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Rewards in Heaven: Baseball and benign speculations

Among those who are “justified by faith apart from works” (Romans 3:28) and find themselves in heaven, there will still be judgment. We all won’t be treated the same, for apart from salvation itself, there will be a judgment of what we actually did while we were saved. Some will find themselves in heaven by the grace of God, but the things they did while here on earth will be deemed worthless.

Those who are freely given the foundation of Christ then build upon it, and in that Day of Judgment “each man’s work will become evident…If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire” (I Corinthians 3:11-15).

This whole concept of heavenly rewards remains somewhat mysterious even when we consider everything between the covers of our Bibles because much of the language used is probably symbolic. At least I hope so, because I’ve never really wanted a crown, golden or otherwise.

Purged of our jealousy, envy, and every other sin, we will simply be glad for those who receive more of what we will be given, whatever that may be. Made perfect in Christ, we will be absolutely content in our situations, though they may well be very different from one another.

The Biblical images of heaven center on God Himself. At least part of our time will be devoted to simply worshipping, and we will enjoy sweet communion with Him. In Revelation 7:9-10, a multitude of the redeemed offer praise, so we will not be alone with God, and I’m pretty sure that we will we also have fine fellowship with one another.

I keep coming back to an incident when I was a kid that seems to be a preview of judgment for those of us who love Christ, and while it might break down in a few places, I still think it gives a little insight into this life and our rewards in the hereafter.

My father loved baseball, and I tried my best to love it, too, but I never really cared for the game at all. My sport was basketball, which he never played, and, therefore, at least in my own mind, I assumed he didn’t value it nearly as much.

For two seasons, I played baseball, but never was any good. During one game my father attended, I wanted to make him proud, but my abject lack of talent got the best of me. Even though I spent a lot of the game on the bench, I still managed to strike out twice and bungled the few plays I tried to make in right field.

After the game, my father never derided me, but I noticed other kids with their dads, laughing and sharing in their triumphs. Over the events of the game, those fathers and sons had some common ground, a joy they shared when the sons played well.

My dad and I couldn’t enjoy that experience, and I think some of our rewards in heaven will be a depth of fellowship with our Heavenly Father that those who never did much for God simply can’t know.

I am cheered, though, that our Heavenly Father imparts callings and desires for His interests, which are vast. Everyone isn’t supposed to play the same game, so to speak, but each of us has been called to unique arenas of service. Too many of us, though, sit on the bench, which may even be a church pew, and never do much of anything that will delight our Father’s heart.

Instead, let us go play the game of life in the way the Spirit leads us, and let us play it well. It will only be a preview of better blessings to come.

 

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Thoughts about heaven, so often wrong

Many common notions regarding heaven have little to do with what’s actually in the Bible. First of all, Scripture doesn’t imply that people in heaven become angels, sprout wings, play harps, and hang out on clouds. We remain humans, and angels are an altogether different species that most often are portrayed without harps and in the Bible are never presented merely lazing about.

While I do love the old Ray Charles song, I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to be like that “lucky old sun with nothing to do but roll around heaven all day.” Much activity awaits the heaven-bound, beginning with a lot of awe-inspiring worship, because we’ll have unbroken, open fellowship with God himself.  While some sort of eternal Sabbath rest for God’s people is promised, the details are a bit sketchy, and some parables indicate we may even have responsibilities and real work to do, only it’s not freighted with the toil we often endure in this life.

When you get right down to it, some clichés about heaven seem rather prissy and downright boring, almost like an eternal punishment more than a reward.  That could be part of the reason why Hank Williams Jr. sang, “If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t want to go.” I’ve been down south a lot and like much about the region, but it’s also mighty humid and home to countless chiggers, water moccasins, and mosquitos, so I’ll opt for heaven as my eternal abode instead of some place south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Nonetheless, when considering heaven, we’re probably more wrong than right in our thinking. Despite its eternal perspective, the Bible actually reveals little about the place, and what is shown to us is shrouded in symbolism and mystery. The Bible does hint that it is beyond our wildest imaginings (I Corinthians 2:9), so whatever we think is going to happen there falls way short of the wondrous truth.

The most important feature of heaven is God Himself, and for those who know Him, that pretty much settles the issue. We want to be wherever God is, and we can trust Him with all the details in the hereafter because we are trusting Him in the here and now.

The older I get, the more I understand the grace of martyrdom. Denying Christ is inconceivable to me because an earthly life without Him is empty, and a heavenly life without Him is impossible.  Instead of chucking away my faith, I’d rather be dead, and it’s unbearable trying to live for heaven without having a relationship with God right now.

Mere hope of some vague future blessing does not provide enough motivation for holy living, but eternal life starts whenever we truly come to Christ, and Jesus Himself defined eternal life as knowing Him and His Heavenly Father (John 17:3). In a sense, heaven is already here, but we only have a mere preview of what is to come. It will be worth waiting for, whatever happens.

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Rehearsals for eternity: Life as preparation for heaven or hell

I went to a funeral once and wondered if somehow I had crashed the wrong service. The preacher up front was talking about a man I knew, but what he said seemed to have little to do with the person I had worked with at this one particular job.

The preacher kept going on and on about this man and his faith and his decision to believe and so on, but the man I knew hadn’t been to church in years and never said anything about God one way or another, except occasionally to use the word “damn” as His last name.

I suppose the preacher was doing the best he could, talking about a man he scarcely knew, and he was probably trying to reassure the family that this fellow was squared away with God, but it occurred to me that this man wouldn’t like heaven very much anyway. Not that he would like hell, mind you; nobody really wants to go there, but most people, like this man I worked with, really don’t want to go to heaven either.

After all, this guy didn’t want to hang around with Christians on Sundays, so why would he want to spend eternity with those same people? And he didn’t say much about God, except for the swearing I mentioned earlier, so praising God forever and ever wouldn’t quite be his style. And if that man really didn’t care what God had to say, wouldn’t serving Him for eternity be total misery?

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