Imagine you’re a pioneer in the western wilderness of Kentucky, back in the 1780s.
Why Are You Running?
The day is nearly done, so you pick up your axe and head for the village stockade. Just then you hear a deep growling and the sound of branches breaking. Startled, you turn and see a large bear charging out of the woods after you. You make a dash for the safety of the stockade. You run with all your might, but you can hardly look ahead for fear of what’s behind. Again and again, you look back to see how much time you have before the angry bear catches you. Therefore, you move towards your safe haven with a sense of desperate urgency, in continual fear of what terrors may overtake you at any time. Safe at last, you enter the stockade gate which shuts firmly behind you. You made it! But you’re left shaking from exhaustion and fear.
Now rewind the story back a few minutes. You’re back out in the field felling trees and pulling up stumps. The day is nearly done. You’re tired and hungry from a hard day’s work. Suddenly—the dinner bell rings and someone cries out, “Supper time” and you make a bolt for the stockade gate to get to the front of the chow line and “grab some grub.” You’re tired and hungry, but the thought of feasting and fellowship invigorates your pace and you easily run to the gate to satisfy your body and soul.
Now, which example characterizes your journey of faith? Are you serving God out of fear or out of joyful expectations? Are you driven forward by your fear of hell? Or, are you drawn forward by the joys, healing, resolution, and divine embrace that await you in heaven?
Joy vs. Fear
Above all, the Scripture continually presents the joys and rewards of heaven as the great incentive for serving God in this life. Later, after expounding on the hope of the Resurrection from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:12–57, the Apostle Paul concludes: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil for the Lord is never in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). “Those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:8–9, New Living Translation).
The future joys of heaven should be drawing us forward in our faith journey, rather than the fears of judgment driving us. For “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and, Jesus Himself said, “he who hears My words and believes in Him Who sent Me does not come into judgment, but has passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Again, said Jesus, “He who believes in Him (Christ) is not judged” (John 3:18), for “Jesus … delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) and “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Find Your Motivation
In conclusion, too many believers live their lives like the manslayer in the Old Testament. The manslayer desperately runs to the city of refuge, fearing with every step, that the avenger of blood is right behind him (Numbers 35:9–28). But for those who place their faith in Jesus Christ, there is no avenger of blood behind us. Jesus has taken him out of the way. All is before us—Heaven, the place of ultimate healing and unending joy. Hell is not driving us. Heaven is drawing us.
Dear Father in heaven, Help me to keep seeking the things above–where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Help me set my affections on things above, not on things of this earth. Help me to lay up treasure in heaven, where thieves do not steal and moths and rust do not destroy. For where my treasure is, there will my heart be also. Amen.
In article photo: Seeking cover during a mock air assault by The U.S. Army licensed under CC BY 2.0