All my life (almost) I have heard it said that
the most important thing in one's life is getting to heaven.
Parishioners have said to me, "I don't care about having some palace in
heaven like the Apostle Paul will have; he suffered so much for Christ,
beaten and stoned and imprisoned, etc., and he will deserve a glorious
mansion there; but if I can just squeak by through the pearly gates,
that's all I want!" What they are actually saying is, "What's the least
I can give up and sacrifice for Christ so I can somehow get in? What's
the lowest-priced 'ticket' that will take me to heaven, maybe
third-class? How much of the world can I still love, and also gain
heaven?" But getting to heaven is not the most important goal: what's
important is being happy when you get there. One thing is for sure: you
and I are going to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.
When we look into the eyes of the Son of God who was crucified for us, we may say to Him, "Thank You, Lord, for letting me squeak into heaven," but we will hang our heads in shame and say, "Oh, Jesus, I am so sorry that I am empty-handed here today; I spent my life and my strength in watching that silly TV, going to the theater, making money, and chasing pleasure. I wish I could live my life over again!"
And then one glorious day in the New Earth you'll be out walking in the fields, and you will meet a man with a glowing face who will want to shake hands with you. He will say, "My name is Paul, I'm the apostle. Oh, I praise the Lord for His great sacrifice for me; He bore the burden of all my sin; He died under the curse of God, for me; He went to hell to find me and save me. Oh, I am so thankful that He gave me the privilege of suffering for Him. I was 'in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils often of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in cold and nakedness, . . . ' tell me, how much did you suffer for Christ?"
If you must hang your head and say, "It was the most I could do to get up early enough in Sabbath morning to drag myself late to Sabbath school and worship services and sit on cushioned pews, I managed to give a little tithe and offerings, and I spent a week or ten days helping build a school in the Third World, but sorry, I never really suffered for Christ," you will probably feel like asking Paul where is the nearest exit. And what will be the actual difference between your testimony and that of Paul? Was he a greater person than you are? No! He simply SAW something you and I have not seen - what it cost the Son of God to save us. When you and I can see THAT, then "the love [agape] of Christ [will] constrain us henceforth" to live not for self, but for Him. Sacrifice for Him will be "easy," as He said (Mt 11:28-30).
Your Christian servant,