10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:10-11)
If I had to pick one thing that should be the greatest desire for the follower of Jesus it would have to be this:
Believers in Jesus yearn to be in the presence
of God more than anything else.
For some this may be a bit much. How could this or why should this be the “greatest” desire that we hold as believers?
As I have thought about what “Faith” is I do not see how we can avoid this. What is it that we should want for ourselves? Should it not be what God our father wants for us? Should it not be to have, right now, the eternal fellowship that He has promised. The way that we think about what this means will depend on how we understand God and our relationship with him.
I will admit that this sounds so foreign to our normal way of thinking because we may find it hard to believe how anything other than our lives here on Earth could be better. I understand this. I really do. Because we do not have anybody else’s report of what happens when we die, it becomes easier to focus our attention on the life we have now. We know what to expect even when it is difficult. We know the tendencies and patterns of those whom we love and those whom we would rather not know. There is a predictability to the unpredictable nature of life on this planet. So, many of us, the followers of Jesus, trade what we know, as flawed and imperfect as it is, for what we do not know.
The problem with this way of thinking and living is that it does not value the sacrifice of Christ in a way that agrees with the Bible’s testimony. I am not saying that we are supposed to know what to expect or what the process of dying will be like. What I am saying is that we are hopeful for what is to come because of the one who promised to prepare the way! Listen to Jesus words to his disciples:
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”…
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-4, 6)
The reason that we have to trade what we know for what we do not know is because that is what the Bible says we should do. But, what we often fail to realize is that the trade is not from something greater, this life, to something of less value, life with God. Even writing that last sentence reveals the flawed thinking that has seeped into the church. What this world has to offer is not only flawed, broken and deteriorating, but what this world offers is counter to anything and everything that God has prepared for us. As a matter of fact, the higher our attachment to this world and the things in it (including our loved ones!) the greater our distance from and the smaller our love of God! John tells us as much in 1 John 2:15-17 where he says that loving the world and the things in it means we do not have the love of the Father in us.
Our understanding of what is to come does reveal the level of our trust in God. When our desire is for sustained life here in this world the call of heaven has been muted. The things that we attach our hearts too can help us determine where are focus is directed. I want to clarify here on something. I do not want to give the impression that our relationships with our family and and friends are to be minimized. That is not what I am thinking here. What I am asking for us to do is to consider if we allowed anything, including our relationships to come between us and God. I love my wife and my children. I would do anything for them. I would give my life for them. What gives me pause is this: Why then will I not do the same thing for God, who has saved my soul from eternal suffering and separation from him?
If Jesus is the embodiment of God on earth (and he is!), then Paul is what a life conformed to Christ is supposed to look like. Only someone who truly possesses the mind of Christ would say the things that Paul said. An example of this is found in Romans 8.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
What we see is NOT truly real. That last verse is just crazy… on the surface. But, if we think about what Paul is challenging us to consider, we will have to ask ourselves, “What is the value that we have put on what Jesus has done for us?” Better yet, how do “I” feel about Jesus dying for “my” sin? When we personalize Christ’s sacrifice we begin to approach what Paul is saying. Paul says that going through the suffering is worth whatever it costs precisely because of the glory of Christ and his work. And, when we think about what Paul endured we see how much more valuable Paul understood Jesus to be.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (Romans 4:16-18)
Again Paul outlines the parameters and the issues. What we are experiencing are “light and momentary afflictions.” Our heavenly imagination must expand so that we can see what is to come as more valuable, and ultimately, more desireable than what we have in the here and now because it is “beyond all comparison.” The present realities are not as real as we would like them to be. No, they are transient, they are passing away, not because they are bad, but because we will not live forever in this form. We will be changed. Transformed into what God intended and designed before sin destroyed, diminished and defaced God’s good creation.
We are strangers here. That is the bottom line. We do not belong on this Earth, living under the burden of sin. We were destined before the fall of humanity and we who have trusted in Christ are now destined for a new city on a new Earth. This is the reality that Abraham and all who believe as he did are hanging onto with faith. Our hope is not tied to God’s ability to restrain sin. Our hope and joy is bound up in God’s promise to re-create all that is as he desires it to be.
The writer of Hebrews captures the essence of what it means to yearn after the Presence of God.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
Faith is a yearning for the promised communion that comes from being in the presence of our God and heavenly Father. The question that must be face and decisively answered is this: Do you desire the better country, the heavenly country that God is calling you to?
One of my favorite groups is Shane and Shane. Their song “Yearn” captures this very sentiment in the bridge:
You give life and breath,
Through Him You give all things,
In Him we live and move,
that’s why i sing:
Lord i want to yearn for You
i want to burn with passion
over You and only You
Lord i want to yearn
Oh, that I would yearn for God with passionate faith. Amen.