Summary: The first sermon in a four part series on gaining an eternal perspective on life.
1. I’ve been in the church since I was just a baby. I attended church for the first time when I was less than two weeks old. There have been very few weeks since then when I haven’t been in church. Many things that others have to learn about as adults, I grew up at least knowing about. I certainly didn’t understand everything about them, but I knew a little something about them. One of those things which I knew facts about as a child was heaven. I knew there would be streets of golds, gates of pearl and wonders beyond anything I could imagine. Still, heaven seemed something that older peope should be concerned about, not something I was all that interested in as a child.
2. Something happened when I was 12 years old that changed my perceptions of heaven forever, my Grandma Richards died. She was only 57 at the time and her death was totally unexpected. Nearly two years later, almost to the very day, my Grandpa Siebels died. My interest in heaven was suddenly much more personal. Now I not only looked forward to heaven because of what I read about it in scripture, but I looked forward to heaven, because there were people I loved who had gone there. I can remember my change of heart now, all these years later.
3. In preparing for this sermon I came across a sermon by Christopher Hilling preached on Thanksgiving weekend 2004. I want to quote a portion of his sermon and I think you will understand my point when you hear what he had to say.
"Obviously this has been the most difficult year of my 47 years of life with Elizabeth’s going to be with the Lord this past April. I remember thinking so clearly upon seeing her in the casket... "this is unnatural" and I didn’t mean by that death so much but rather this was not the way it is suppose to be for a parent to have their still young 15 year old child dead and lying in a casket... We are familiar with grandparents dying, with parents dying and even with older children dying, but it just seemed so unnatural... maybe that is not the best word to use but that is what I felt, it seemed so unnatural to have a 15 year girl, MY 15 year old girl dead and lying in that casket. And so as I said, this has been the most difficult year of my life... So in light of this tremendous pain, what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving... It is this- I’m thankful there is a real place called Heaven. And because there is, even though I have a 15 year old daughter who is dead - she lives..." 2
4. Heaven usually remains a somewhat distant place to us until we have someone we love go there, or until it appears we might be going there soon ourselves. Then, suddenly, heaven becomes a much more important place. We gain a personal interest in it that we simply don’t have before.
5. In fact, Jesus even told a parable regarding how easy it is to ignore the reality of heaven. Listen to his words in Matthew 13:31-32.
31 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.
32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." (NIV)
5. His point is that athough heaven is a very big thing, because it’s not something big at this point, many people tend to ignore it. For those of us who are living today, we view heaven as something that is "out there somewhere." Important, but not relevant to what’s going on in my life today. While that approach is understandable, it’s not accurate. Heaven, the place where we have the chance to live with God for eternity, is a very big deal. Even most Christians aren’t nearly serious enough about it. Those who don’t know Christ are even less so.
6. Perhaps you have heard of Bishop Fulton Sheen. In his autobiography, Treasure in Clay told this story from his life. Sheen wrote about an experience he had when he was traveling around preaching, "I stopped to ask a few boys for directions to the Town Hall where I was giving a lecture. They told me where the Town Hall was and then asked, "What are you going to do there?" "I’m giving a lecture on heaven and how to get there. Would you like to come and find out?" "You’re kidding," one boy said. "You don’t even know the way to the Town Hall."