It seems as if there are times in everyone’s life that are marked with concentrated periods of stress, trouble, and tough times. It always seems to come in waves:
- First you fight with your spouse over finances and the lack of time you’ve spent together.
- You get to work and find out that your hours are getting cut in half.
- Because you’ve been moved from full-time to part-time you realize you now lose your company-paid benefits as well.
- On the way home the car starts overheating.
- You check the mail on your way in to see the familiar stack of bills, that seem to be constantly rising.
- You share all of this info with your spouse who starts to cry.
- She then tells you all of the problems in her day: house, kids, depleted savings account, etc…
- A family member called her because her mother (5 states away) is in critical care at the hospital.
- To top it off, she suspects that she’s also pregnant.
Sound familiar? This story is not entirely hypothetical. More than likely, you have your own lyrics to the same song. There’s an entire message I could preach here about God’s grace through life’s difficulties, and His faithfulness to see us through. Or I could talk about the fact that God is not putting us through the fires of life to burn us, but to forge our faith and promote us to another level of His blessings. All of that would be true.
Instead I want to share a story and a simple thought that I got once from an amazing man, pastor, father, and mentor in my life from years back when I was in high school. His name is Norwood Tadlock. I went to school with all three of his kids. I knew him as my Bible teacher at my Christian high school. His wife passed away while I was still a teenager. Making similar observations as I have above, he once pointed out to me:
For those of us who know Christ, this is as close as we will ever get to Hell.
That’s a relief. The Bible even tells us that compared to Heaven, our present sufferings are but “a light affliction that is working for us a far greater weight in glory!” God is not minimizing our pain. He is simply encouraging us that one day, all of this will seem very small in comparison to Heaven. But “brother Tadlock” didn’t stop there. He quickly made the opposite observation:
For those who do not know Christ, this is as close as they will ever get to Heaven.
Frightening. And not what God wants for them, either. These thoughts coming on the back of a week full of natural disasters, false prophets, hurting people within my church, hurting people outside of church, and trying to pastor others through this messy thing called life, make me think 2 things:
1) Heaven must be unimaginably amazing. I want everyone to go there.
2) Hell must be unimaginably terrible. I don’t want anyone to go there – not even my worst enemy.
Let’s stop trying to guess at the day that Jesus is coming for us since He said that “no one knows the day, nor the hour of the coming of the Son of man,” and let’s get passionate about seeing people far from God awakened with life in Christ. We have a world to change. Let’s “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and make a difference.