Among the many reasons I chose to embrace the Christian faith is this matter of death. As a child, the idea of death frightened me terribly. One of the places I used to play was a cemetery a few blocks from our home in New Jersey. My reasons for playing at this location were mixed. Let me make it clear that I had no real interest in the many graves, or who was buried there. The attraction for me and my friends was the gravel drive that meandered through the cemetery. It was cool to spin the back tire of your bike on the gravel, scattering stones everywhere!
Occasionally I would notice a tombstone that had fallen over, long neglected and forgotten. Or there were headstones that were made of softer material that eventually wore away so that you could no longer read the name or dates of the person’s life. I believe it was this that frightened me more than anything else. To be forgotten! As though you never even existed! Would I simply cease to exist? Would I be forgotten by even future family members? This was unthinkable to me.
As an adult I was introduced to Jesus and the many claims that he made. But it was his ability to conquer death, along with the promise that if I would trust him he would prepare a place for me in heaven, and then one day take me there. Wow! This was great news. From that time on the fear of death was gone.
My wife is currently reading a book entitled, “The Journey Home: Finishing with Joy,” by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. He is also the author of “The Four Spiritual Laws” tract, and producer of the “Jesus” film, seen by more than five billion people world-wide. He quotes from the great English preacher of the 1800s, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, regarding death and heaven.
“Spurgeon, known for teaching directly from passages of Scripture, stood at the pulpit and left the Bible closed. ‘Some have found fault with me,’ he said, ‘contending that I am too old-fashioned. I am always quoting the Bible and do not say enough about science. Well, there’s a poor widow here who has lost her only son. She wants to know if she will ever see him again. Let’s turn to science for the answer: Will she see him? Where is he? Does death end all?’ There was a long pause. ‘We’re waiting for an answer,’ he said. ‘This woman is anxious.’ Another long pause. ‘Nothing to say? Then we’ll turn to the Book!’ Spurgeon then began to cite the joyous promises of God about heaven and the assurance that believers have in Christ.”Dr. Bright went to heaven in 2003.
Sunday afternoon my wife and I visited an elderly widow in our church. Her name is Polly, and she’s 86 years old. She is an inspiration to me. Her attitude is so refreshing! She lives in her little farm house just outside of town that once belonged to her grandparents. In recent years this diminutive lady has been diagnosed with several ailments. When I asked her why she has chosen not to receive further medical treatment, or to be under the care of the medical staff in a hospital, she said, “I have three incurable ailments. Why go through the bother of being constantly poked, prodded, and tested?” Then she said something that really struck me. “People who are afraid to die aren’t ready to die.” Polly prefers to live in her home, surrounded by familiar things which bring back warm memories. Her son, Tim, lives next door with his family. She also has visits from hospice.
This Saturday there will be a large family reunion. Polly is really looking forward to this time, hopeful that she will have the energy to enjoy being with so many of her loved ones. Then she added this, “If I’m not here for this reunion, I’ll be attending another reunion in heaven!”
Jesus spoke these most comforting of words in John 14:1-3.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Now that sure sounds like heaven to me! I’m ready to go!
Are you ready?