On Heaven, Eternity, and Buying a Field
My potted plants are still hanging on at the end of November. I watered the macho ferns on the front porch last week and I whispered a prayer of longing. The answer came at once. I was in a thin place. God is pursuing me. His desire is that I continue to seek Him. I am still being transformed and I need to be. This will never change.
I stepped off the porch and walked through fallen leaves still holding their colors—red and yellow and orange. The smell of decay was in the air, the fragrance of fall. The tilt of the earth had taken the sun to a moody place in the sky.
I am aware of the gift of life more than ever. The Kingdom of God has invaded my senses. Gratitude is the only response.
In the autumn of my life, I am still thirsty, still hungry to grow. The temptation of the world is to dry up and leave hopefulness to the young, to the tender shoots of youth. The temptation is to give in to age and begin a slow process toward becoming compost.
The Bible says we don’t know what we will be.
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
The not knowing is the part we are uncomfortable with and the reason so many Christians live with a withered view of eternity.
I talked about this at a funeral I spoke at recently. My friend was a saint. She lived with an eternal perspective as her ninth decade of life moved her toward her destiny. I wanted those attending that day to think about why we don’t think about heaven except on days like the one we were living. These are the reasons I gave:
- We don’t believe our lives here relate to our lives there.
- Because we keep God at arm’s length as we live on the earth, we are secretly thinking we’ll be able to do the same in heaven.
- We’ll think about heaven when it’s closer—when we must. We place it on our “to-do” lists.
- Our idols (what we give our attention to, what we love and thus worship) won’t translate to heaven and we don’t like the thought.
- Since so many of us are disconnected from our souls, we feel disconnected from spiritual and physical realities that are only a breath away from being the next chapter in our stories.
Heaven is very near. I love Joni Eareckson Tada’s illustration concerning the nearness of heaven. She uses the analogy of a baby held in her mother’s womb. If you told the baby she was about to be born into a world with music, and food, and smells—the list could go on— she wouldn’t believe you. She would relate that she is quite content in her warm abode listening to the beat of her mother's heart. The reality of the world outside the womb would be lost to her. This is the world that she will be born into with pain, but the one she will treasure and want to keep for as long as possible.
What we believe about eternity is really important; what we believe about the God of eternity is more important. These beliefs determine how we live, especially if we will live in hope.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in incredibly difficult days. He was in prison when he was given the opportunity to buy a field from his cousin. It was imminent that Babylon would overtake Judah. Jeremiah had warned his people. They refused to listen and repent. It didn’t make sense to make an investment in a field. God instructed Jeremiah to buy it but the prophet got more than a field, he was given a promise:
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more….”
I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34; 32:40)
Jeremiah believed that God was good and he believed God has an eternal plan. Even though the days were hard for the prophet, he believed God’s promises. Jeremiah’s fear of God did not turn him away from faith. Instead, it caused him to exercise it.
Jesus explained: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
We are just like our first parents—too often thinking God is holding out on us. He’s not. He wants us to buy the field—to give up all we have to take hold of all He has for us. God’s desires for us to have an eternal perspective, to believe He is good, and to understand His vision for our future is much bigger than our own. We live by faith.
Whatever evil threatens to overtake us in this world, a world quaking under the loss of the vision of God, we must seek out the thin place, think on heaven, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author of our stories—and more importantly, the Author of the Big Story, the story of redemption that spans the ages.
Jeremiah’s promise is ours in Christ Jesus. Buy the field.