Heaven Seems Secondary
I am not a Christian because of a promise of heaven. That has never been a motivating factor for me. If I was so concerned about the (hopefully) distant future I would eat better, save money and generally have a more long term approach to life. I know there are plenty of people who live that way and I envy them.
I did not become a Christian because my sin was so overwhelming that I craved God’s forgiveness. As I have grown in my faith I have come to better understand this and I am incredibly grateful for God’s absolute forgiveness, my freedom from condemnation and the sacrifice it took to make that possible. I often thank Him for His amazing grace and pray that I never take it for granted.
I became a Christian in 1993 because I had been on a long search for something and I felt like God was revealing Himself to me over a period of time and in a number of small ways. Eventually it seemed like everywhere I looked there was God this and Jesus that. I didn’t, and still don’t, have all the answers but I know God has revealed Himself to me and I have turned my life over to Him. I believe the Bible is the Word of God even though it still holds many questions for me.
I think the primary thing that I received with my profession of faith that has kept me coming back and keeps me moving forward is His peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace that “passes all understanding” sustains me on a daily, often moment by moment, basis.
Growing in faith will often come with a new understanding of what a word really means. Biblical “Peace” is an example of this, (“Love” is another example.) Jesus said, “…my peace I give you.” Phillipians 4:7 says the peace of God “passes all understanding.” That means that as we do our part, being, “…anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” God’s peace will “guard our heart.”
This is another one of those things that doesn’t make sense, it just is. As we rely on God and communicate with Him we can walk in His peace, peace that passes all understanding. What does that mean? It means we don’t have to carry the burdens we often carry. We don’t have to be anxious, fear or fret. Fear, as in being scared, anxious or worried, doesn’t come from God. He doesn’t want us carrying that and He shows us how to get out from under it.
The practical application of that process can be challenging and it takes practice and a growing faith. I recently stood over my dying father in law as my mother in law, his wife of 45 years, was saying “We trust you Lord.” I took up her profession and it helped bring peace to a chaotic situation. We didn’t want to be in that situation but we were, God was not absent and despite incredible loss and nearly overwhelming heartache, His peace was there.
God’s peace does not necessarily mean an absence of surrounding turmoil, it means that within the situation, any situation, we can have peace. Although I almost always feel His peace when I need it, I try to remember that despite how I feel, God has not forsaken me. Jesus is called Emmanuel which means, “God with us”. Even Jesus, in his most trying moment, appears to have felt abandoned. It is, however, safe to say, that as Christ looks back on that moment, He sees His father with Him.
Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble but in Him we can have peace. Receiving and walking in that peace, for me, is the most powerful of His gifts to me. I may see it differently looking back from eternity but as I go through my days, each with trouble of its own, I am ever grateful for His peace.