Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
I think this verse needs to be preached much more widely and thoroughly than it is. Churches are filled with people who think in terms of “What’s in it for me,” and they aren’t thinking much about heaven! That’s the biggest problem with the “name it and claim it” crowd: they are focused on this life, and particularly the material. It’s not at all that there aren’t blessings in this life, or that this life isn’t to be enjoyed, but rather that our focus must be beyond all that. The old Spiritual has it right: “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.” We treat physical death as such a tragedy, when for the person who is in Christ, it is entering into all that they have been promised. It is indeed tragedy for someone who is not in Christ, because it means they have used up their chances to repent and believe for salvation, and it is temporal loss for those left behind in any case, but for the genuine believer it is graduation and victory. When we really understand that we are simply travelers here and not permanent residents, material possessions become far less important. After all, taking a trip with too much luggage is a real drag, both physically and emotionally. Really grasping our temporary status is liberating indeed.
As an American born and raised in Japan, this has been perhaps easier for me to grasp than for some. We didn’t move around nearly as much as some missionaries or military families, but we did pick up and go to the US periodically for what was called “furlough.” I didn’t see what the benefit was in having to leave all that was familiar to me and be plopped down in a place where people expected me to feel “at home,” when it it really seemed strange to me. At the same time, I had the stress of looking different from those around me even when I was where I felt “at home,” and consequently being accepted as belonging only by those who really knew me. Actually, that is still a very real factor in my life. This year Cathy and I have lost 14 people who were close to us, two of them members of this church, but some not yet Christians. It’s those latter ones that hurt most. At this point we are extremely aware that none of us is here permanently, which makes this verse be one of joy and hope. Several people have reacted to Cathy’s health problems with “God’s not fair!” When we grasp the reality of this verse we understand that such complaints come from a distorted perspective. We live in a fallen world, and that’s all the more reason not to fix our hearts on it. When we indeed seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) then we realize what doesn’t fit into that category, and our peace and hope are in God.
Father, thank You for all that You allow us to experience. Thank You for the various reminders of the impermanence of the material. Help us rejoice that our status, our “permanent residence,” is in Christ, and bring as many people as possible along with us on our journey, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!