Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
May 14, 2017
Years ago, there was a man who was interested in his family history, and to get more information in his research he would visit cemeteries. In one of the cemeteries he noticed one particular tombstone with this unusual inscription: “Pause now stranger, as you pass by; as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so soon you will be, prepare yourself to follow me.”
Next to the tombstone, someone wrote this message on a piece of wood: “To follow you, I am not content, until I know which way you went.”
On this fifth Sunday of Easter, I would like to talk about our future beyond the grave, which is our heavenly home. This is pertinent to our church family, because on Thursday of this past week, we held a Memorial Service for David Taft and on Friday of this week, there will be a Graveside Service for Natalie Robertson.
My text is John 14:1-6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is the Word of God.
When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, he was speaking to us as well. It is a place that is so wonderful that it is beyond our comprehension. I hope that the reality of such a place would make us even more determined to live out the gospel.
Now here is an example of what a prepared heart, ready for the heavenly home, is like. Perhaps you have heard this story before:
A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness had been given three months to live. As she began to get her things in order, she contacted the pastor and asked if he would discuss some of her final wishes. When he arrived, she told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, the scriptures to be read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She even requested that her favorite Bible be placed in the coffin with her. As the pastor was about to leave, she said, “There is one more thing, I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” Then she explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’” She continued, “It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie. So when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and ask, ‘What is with the fork?’, I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.’”
When Jesus said that he was to prepare a place for us, he did not speak of an imaginary “pie in the sky” theme park nor a place for the shut-ins or the sick, but a special place for all who believe. Heaven is not just make-believe; it is the best of creation, the height of God’s splendor. In heaven all things will be made new. We will be given new bodies that will not know pain or cancer or blindness or diabetes, or arthritis or heart disease or any physical illness of any kind.
I have read and heard from a number of people who had near death experiences, and the stories are fairly similar. They see a place of peace; those who had been sick or greatly suffered in this life, became a younger version of themselves and well with Jesus present.
In his book on heaven, Evangelist Dwight Moody once said. “When I was a boy, I thought of heaven as a great shining city, with vast walls, domes, and spires with nobody in it except white robed angels who were strangers to me.” Then Dwight’s little brother died. That changed everything. Dwight thought of that great city in the same way except his little brother was there. As more of Moody’s relatives began to die, the heavenly flock began to grow. But it wasn’t until Moody’s own son died that he began to think that heaven contained a little bit of him too. As time went on, he knew more people in heaven than he did on earth, and the place became even more special.
Heaven is a reality; Jesus spoke truthfully about it. When you think about it, Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Life is hard. We often go through our share of trials and tribulations. We become active in church, and we can become tired. There are times when we become so focused on the task at hand, whether it be teaching, cleaning, raising money, fixing, volunteering, giving rides, taking people to the hospital, baking pastries, etc. that sometimes we forget the prize at the end.
That was the problem for one missionary couple who decided to retire after many decades in Africa and return home to New York City. At the time, they had little retirement and were in failing health; naturally they were worried and discouraged. The only way the couple could get home from the field was by ship; former president Theodore Roosevelt was on the same ship returning home from one of his African hunting expeditions. While on the ship, no one paid any attention to the missionary couple, but a great fanfare accompanied the president. During the voyage, the missionary said to his wife. “Something is wrong. We have given our lives in service to God in Africa all these years and no one cares. Yet here is this man who came back from a hunting trip and everyone makes a fuss over him.” When the ship docked in New York, a band waited to greet the former President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The newspapers were filled with of news of his arrival, but no one was there for the missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and managed to find a cheap apartment in the city. One night, the man said to his wife, “I can’t take this. God is not treating us fairly.” His wife told him, “Why don’t you go into the other room and talk to the Lord about it.” The man took his wife’s advice. A short time later he emerged, and his countenance seemed to have changed. The man said, “The Lord settled it with me. I told him how bitter I was, that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, but no one was there for us. And when I finished complaining, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and said, ‘But you are not home yet’. “
It is true; we have not arrived at our heavenly home. We shouldn’t get discouraged if things don’t work out the way we want it, because we will be okay. Shortly before David Taft died, he had an “Aha” moment when he realized that he would be able to continue his life’s goals on the other side of eternity, and that was significant.
I would like to close with a poem that is simply called, “Heaven.”
I’ve purchased a town lot in heaven. On the city not built with hands.
I’m sending material daily, to build in that happy land.
I’d like a mansion on Main Street, where streets are all paved with gold.
With a clear view of the pearly gates, where Christ takes care of the soul.
I want to send good material that will stand the test of time.
Prayer is for the foundation, faith and love for the walls.
Good deeds for the reinforcement, that will stand when the Savior calls.
I would like you, for my neighbor in that city so divine.
Maybe just across the street or your home close to mine.
Up there, we will know no sorrow, tears will never dim the eyes.
There we will rest in peace forever in that happy home on high.
So my friends, start to build your home beyond the sky.
Where we can all be together in the sweet by and by.
Many people have the misconception that the only time we should think of heaven is when we are in the ICU or at a funeral. I don’t know about you, but the thought of heaven motivates me to do right so I don’t miss it.
We don’t want to be so heavenly minded that we are not earthly good, and we don’t want to be so earthly minded that we are not heavenly good. It is like taking out a life insurance policy, we don’t dwell because we know everything is in place; we can actually live better and more relaxed. It is the same with our heavenly home; we live within that promise and hope.