Yesterday’s quiet time readings were there to remind me to keep my eye on the final goal – heaven. I am but a traveller and this world isn’t my home.
The opening verses of Revelation 21 paint a vivid picture of the first heaven and the first earth passing away to make way for new ones. The new Jerusalem will come down from heaven from God, radiant and beautiful. God will dwell with his people and be with them.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4
I think everyone longs for a time when, as the Message puts it, “Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” As I read those words I was thinking about my mum. Death has taken away two husbands, two children and all of her brothers and sisters. As she grows older and a lot less mobile, and near blind and near deaf there’s frustration about not being able to do the things she used to do. When she is frustrated there are usually tears involved. Pain isn’t just a physical thing – but the isolation of being alone much of the time is painful too.
She may be into the closing pages of her first life but a new life waits to be revealed in the next chapter – a life without death, without mourning, crying or pain is hers to inherit. We get so bogged down in the difficulties of this first life that we fail to allow the glimpses of that new life just ahead to whet our appetites and take the sting off our short-while trials.
For some verse 4 is what they need to hear and they can afford to linger there. For me, though, it was verse 8 that pulled me up.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. Rev 2:8
I would like to think that it doesn’t apply to me. Most of it doesn’t most of the time. I have certainly never murdered anyone. It is the cowardly, unbelieving bit of it that is apt to convict. The Message calls that bit “feckless and faithless”.
Feckless and faithless – I own up to times when I have shied away from challenges out of cowardice. I lack the courage sometimes to do what I know I should do. Most often it is because of a lack of faith, not that God’s resources are not there for me to grasp hold of and wield, but that somehow I have excluded myself from the right to wield them – this “not good enough” attitude.
What came to mind last night as I was thinking about these things is that I don’t always lack courage. I am not always a coward. I don’t always lack faith. I can so often clearly remember the times when the yellow streak is visible and I am running, or hiding from the challenge given. But there are times too, far more numerous, when I take the step of faith and move forward. That happens when God is firmly at the centre of all that I do and His glory is my one desire.
One day I will get to read the book of my life that is written by God. I will dig out the book that I have written – in my mind and memory – and lay it side by side with God’s book. Sometimes the accounts will be the same. Most often His book will contain the truth of the matter. My mind and my memory will have too often been written in the shadows, where truth gets twisted just a little. I will tear out those pages and toss them away because they are not God’s truth about my life.
God says, “Why wait till that one day? I can tell you now what was written!”