Do you long to hear God exclaim to you “Well done” when He comes to take you home to heaven? (see Matt. 25:23).
For me—and I expect for most if not all of us— the answer is “Yes.” After all, the alternative doesn’t generate the feelings of joyful expectancy and peace, perhaps, that walking along the sea of glass might. While hearing the Lord say to me “Well done” has always been an important goal. I’ve realized only recently that those two words, and the heaven to which they grant us entrance, haven’t always been my priority. Instead, my focus has often been on what I want for my life here on this earth.
Like many of us, I’m going through life studying and working hard so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor here, and along the way also do my duty as a Christian. After all, when my life here is over and I’m with Jesus, I want to bask in the joy of the “Well done.” We think about that in a wistful sort of way, like a child who hears “They lived happily ever after” at the end of a story. It’s like a sigh of relief that awaits us, far away from everything that’s happening to us now; real. In the same way that retirement is real for most people under the age of 25, it isn’t often at the forefront of their minds.
Understandable, some would argue. After all, this planet and the life we’ve lived here for millennia are all we’ve ever known. We prepare, save, and accumulate our material possessions and take pride in our accomplishments. We do all we can to ensure that even if we can’t enjoy all the luxuries of this life, at least we’ll never lack the necessities.
Even as Seventh-day Adventists, when we hear the story of the Great Disappointment and the early Advent believers who sold all they had in expectation of the imminent return of Jesus, many of us find it difficult not to ask, “Sell everything? What if . . . ?” We still long to enjoy first what others on earth have enjoyed: material security, the routine of a happy life, and making a mark on the world—this world.
While we’re born with the possibility, or the potential, of “grandeur,” no one is promised that. God wants us to prosper and relish the fleeting joy that still exists here on earth (see Jer. 29:11, NIV). In the Bible are numerous examples and stories of persons God blessed with a life of relative ease. Even if our own life isn’t luxurious or easy, we’re still richly blessed when we remember good experiences.
Through the apostle John, God assures us that while we live here on earth, He wants us to “prosper in all things and be in health” (3 John 2). Many years before John, through the prophet Jeremiah, God also tells us that the thoughts that He thinks toward us are of “peace, and not of evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).
Unfortunately, because of sin, an existence of total sublimity here isn’t possible, and the ugly truth. As the adage reminds us, the ugly truth is that “there are only two things certain in this life: death and taxes.” As Christians we must ask ourselves whether our primary goal is to gain fortune and fame. Are we relegating to afterthought what we know is guaranteed to us if we give our hearts and lives fully to Jesus. Happiness and joy await us on the other side of “Well done.”
I haven’t yet figured out the perfect balance between the two, but the finest biblical example I can think of is Abraham. In faith, Abraham made his home and prospered in the very real, very physical land that God Himself promised and gave to him and his descendants. He, his family, and others with him, however, lived there in tents, like strangers. Why? Was Abraham afraid that God would take back the material blessings He had promised him? Was he a miser who didn’t want to spend his hard-earned money to build more permanent lodgings? Of course not. Instead, as Hebrews 11:10 tells us, “He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (NIV).
Abraham lived and worked through God’s grace in preparation for what would be the magnum opus of his life, that is, to hear “Well done.” He enjoyed the material wealth that came along the way—not the other way round.
That seems like a wise plan to me.