As I look to recent “heroes of the faith” (I speak of those God has used mightily in this world. I am not idolizing people here, just admiring their willingness to serve with purity of heart.) there is usually an obvious similarity between them all. They seem to have a healthy understanding of their future home in heaven. Paul understood this and expressed his feelings for desiring to be with Christ. Remember his words in Philippians?
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
More recently we can see this same understanding from Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians when he said,
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Throughout the centuries martyrs who were not willing to back down from their faith in God or their stand on the inspired Word of God have understood that to die is not really a loss, but a gain. Books have been written of these people. Probably most famously is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Another good source, and fairly recent, is a book put together by D.C. talk of stories of people who were willing to die for their faith called Jesus Freaks (there are also additional additions).
There are scores of people that have lived that way and their memories and testimonies stand as examples to us to keep things in the right perspective. Having a proper understanding of our duty to the Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of the World will radically change how we see many aspects of our life on this earth.
First of all, and probably most importantly, it affects how we see the people all around us. When we understand that our life on this earth is “a vapor” (James 4:14), we will see people destined for one place or another, for heaven or for hell. This will cause us to live life with an urgency which compels us to be active witnesses for God’s kingdom. We will not be focused on everyone’s day to day well-being but be interested in their eternal destination. When we come to grips with the reality that most often than not the people around us at any given moment are more than likely on their way to hell, it will make the Christian life become very meaningful and realistic. God left us on this earth for a purpose. We are to spread the Good News. We are to warn people of their coming destruction. We are to pull people out of the fire (Jude 23). We are mere strangers on this earth. We are ambassador’s for Christ’s kingdom (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20). We should be as passionate as Paul was when telling the lost of their condition. Think about what he said to the Philippians,
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:18-21)
Paul was passionate about making sure others knew that this is the only chance we get to warn others about their eternal destination. He thought about the lost with tears. He had an urgency in which we need to grab a hold of and embody ourselves.
Recently I watched a video made of Rich Mullins where he discussed his understanding of how short life is. His philosophy of death really shows through in his songs such as “Elijah,” where he says “it won’t break my heart to say goodbye.” He had a longing to be in heaven. He had a desire to be with Jesus. And God took him up in a dramatic way.
Our view of Christ’s kingdom changes how we feel about gaining material wealth. When our hearts are set on things above, our desire for the things on this earth diminishes. In fact, the more “things” one has the less likely he is to go to the mission field. There are more things to give up. Everything we have is given by God, anyway. He owns it all.
When we realize how short our life is, the beatitudes will become possibilities in our lives. We will understand our destitution before God. We will weep. We can be meek and merciful. We will have a hunger and thirst for righteousness. We will desire to make peace, and will bless God when we are persecuted. We must have the right perspective of who we are on this earth, especially when things are going well for us.
There are those that shine bright for God when their faith is tested. They are those who understand the role of eternity here on earth. They understand their place in the Kingdom of God and in the Kingdom of man.
Paul Schneider was one of those people. He was a pastor during the early Nazi rule in Germany. He spoke out against the Nazi’s and was imprisoned for his stand against the government. He had no backing from anyone. He stood fast in his faith and let the word of God, specifically Esther, drive his faith in God. People urged him to stop what he was doing and think of his family. His reply is was this:
My primary responsibility is to prepare my family for eternal life – not to insure their material well-being.”
Paul Schneider understood that his citizenship is in heaven. He was eventually taken to a concentration camp and was murdered via lethal injection. His life, as well as many others like him urge us to be daily aware of the fact that as Christians, our true home is in heaven. Let us live like it.