Summary: This has been the most difficult year of my of life with Elizabeth’s going to be with the Lord. Therefore on this Thanksgiving, what am I thankful for?
This is the Sunday before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Sunday and it is customary that the pastor bring a message on Thanksgiving, on giving thanks. So as I considered what the Lord would have me share with you today, I began to ask myself the question: what am I thankful for?
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 (and I’ll attempt to put this into words for you but I don’t know if I can convey it) – but I remember as I took in that scene thinking, “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. It just was and is a feeling that is hard to describe. We are familiar with grandparents dying, with parents dying and even with older children dying, but it just seemed so unnatural, and 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?
I think the deepest form of thankfulness flows not out of having everything go wonderfully for you. It comes not from having an abundance of material blessings and everything being rosy. Rather the deepest level of thankfulness comes out of struggles and pain, trials & suffering. Why - because it gives one perspective. It gives one a new and deeper appreciation for those true blessings, for what really matters.
For many people around the world I think it would be very difficult to be and to express thankfulness if they had experienced what our family did this year. And many people have. We are not unique, but many people would find it difficult to be thankful.
So I come back to my question: what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? If I made a list of all the things I could think of (and it would be quite a long list) - is there 1 thing that would stand out above all the rest as I think back over the year? And I think there is. You might say it is 2 things in combination with each other but I’m going to refer to is as 1 thing.
What am I most 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 and she lives in Heaven because she had put her trust in the sacrifice and payment made on her behalf by her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I have done the same thing therefore I know I will be with her again. This would be a most difficult Thanksgiving if there was no Heaven but because there is, I can be thankful even though there is this void and emptiness for a short while.
Heaven is a Place
Heaven is a Prepared Place
Heaven is a Prepared Place for Prepared People
1. Heaven is a Place!
As we look closely at these words, the first thing we notice is that, according to Jesus, Heaven is a genuine place. Notice that Jesus did not go into a lot of details here describing Heaven, but He did call it:
-a place to which He was going,
-a place from which He would return,
-and a place to which He would one day take all whom the Father had given him.
It is a real place. This is reinforced by other verses. For instance, Jesus earlier said that He “came down from heaven” (Jn.6:38). He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Hebrews tells us that Jesus, after He had performed the work of our redemption, sat down “on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb.8:1). Luke writes of the Ascension saying that “while he blessed them, he was...carried up into heaven” (24:51). In the OT we read, “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, & pray, & seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chr.7:14).
Some say that heaven will simply be a state of mind. I am here to tell you this morning that Heaven is real. It is not an imaginary "pie in the sky" for those who are weak minded. Heaven is spoken of in Scripture as a house, as a city, as a country.