I will praise you forever for what you have done. Psalm 52:9
Do you think about what will happen when this life is over? If Christ returns to snatch the church outta here before you finish reading this, would you – just a teeny bit – want to ask Him, “What took you so long?” I do – and I would (just a teeny bit).
Jesus’ return can’t come too quickly for me – I’m ready. I’ve taken to driving without my cruise control on so that, in the event He comes while I’m on the road, my car won’t go careening down the interstate unmanned at 65 miles an hour. I even made my sister promise to swing by here on the way up so we can go together.
There is definitely nothing holding me here. Maybe it’s an age-related thing. (Not that I’m all that decrepit – yet.)
I recall having dinner a few months ago with some 50-somethings and a 21-year-old. As everyone at the table was a Christian, conversation turned to spiritual matters during dessert. And since, at the time, the U.S. was mired in some embarrassing political stand-off or economic crisis or international scandal or the other with no relief on the horizon, the unanimous sentiment was that the Lord’s return couldn’t come soon enough.
With one abstention: the 21-year-old, who kind of gave an “I want to have my cake and eat it, too” response.
This (relative) youngster is a Christian and is prepared to meet Jesus in the air when the time comes, but is also looking forward to finishing college, starting a family, and embarking on a dream career.
And I get all that, especially from one too young to have experienced high cholesterol and creaky joints or the hopes of just going quietly one night before some dread, painful malady has you in its grip. Possibilities for the future look bright when you’re 21.
So, yea – maybe it’s age-related. On the other hand, maybe it’s that I’ve studied God’s word enough and followed current events enough to know that the future isn’t going to be all that bright. Just as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:12:
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Look around. In the U.S. alone, violence, greed, deceit, and sexual immorality are on the rise. In other parts of the world Christians are being persecuted – even murdered – in record numbers.
With more of “the increase of wickedness” to look forward to, who wouldn’t want to be done with this world and on to the next? (Except maybe those adding to that increase…)
Most likely, though, this fascination with the next life has little to do with age or the condition of the world and a lot to do with what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11 when he said:
He has also set eternity in the human heart…
Good answer. Maybe I’m thinking more and more about the next life simply because eternity is in my DNA. Because of my faith in Jesus, I know I will be around forever. And quite frankly, I’m ready to put on my-my-my-my-my boogie shoes and get that party started.
Which begs another question: Do you think about “forever?” I mean, exactly how long do you think that is? My initial thought is that forever is a really long time; but, at some point, it’s bound to lose any connection with time at all; it just goes on both ways with no starting or ending point – forever ago and forever after. Forever.
Thinking about it too hard makes one of my eyes twitch.
So regardless of the reason I’ve got heaven on my mind – age or current events or even my human hard-wiring that makes me want to live on – it’s important that I not lose sight of the fact that everything in this life and the next is ordained by God; and, as such, is worthy of my praise. That’s why I love what David writes in Psalm 52:9:
I will praise you forever for what you have done.
During my Prayer Time (capital “P,” capital “T”) I always thank God for things He has done, sometimes in broad strokes (“thank you for your blessings”) without going into a lot of detail. But when I stop thanking Him in broad strokes and start thanking him for particular blessings, I quickly find myself getting overwhelmed with the potential volume. (Which is actually a good problem to have.) Once this life is over, though, time won’t be an issue; I’ll have a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time to praise Him and let Him know just how grateful I am.
Until then, though, one final question: what has God done in your life lately that is praise-worthy? Although it would seem that none of us should have to think too hard about that one, sometimes the reality of everyday existence can deal us a blow.
I’ve recently been asked by a dear friend to pray for a two-year-old boy who has just been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. His father, a missionary in Ireland, has started a blog detailing this journey; a blog that’s not just about his son’s struggle to live, but one that praises God for His sovereign goodness and wisdom.
Almost every post is filled with some sort of praise: praise for barely perceptible decreases in the amount of infection in his child’s body; praise that he ate some peas; praise that his swollen face is a little less so; praise that he’s still alive.
For me, that tends to put it all in perspective. If a two-year-old eating peas is praise-worthy – and it is – I should have no dearth of things to praise God for.
If I interpret Paul correctly, one of the great blessings of heaven will be the ability to look back at this life from the other side and see God’s goodness and mercy and grace in every moment of it.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, he says:
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…
In other words, I’ll be able to see everything clearly; and by doing so, I imagine I will have no other response than to start with “In the beginning” and keep on praising God forever – or until He gets tired of me. I can see it now – Gabriel will meet me at the door to God’s throne room and make up some excuse why He can’t see me…
“Hey! God said to tell you He really loves your little praise chats – He does, really – but He’s in a meeting with the multitude of the heavenly host for, you know, a really long time so can He call you? Like, maybe in a few thousand…millennia…? Great! Buh-bye, now!”
Just kidding. God will never tire of my praise – and I will never tire of offering it. (And Gabriel will never say “buh-bye.”)
The last verse of the classic old hymn of the Christian faith, “Amazing Grace,” says it perfectly:
When we’ve been there ten-thousand years bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.
Now that’s what I’m talking about.
So how about you? (sorry – more questions) While you may not be sitting on the curb with your bags packed waiting for the rapture express, have you at least bought your ticket? There is a lot of different thought on whether we’re actually near the end of life as we know it and, even if we are, in what order events will occur; but no one denies that everyone will have an exit from this world, whether a supernatural one or just a plain old kick of the bucket.
So do you have an exit strategy? This life isn’t all there is; and forever – however it plays out – is gonna be a while. You don’t want to spend it separated from God.
And you don’t have to. Romans 10:13 says:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Be sure that includes you. If you’re not, here’s a great resource that will answer any questions you may have:
Once you get that all squared away, let me know – me and my sister will swing by on the way up and get you…