February 5, 2017
Too often we are so busy planning for the future that we don’t appreciate the blessings of today. And then something happens that shatters our plans for tomorrow, and we wish we had another chance - another chance to tell someone we love them, another chance to visit someone we haven’t seen in a while, another chance…
Peggy Kraus was my daughter’s aunt, my first husband’s older sister. I knew her since I was 20 years old. She graduated from Morris High School a year before I graduated from high school in Chicago. She loved the White Sox, and she loved cats, and she loved her granddaughter, Molly. My own granddaughter, Sophie, will hopefully still remember her when she is older, because Peggy recently passed away. Her husband, Rich, found her laying at the bottom of their basement steps with a basket of laundry next to her. An autopsy report revealed she had a massive brain aneurysm. No one had known that at any time that blood vessel could burst and she would leave this world to be with the Lord. Everything seemed normal just minutes before.
Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” That doesn’t mean you can’t make plans, or study for a career, or put something away in a retirement account. What it does mean is that you should keep in mind that things could change at any moment. You don’t have the final say on your future. Only God does. Remember our Epistle reading? James said, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-16). Tomorrow Jesus could return for His saints or you could pass from this life and find yourself standing before God. Are you ready for that? Don’t think it couldn’t happen. I’m sure Peggy wasn’t planning on leaving this world on January 25th.
People often rail against God when He takes someone home before we think He should. They deem God unjust and unfair. Instead of drawing closer to Him in their grief, they put up a wall and become bitter. There is a little known verse in the Bible that points out something such people might not have thought of. It is Isaiah 57:1, which says, “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.” Instead of getting angry at God, we need to remember that He loves each of His children more than we could possibly imagine. He would not take them home to be with Him if it was not in their best interest. We may grieve because we can no longer enjoy their presence with us here on earth, but we should rejoice for them that they are now free from pain and sorrow and living in a place of eternal light, infinite joy, and love beyond human comprehension.
Of course, this is referring to those who left this earth as a child of God. Not everyone does. Which brings me back to my earlier question… Are you ready? If today was your last day on earth, and you suddenly found yourself face to face with Jesus Christ, and He asks you “Why should I let you into the Kingdom of Heaven?” what would your answer be? Would it be “I was a good person”, or “I went to church”, or “My parents had me baptized as a child”? None of those are going to gain you entrance into heaven. There is only one answer that is going to open those gates for you. It is “Because you, Jesus, are my Savior and my Lord”. When Jesus looks at your heart and sees that you were remorseful for your sins, and that you placed your faith in His sacrifice, and that you believed He rose from the dead and prepared a place for you in heaven, then He will welcome you with open arms and say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
The Bible says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” It was originally spoken by King David in Psalm 95, and later repeated by the Apostle Paul three times in the Book of Hebrews. It is not God’s desires that any should be lost - never to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God does not send anyone to hell, and he mourns over those who choose to go there. Yes, the only way to go to hell is to deliberately reject God and the way of salvation that He offers through Jesus Christ. By doing so you are declaring that you do not want to spend eternity with the Lord, but would prefer to be separated from Him forever, which is what hell is. Since God gives us free will, if you do not desire to live with Him, He will not force you to. But keep in mind that because God is both light and love (1 John 1:5 and 1 John 4:16), that also means hell is filled with only darkness and hate. Why would you choose to live there instead? Pride? Swallow it! Love for sin and an unwillingness to depart from it? Despite the temporary joy it might seem to impart, it ultimately brings nothing but death and sorrow. But the joy in heaven is eternal. And once you have that assurance of heaven, the burden of life here becomes so much lighter. You can face tomorrow, no matter what it may hold, because Jesus lives. Yes, just as in our closing hymn:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
The children each drew a slip of paper out of the box labeled "Today". They then read what it said, which was something they had to do today (not tomorrow).