What Holds Some People Back?
What is Heaven like? I’m actually reading a book about that right now. Oddly enough, you can read several accounts on near death experiences, but the Bible should be viewed as the authority on Heaven. This isn’t actually a chapter about Heaven. It’s just a question I want readers to ponder. If you’re like I was when I was younger, you pictured a world where you only did the things you liked doing here on Earth. Maybe Heaven is where you do nothing but watch football. Maybe Heaven is just a never ending feast with all your friends and family. Maybe Heaven is a giant party. None of those theories about Heaven are anywhere near correct, but I’m building to a point, so please bare with me.
While this isn’t a chapter about Heaven, I will tell you one thing I know without any reservation. Whatever you imagine Heaven is, Heaven is greater. The problem is that humans only know this broken, sinful Earth. Sure, there are fun things on Earth. But when we become fixated on the things of this world and start imagining Heaven as anything like this place, we’re not giving Heaven enough credit.
Imagine the best day of your life to this date. Imagine the happiest you’ve ever been. One second of Heaven will make that day seem worthless by comparison.
So why, then, would anyone not want to go to Heaven? Why, then, would anyone not seek the path to such a place?
The things that hold people back from believing are often tied to the pleasures of this Earth. God, our loving Father who gives us such wonderful things, blessed this world with so many wonderful things. One thing I feel happens though is that we start to see the gifts as God rather than the God who made the things we enjoy so much.
These gifts, which in and of themselves may not be sinful, become idols, which makes the action sinful. I’ve mentioned previously that anything you’re willing to sin to obtain or sin because you don’t get is an idol. One should look at their lives and consider those things. Time is a wonderful thing, and I struggle mightily with “my time.” The second I consider it mine, I’ve placed myself and the thing on which I want to spend my time on God’s throne.
These idols hold us back from the Kingdom because we’ve made that activity or action the ideal in our mind. However, Heaven is so much greater than anything you could do here on Earth. This is why Christians should be fixated on getting there. Maybe rather than imagine Heaven as a place where we can only do things we do here, we should imagine Heaven as a place where no matter how fun what we’re doing right now is, being in Heaven will be that much better.
Another thing that holds people back is money. Of course we want good things. Of course we want to provide for our family and ensure we have a comfortable retirement. It’s not sinful to have money. What is sinful is to make money God. God, who created the heavens and the earth; God, who created the world and the fullness therein, doesn’t need money. When you’re with him, you won’t either. His very presence and person is light and joy.
The concept of wealth is something I wonder about sometimes. Why do we need money? To buy stuff. What stuff? Food. People can plant food and raise animals for food. Sure, you’d have to buy the animals, but it could be done. This world has done an amazing job of convincing us that we “need” so many things. When you think about it though, humans don’t really need a lot to survive. Yet the quality of that survival is dependent upon amenities that span beyond survival. Sure, feed me some slop, shelter me from the elements, and provide me water, and I will continue to exist. However, we thrive as we have more.
So we’ve developed the thought that money is the need when money was literally invented as an exchange for the goods we actually need to sustain ourselves or thrive. Even in this world, money isn’t the need. At best, money is the means by which we obtain those needs. But Biblically, that’s not the way it really works. The way we obtain our needs is seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness. If we do these things, our Father, who is in Heaven, will add to us all these other things (Matthew 6:33).
How will God provide? He’s God! He’ll do it however he wants. But if he can arrange for the survival of wild animals and plants, he can absolutely ensure the survival of the race he created last, humanity, who are worth so much more than birds and plants.
So is money really sinful? Not in and of itself. Solomon was the wealthiest, wisest man of all time. Daniel was a king. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. These are all saints. None of them were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they had good times. They also had bad times. David was chased throughout Israel. He had to live in caves and beg priests for food (1 Samuel). Joseph was sold into slavery and then thrown into prison (Genesis). Solomon wrote an entire book of the Bible speaking about how he’d gone chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes).
It’s hard for people with money to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:23).
I’m of the opinion that this is true because we start to worship the money rather than the God who blessed us with such wealth to begin with.
One who sees the kingdom of Heaven rightly, as so much better than all the wealth of the earth, wouldn’t covet that money so much.
That doesn’t mean we should be foolish or unwise with the money God entrusted to us. It just means we need to remember that this, too, is a gift from God, and we should worship the creator, not the creation.
It’s hard for me not to think about money sometimes. I have to remind myself that it’s not money I need, it’s God, the creator of all things who can give me everything I need. Like anyone, I work hard to earn a living. I aspire to earn more as an author. I wish I could send my sons to a Christian school. I want to pay cash for college for my sons. I never want to be in debt again. The trick is focusing on God rather than money.
There is a trick to being content in all situations (Philippians 4:11-13). It’s being focused on God.
We get held back because we blind ourselves with the things of this world. If our hard times become an opportunity to glorify God and seek Him and be grateful to Him for all He does, all will be well. If in our abundance we praise God and use what he entrusted to us to do His will, all will be well.
Maybe we think Heaven isn’t so great because some people we love won’t be there. Have you ever heard the phrase, “All my friends are in Hell”?
This one baffles me as a person. I’ve been through some hard times. And while the people we love can help us through these times, that doesn’t make them any less hard does it? Think about the Holocaust. Let’s imagine Hell as an eternal Holocaust (it isn’t; it’s so much worse, but it’s the closest analogy I know on this earth). If I promised you that every person you ever even liked a little bit would be there, would you really want to go there? Is there any amount of friends and family being beside you that would make such a horrid existence something you’d willingly go to?
Wouldn’t you instead do everything in your power to avoid such a fate and help those you love to do the same? Welcome to evangelism!
There isn’t a single person on this earth, no matter what he or she may have done to me, who I’d wish to experience that sort of thing. Sure, I’ve been angry and wanted justice or even vengeance, but even just based on the two or so books I’ve read about the Holocaust, I wouldn’t put anyone through that.
Instead, I want to go to Heaven. I want to go there so much I’m willing to give whatever I have to. But what we must give isn’t a sacrifice or offering. Instead, we must accept Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). We must believe He lived a perfect life. We must believe He died for our sins. We must believe He was resurrected on the third day, and we must pick up our cross and follow Him.
That means letting go of the things that turn us from him, and we all have work to do that. I know I do, but it’s worth it. We talk sometimes about Heaven and Hell. There are people who believe in Heaven, but they don’t believe in Hell. I’d argue that even if Hell weren’t a real place (it is), that any place not Heaven is Hell. That’s how great Heaven is. There are people who believe in Hell and not Heaven. Neither of these groups of people make a ton of sense to me, but they’re out there. I’d do anything to avoid Hell and keep those I love from going there.
Please look closely at your life and the things you fixate on. Believers, fixate on Christ. I know you have children to care for and a wife to love (and God commands us to do so). I know you have to provide for your live,s and I promise I understand the need for rest and the desire to pursue goals. I simply beg you, make getting closer to God your primary goal. Consider anything that takes you from Him antithetical to your overall mission.
For our panel: Are you willing to discuss an idol in your life that you struggled to turn away from? What are some other things that hold us back from the kingdom? What do we do when we recognize an idol, but still covet it even though we know it’s wrong? What is Heaven really like? What is Hell really like?