I was sitting at a restaurant the other day. A family near me was just finishing up their meal. As the father was rising from his seat he said to his young sons, “Do you want to go with me?” Their response was an excited and rather loud, “Yeahhh!”
I watched them walking quickly to keep up with their dad and just as they rounded the corner out of my sight, I heard one of the boys say, “Where are we going?” I laughed out loud as I recalled similar experiences with my own toddler-aged kids. They had no clue where their dad was headed but they wanted to be with him because they loved him. I’m sure that every dad has felt the responsibility of that fact.
Then I thought of our Lord – of the times He said, in effect, to people, “Do you want to go with Me?” And they eagerly said, “Yes!” They really had no clue what it meant. If those followers had been able to leap years ahead in their minds and compare themselves then to their “pre-Jesus” selves, I am absolutely convinced they would have been unrecognizable to themselves.
If Jesus had given them a balance sheet first, explaining all the costs they would incur, do you think they would have still followed Him? I don’t know. But I do know that when the tough stuff came – the really tough stuff – they wouldn’t quit. They surrendered status in the world’s eyes. They offered their bodies for physical abuse and imprisonment. They did not count their lives dear unto themselves. When Jesus informed His followers of His intention to head back into dangerous territory, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go that we may die with Him” (John 11:16b). Question: How does such devotion arise in human hearts? Answer: It is the result of being freely loved, believed in, and wanted by the One and Only Jesus Christ.
You see, encounter with Jesus leaves us forever changed; dissatisfied with all the world offers; infected with a holy homesickness that causes us to gaze intently heavenward. When I, by His grace, get to heaven, it won’t be architecture that I want to see, nor jewels and precious metals, nor all that have gone on before. I will only have eyes for Him Who planned an eternity for me long before I lived, Who called me long before I heard, and Who died for me long before I cared. To a dying criminal, Jesus tenderly said, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
There was another, not himself a novice to suffering and hardship, who said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23b). It is impossible for us to comprehend how glorified bodies will feel. We can’t know how heaven will appear to our transformed eyes one day, even though the Bible uses lots of figures of speech to help in that regard. But we know Him, and we want to be where He is – the One Who has loved us all this time, even in our unworthiness; the Hope-Bringer; the Gospel-Singer Who sung our sins away on the Cross. We are going to meet Him one day, “and so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17b). For today this is all I need to know – that one day I will be with Him forever. Have you accepted your invitation yet?
Doug Oakes is minister at the Woodlawn Church of Christ in Zanesville, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.