Summary: Thinking of a heavenly country.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Spring is coming! About this time of year, I begin to long for spring. I want to see the flowers popping up, the trees leafing out, and feel the warm wind on my face. Growing up in Northern Minnesota, January and February were the coldest months of the year – they seemed the longest, too. My theory is that’s why February only has 28 days. 30 or 31 days is just too much. We would get too sick and tired of winter with those extra days. More people pass away during these months than any other, I’ve heard. It’s easy to lose hope during the long dark nights of winter. But I’m longing for better days ahead.
And they are coming. We’ve been through a lot of winters together. Julie and I have seen almost 4 decades of winter turning into spring. We know the flowers, bushes and the fruit trees will burst into color pretty soon. Calves and colts will be leaping in joy. The snow will melt and the lakes will warm up. We look at the dead appearing trees and the lifeless looking grasslands and know it is all an illusion. I’m looking forward to camping and backpacking and picnicking and swimming in the lake once again. Spring is coming.
Sometimes, in the middle of another storm, it seems so far away. But the days are clicking down, and the weeks are slowing passing. Don’t get discouraged.
Have you heard the story about the old, faithful missionary returning to the United States to retire? He and his wife had spent over 40 years serving in Africa. But now he was alone. His wife and two children had long since found their final resting place in the dirt of Africa. As he got off the plane he saw a great crowd of people waiting at the gate. Some were holding signs, others were waving banners. He could even hear sounds of music above the shouting voices. For a few seconds he thought, "Can it be? After more than 40 years of service, all of these people have actually come out to welcome me home?"
But no, that was not the case. On his plane was a politician returning from a visit to Africa. During his visit he had been catered to and waited on and all his needs had been met in first class. And now he was being welcomed back with all the ceremony his admirers could provide.
As the old servant of God waited and waited at the airport, the contrast was almost more than the old missionary could bear. For a moment he began feeling sorry for himself. He started to pray. "Father in Heaven, why? I’ve served You faithfully for so long, and yet, look. I don’t expect much. But is it wrong to desire that there be some kind of a welcome home?" Then, almost as if God had spoken out loud, the old missionary said he heard Him say, "But my son, you’re not home yet."
The first thing I want you to understand this morning is: 1. “You are not home yet”. We are just passing through. Life is going to be full of challenges and problems. I was thinking this week of those words of commitment I spoke before God concerning my life with Julie: “In sickness and in health, for richer for poorer; for better for worse.” We have experienced some of the ‘worst’ times – and some of the better times. We have experienced sickness and health together. We have experienced poverty and what we consider rich together. Julie’s definition of rich is to have a pack of gum in your purse. Guess we have been more rich than poor, according to that definition. But through it all – we are passing through. See, home is safe, and warm and full of love. When you are passing through you may not experience any of that.