, don’t you agree? Perhaps this is indeed the “treasure” we are encouraged to lay up in Heaven, where moth and rust cannot corrupt.

Those “treasures” in Heaven will surely be magnified if our earthly pursuit of them was with great physical hardship and sacrifice. But the treasures I have in mind are not external things that can be spent or handled, but permanent things like changes to our soul and everlasting gifts of abilities and bodies that can do incredible things. They things like more intimate communion with our Lord or gifts of responsibilities or greater abilities to serve and love.

With gifts such as these awaiting us in Heaven, it would seem a trivial thing to be faithful for our short lives here on earth. And maybe that’s why we’re here. It is impossible to refine ‘faith’ in Eternity. Not when in Heaven all things will be ‘sight’. Faith is important to God. So important a commodity for God is faith that He hung Salvation on it.

So I guess you better exercise your ‘humility muscle’ and practice your ‘gratitude song’. Because when you receive the resurrection body, you will at least be able to travel distances easily and go through walls. Jesus did. (You can eat fish too.) And knowing that these things, and probably more, await you, and knowing that ALL these are gifts from an all-powerful God and loving Heavenly Father, and being assured that He is a rewarder of them who seek Him and One who honors those who honor Him, then… with pride eschewed, with heads bowed and arms uplifted, with open hearts and submitted wills, in awe and wonder, we will sing the Song of the Redeemed: A song of praise and a song of gratitude.

Some see heaven as one big party, where the fun never ends. Some see a tropical resort, where leisure is the only thing occupies the saints. Some believe we are absorbed into the Godhead to become one with Him, emptied of ourselves. Some that we will continue our earthly relationships of marriage and friendship, and will just acquire a greater stage on which to resume our comic tragedy.

I believe that there will be a tremendous variety of saints and opportunities in the life to come. That our diversities will be magnified and ennobled. That our time spent in this life will have direct bearing on our enjoyment and participation in Eternity. That as the material Universe far exceeds the limits of our earthly plane, so God’s Heaven will exceed our wildest imaginings in the spiritual realm (which if we receive resurrection bodies, will also be in the material world as well).

An army of saints, equipped with manifold powers, instantly obeying His every desire; that’s what God is cultivating. An army to conquer? God doesn’t need an army. No, an army to bless! To bless what? Who knows? But I’m sure we’ll find something. Heaven’s a pretty big place, as I have said.

Two last things. First, it has always struck me how much variety there is in the world. I think God likes it. So it makes sense to me that God will populate His Kingdom with variety as well. Second, if service and submission and prayer and faithfulness are the constant calling of Christian living, there must be some use for it in Heaven. The premise for this romance you have just read assumes this. May it be your blessing today to believe it and live it. Amen.
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