|Vol. 13 No. 10 October 2011||
My 30-year-old younger son recently said to me, “Mom, the older I get the more I realize that all I want to hear is “well done.” I was so impressed that he being so young had come to that conclusive realization in his life — it made me so thankful and so proud! What will happen when Christ returns to reward His servants is depicted in Matthew 25:14-30. “Well done, good and faithful servant…” is what the Lord will say to those who have lived their lives in faithful, submissive and humble obedience to Him. Those first two words of the Lord’s final verdict to the obedient could not have greater eternal consequence and magnitude!
Mid McKnight, one of the long time Gospel preachers in several Texas cities, said in a sermon years and years ago, “Anybody can go to heaven that wants to go to heaven more than anything else in the world! And until you want that more than anything else in the world, you are as close to heaven right now as you are ever going to get!” This is the cost to follow Christ!
Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” To be worthy of Christ is to have an allegiance far stronger than marriage and family ties. To be worthy of Christ is to understand that nobody and nothing comes before allegiance to Him!
Paul Methvin, another long time Gospel preacher and director of the Lake Tahoe Family Encampment said in a sermon years and years ago, “Nobody is going to accidently slide into heaven. If we are there, it will be from a lifetime of intention, and planning, and forethought, and devotion, and humility before the living God!” Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. These few short moments called our lives are our time of preparation.
Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). This statement was in one of our church bulletins a few years ago: “It matters not what you save if you lose your soul, and it matters not what you lose if you save your soul.” Jesus asked that most thought-provoking question in Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” All true followers of Christ will always answer that question with a resounding “nothing”!
Paul told Timothy that we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we will carry nothing out (1 Timothy 6:7). Psalm 49:16-17 tells us, “Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.” Ecclesiastes 5:15 says, “As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand.”
This statement was in a recent email: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn’t; than live my life as if there isn’t, and die to find out there is!” Amen to that! We are all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” People will live in accordance with the Bible or eventually they will wish forever that they had! God has spoken that so plainly!
Just in case the crux of that message is lost on some of us, John says it this way in Revelation 20:11-15. “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books… And they were judged each one according to his works… And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” The bottom line is if your name is not found written in the Book of Life, you cannot and you will not go to heaven!
Since that is an inescapable biblical fact and the eventual final reality, we must allow and trust God to save us through His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is a divine accomplishment, not a human achievement! There is no such thing as any of us ever being “good enough” for God to save us based on our human merit! Psalm 34:22 says, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” In contrast, Psalm 73:27 reads, “For behold those who are far from You shall perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You.”
Jesus said in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Exactly what is it that we desire? Is our desire to hear “Well done” stronger than any other desire? Is our desire to go to heaven stronger than any other desire we might have? We sing the song, As the Deer by Martin Nystrom. The last two lines of that song say, “You alone are my strength, my shield; To You alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You.” Is that really true for us?
What does it mean to abide in Christ? To abide means to continue in, a constant residence, fidelity and stability. When we abide in Christ through obedience, we abide in His love. Jesus said in John 15:10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jesus had stated previously that He always did those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29). We must aspire to that mindset!
Jesus tells us one last time in Revelation 22:12 that our works will either make us or break us. He said, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Do we fully comprehend that when our lives are over, nothing will be more crucial to our final and eternal dwelling place than hearing the words, “Well done”?
Most of us looooove little babies; many young women get ‘baby fever’ after they have been married for a while. Hannah did! She longed for a baby. To make matters worse, she was the second wife of Elkanah, who had children by his first wife, Peninnah, who rubbed it in and made life miserable for Hannah. No doubt, Peninnah was extremely jealous because Elkanah loved Hannah and showed it. (I feel a little sorry for Peninnah, as well.) How blessed we are to be under the law of Christ and do not have to deal with several wives for one husband!
Elkanah, as husbands today, thought he was better than ten sons but Hannah knew better. When one longs for a child, then a husband cannot fill that void. The love God gives us for a child is different from the love He gives us for a husband, though both are wonderful. So Hannah cried, and cried, and cried and did not eat and prayed, and prayed and prayed.
At Shiloh, the principle place of worship in those days, Hannah prayed silently, lips moving, tears streaming in anguish, begging God for a child and even trying to make a deal with God. She promised that if God would give her a son she would never cut his hair, like the vow of Sampson’s mother, and she would give him back. Eli, the priest, observed her strange behavior, thought she was drunk and reprimanded her, until Hannah became alert and explained that she was in deep sorrow from not being able to give birth to a child. Eli responded with a promise that she would have a child. Hannah believed him and washed her face and ate, cheerful in her faith that God would give her a child.
God kept his promise as spoken by Eli and so did Hannah. She doted on her son, caring for him with devotion, until he was weaned, possibly until he was three to six years old. At last she felt compelled to give him back to God and took him back to Eli. She left him for training and service in tabernacle with Eli, continuing to love him from a distance. God blessed her with three more sons and two daughters, but she came to the tabernacle every year, bringing the child a robe she made for him.
When Hannah brought the child back to Eli, she prayed again, and this prayer is recorded for us to read in 1 Samuel 2. Even as she prepared to leave her son, not to see him but once a year, she praised God and gave Him honor, acknowledging that she had been extremely blessed.
God blessed Hannah, but she had no idea that He also had fantastic plans for the child. The little boy, Samuel, who was lent to Eli to serve in the tabernacle, grew up to be the prophet, Samuel, who spent his life striving to keep the Israelites faithful to God. He anointed Saul and David to be kings and advised them as God told him.
Who knows how God will answer your prayer? God blessed Hannah beyond what she asked with an amazing son and other children. God knows what is best for us, so the answer may be different from what we expect. For certain, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:16-18).
God wants us to pray about our needs, our sorrows and our longings. He deserves and desires our praise and thankfulness. Let us pray that God will use us in His service and that the desires of our hearts will be in keeping with His desires for us.