As we consider these things, it is not just sufficient to have the character of Christ worked out in us. There is also a purpose for our lives to fulfill here on earth. Only if we accomplish our ministry will we gain all the eternal rewards that God has planned for us. We need to participate in God’s works, not just be a spectator. Those who watch a sporting event may shout and thoroughly enjoy watching the game, but they do not accomplish anything. They see others collect the prizes. As Christ said in Revelation 3:11, “Let no man take your crown.” So it is in the Christian life – just to be a church member and even develop good Christian character is not enough. We must also participate in God’s works and develop our own areas of service and ministry.
We should constantly pray, “Lord, what are the good works that you have ordained for me to fulfill?” Then as we walk in obedience day by day, the revelation of God’s purposes for our lives will unfold.
We should seek to take every opportunity to see that our ministry matures. This happens through prayer, study, and heeding the wise counsel of others who are in the process of achieving their own God-given goals. I recommend learning from the saints of old who finished their courses triumphantly, and also learning from the mistakes that others have made so that we may keep ourselves from those same errors.
In heaven, God is running a kingdom. Everyone has a function or ministry. To prepare for heaven, you have to begin entering into that function here on earth. Find the good works and ministries that God has appointed for you, for your position in heaven will depend upon what you do here on earth. Please do not come short. It is good to begin your race well, but it is all-important that you finish well! Finish the work that God has ordained for your life.
As we develop and then use our ministries, their purpose is to bring forth good fruit – fruit that will remain for eternity, Jn.15:16. The more we develop and use our abilities and talents, the greater will be our fruitfulness.
In John 15:8 our Lord said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you I bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” God is glorified when we bear much fruit. How does a tree glorify the orchard keeper? By bearing much fruit.
I once lived in an area with many fruit trees, and our friends would take us through their orchards. They were so proud of certain trees that bore much fruit. When we neared some of those trees, they would say, “Look at the fruit this one has produced!” This is the same joy that the Heavenly Father has when He looks at mankind. When He considers our lives may He say, “This son glorifies Me; look at all the fruit he is producing! This daughter glorifies Me; look at all the fruit she is bearing!”
The Lord is looking for the quantity of our fruitfulness. He spoke about this in the parable of the seed falling upon good ground. This seed brought forth thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and one hundred-fold fruitfulness. Thirty-fold is seventy-fold short of the mark. Likewise, sixty-fold is forty-fold short of the mark. We should seek, by His grace, to bring forth one hundred-fold fruit to perfection as Isaac did, Gen.26:12.
There is an all-important question which we will be asked in heaven: “What have you done with your life? What did we do with the opportunities that we were given on earth? We are all given 24 hours in a day; what do we do with those 24 hours? Some spend their time watching television. That is wasted time. Others play sports or video games. There will be tears in heaven when it is pointed out to us what we could have done in those hours that we wasted. What are we doing with the opportunities given to us? Are we becoming fully fruitful Christians?
Yet along with the quantity of our fruit, the Lord is also particular about the quality of our fruit, Mt.7:19-20. The Lord made a promise to our spiritual father Abraham in Genesis 22:17, where He said “…in multiplying I will multiply your seed like the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” Our God is a God of multiplication. Towards the end of our lives, we should experience multiplication, not just addition. Yet the important question we should ask ourselves is, “What is the quality of that which God will multiply?” In Abraham’s life the Lord not only multiplied the descendants of the promised son, Isaac, into the 12 tribes of Israel. He also multiplied the 12 sons of Ishmael. Their descendants in the Middle East now number in the millions, and most of them are the determined enemies of Israel.
Let me give a modem example. When I was in a certain church many years ago, the Lord gave me a word that He was going to multiply this church. However, with this word came a warning. I saw two apples — one was a lovely Golden Delicious apple, and the other was a crab apple, which is sour and inedible. God was going to multiply this church but they needed to be careful about what kind of fruit would be multiplied. Would it be fruit that could be likened to desirable Golden Delicious apples or those that would be compared to crab apples? Years later this church has grown to have many thousands of members, but there has also been immorality among the leadership and many problems. Regretfully, when I recently visited this church the Lord spoke to me that it was, indeed, a crab apple church. Yet if we will seek to develop both quantity and the quality of our spiritual fruit, our efforts can be very productive. As we finish well in these areas of our lives, we can receive Christ’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord,” Mt.25:23.
WHEN WE DIE
When we die, the Lord Himself or His angels will come and take us directly to heaven. I witnessed a demonstration of this with a 22 year old French girl named Madeline. She was a student at the Bible school we had in Switzerland. For six months before her severe illness she had been getting up very early in the mornings and seeking God. When she was later lying on her deathbed, I had a vision of the gates of heaven, and a beautiful white path of intense purity came down from those gates to Madeline’s bed. The Lord Himself walked down that path and touched her. She came out of her body, clothed in a beautiful white garment. When the Lord offered her His right arm, she slipped her arm through His, and they walked up that path together.
At Madeline’s funeral, as we laid her to rest in that Swiss village cemetery, we had a tombstone placed over her grave. The French words engraved thereon were those of Revelation 19:7, “And His bride has made herself ready.” Beloved, are we preparing as Madeline? Are we making ourselves ready? Our goal must be to faithfully seek Him, obey His will, and be ready for that allotted time when we are to finish our race.
Our place in heaven is given according to our development here on earth. The saints in heaven will differ in rank and responsibility. This is proven by many scriptures. Moses and Elijah are called the anointed ones that stand before the God of the earth, Rev.11:4, Zech.4:12-14. Daniel has his appointed lot, Dan. 12:13. Teachers of righteousness are called great if they are faithful and live what they teach, Mt.5:19. John the Baptist has a pre-eminent position, as shown to us by Christ when He said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist,” Mt.11:11. The humble man is also given an elevated position as is seen in Matthew 18:4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I knew a pastor who has gone on to be with the Lord. One of the members of his congregation had a vision of what it was like when he went into heaven. An angel met him and took him to a large room with hundreds of people. Then these people began to greet the pastor. They welcomed him to heaven and said, “Thank you for that prophecy” or, “Thank you for that message; it did so much for me.” Others continued, “Thank you for that pat on the back; it meant so much to me,” or, “Thank you for that encouragement you gave me.” Each of these would be called a small thing here on earth, but they were well remembered in heaven. The angel standing there placed a precious stone in the crown of this pastor for every one of these events in which he had blessed his church members.
Sadly, there are many others who do not finish their race well. And just as there are different levels of positions and glory in heaven, so there are different levels of punishment and torment in hell. The Lord made that very clear when He said in Matthew 11:23-24, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
The eternity of those who have known the truth and turned aside is far worse than of those who had never known the truth. This fact is illustrated by the testimony of a youth who was taken by the Lord into hell, as recorded by the ministry, Light for the Nations: “. . .we came to the most terrible section of hell, where the worse torments happen — the center of hell. There we saw the most concentrated forms of torment; such torments that a human being could never express them. The only people here were those who had known Jesus and had known the Word of God. There were pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and all types of people who had once accepted Jesus and had known the truth, but then had lived a double life. There were also other backsliders; and their suffering was a thousand times worse than anyone else. They were shouting and begging the Lord for mercy, but the Word of the Lord says in the book of Hebrews 10:26-27, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will devour those who oppose God.”
“Those souls were there because they had preached, fasted, sung, and lifted their hands in the church, but outside the church they were committing immorality, lying, or robbery. We cannot successfully lie to God. In Luke 12:47-48 the Lord said, ‘That servant who knows his lord’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’”
As I contemplate the many years of my life, I have seen so many fall by the wayside, some even after walking uprightly for many years. Ezekiel 33:13 says, “If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.” What is most important is how we end the race of life. May we end our life well, by the favor and grace of God.