Wooooo Hooooo! HEAVEN! Is that not what it is all about – eternity with Jesus!? No more pain, or suffering, or illness, or rubbish stuff. Meeting up with all those who have “fallen asleep” in the Lord. I can’t wait!
Now this passage, like all of Pauls’ writing is full of theological truth, and we could sit down in a room, with a pot of good coffee, and discuss these few verses for hours. But I would like to pick out just one, very simple thing that I felt God was speaking to me about.
When I think of heaven and the coming of Jesus, I get a real sense of tension. Don’t get me wrong heaven is going to be amazing, or more biblically, indescribable. But the tension arises when I think about all the people, who currently, will not be coming with me. I am full of sorrow when I think about my dad, or my best mate Tom, or the guys I work with, who won’t get to experience the eternity I am going to. I WANT THOSE GUYS TO BE THERE! And the urgency for those people to come to know Jesus and join me there, continually picks up pace.
You see, I think urgency and action are central to this passage – look at imagery of readiness for war, putting on a “breastplate” and “helmet” (4:8).
It’s almost like the setting to the point Paul is trying to make is ‘we are going to go to heaven and we don’t know the date or time [excuse the paraphrase]’ (4:13-5:3) … …but! And this pivot point come is 5v4 “but, let us not be like the others…”. It picks up the theme again from chapter 4v1-12; about living and loving like we know that heaven is worth it!
I get this wrong all the time. I don’t pray for the people I’ve mentioned as often as I should (or often at all, if I’m really honest) and I don’t live or love like salvation is all of who I am.
Now there are 3 things I would love to encourage us to do, and these are the things that our cluster are really trying to work at:
1) ‘Oikos’ prayer. A while back, Mick encouraged us (with the help of prayer cards) to pray for four different areas of our households (oikos): family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. I would encourage you to get your hands on an Oikos card (from cell or cluster leaders) or pop a few names into your iphone, android, good-old-fashioned-paper-diary, whatever, and PRAY for those people. We believe in a God who answers prayer and the stories of our cells, clusters and church back this up. So pray for these people whenever you get a chance – set a reminder, work out a routine, get up 10 minutes earlier, etc.
2) Make time for people. I know that life is busy! And maybe going for a coffee or having someone round for dinner can’t work for you. In which case send an email, give them a call, get on Skype or Facebook – whatever works. No matter what you do, be intentional about it. Show these people a glimpse of the love that Jesus has shown you.
3) Live it. I know it’s hard and this topic always sits a little uncomfortably. But the people we are praying for and intentionally trying to love, need to see that we live it too. There is a lyric from a worship song that says “love like we see it, live like we mean it, this is the start, we’re after Your heart” and that is my challenge and prayer for the blog today.
As I said, I get it wrong, and I would encourage you to deal with this stuff through accountability. By that I mean, I meet up with a couple of guys regularly and we discuss and challenge each other on how we are doing with praying for our ‘Oikos’ people. We are also committed to dealing with the issues of life together and working through the stuff we struggle with.
In the midst of all of this, we need to keep our eyes on the “hope of salvation”. Heaven is going to be amazing and it is right that we think and reflect on what eternity with our amazing God is going to be like. But let that hope fuel your heart to see the people God has placed in your life come to know him.
(P.S. the lyric quote come from a song by Phil Wickham called “After Your Heart” – it’s well worth a listen!)