As I was sitting in church with my husband one Sunday morning, our pastor stood up and said, “I’d like to pray for our friend Barbara who passed away.” I really don’t remember any of the prayer because I was in shock. I fought back tears for the rest of the service as my husband held my hand, comforting me. You see, Barbara was a dear friend of mine. She was a woman of great faith and inspiration to me. I had known her for about 12 years, going back to my former church. I loved everything about her. From her tenacity to her zeal for life. She had a thirst for reaching out to help those in need and had a heart after Jesus.
I mourned the entire day, thinking about her constantly. When a loved one dies, it is OK to grieve. To seek out solace and comfort. To experience all of the feelings and emotions that come with death. Everyone processes it differently. Some cry, some are quiet. Some are angry and some become numb. However we choose to process our emotions… it is all grief. Loss of the person who we loved. But friends, Heaven doesn’t grieve their loss of life. Heaven Rejoices! God rejoices in the life they lived here on earth but more importantly, the fact that they will be home. In Heaven with Him.
Looking back at the life of my friend, I realized that I had no reason for grief. Sure, I missed her. But she had lived a beautiful life and now was home with Jesus. I turned my heart to God and thanked Him for bringing her into my life. For the opportunity to walk alongside her for those 12 years and for the legacy that she left with her children and grandchildren. Heaven rejoiced, and I began to do so as well. I knew she was home with Jesus and that brought my heart an amazing sense of peace.
Over the next week, I had the opportunity to help plan and prepare a Celebration of Life ceremony with my pastor. I was honored to be able to speak at her service, sharing some of my favorite memories of her. And, as I spoke, I realized that Heaven rejoiced over the life she had lived. Yes, she had lived with stage 4 cancer for nine years. Undergoing multiple surgeries, treatments and living in daily pain. But she lived each day with joy. It’s the kind of joy that Scripture talks about in Romans 12:12-13 (NIV):
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
How is it possible to live with this type of joy while suffering from terminal cancer? To gain the strength to get up each day while in constant pain? How does someone not become angry and bitter with the hand they have been dealt? And how is someone able to focus on serving those in need instead of drowning in self-pity?
Friends, I can tell you how in one word…
Every once in awhile our pastor will ask a pop question during one of his sermons. Everyone gets “the deer in the headlights” look, like don’t call on me. And it’s so funny because the answer every time to his question is Jesus.
The answer to every problem we have. The answer to all our joys and sorrows. And my friend Barbara not only understood this, but she lived it out each day. And did so with complete JOY! Want to read more on joy? Check out this previous post Unspeakable Joy – Discover 3 Incredible Ways to Find Joy in Your Life
To live a life focused on Jesus, one in which Jesus is the answer to everything, we must live out Romans 12:12-13. We must learn how to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. These 3 things are the key to living a life that Heaven rejoices over.
JOYFUL IN HOPE
When we think of the word hope, it is commonly defined as “a wish” or “the strength of a person’s desire.” But Biblical hope is different. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, the hope that we can hang our hat on is so much more than a wish or desire. The World Council of Churches describes Christian hope as “the confident expectation of what God has promised, and its strength is in His faithfulness.” Scripture is filled with God’s promises.
Promises that remind us of who we are in Christ, that this is not our home and we are just visiting.
Promises of our true home in Heaven.
So, when we read and take in these Scriptures, we can know that God is faithful in upholding these promises that He has given us. Promises of eternal life with Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16 (NIV)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…” Jn 5:24 (NIV)
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Jn 6:40 (NIV)
These verses are God’s promises to us about hope. The hope that Jesus gives us. Reminding us that God has already planned an eternal home for us. That we are just visiting here on earth. Knowing that this life here is temporary. We can find hope in these promises on both our worst days and even on our best. My friend Barbara found hope in these promises. She knew that she was just visiting. Barbara knew in her heart that this was not her home. She lived every day as a gift from God. When she woke up, she said, “I want this day to count for Jesus.” And so, she lived a life that Heaven rejoiced over. Knowing that God numbered her days. When He had fulfilled her purpose here on earth, He would call her home. And she lived with hope and joy in that promise.
PATIENT IN AFFLICTION
No one likes to think about affliction. Honestly, not one of us enjoys anything that causes us pain or suffering. Yet, God tells us that we must be patient as we endure it. To be patient while we are undergoing trials of any kind, we must be able to find comfort in God. Our strength to persevere will be found in God alone. We see this in Scripture in Psalms 46:1-3 (NIV):
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… ”
No matter what we may be going through, God is with us. No matter how difficult things may be, God is there. We must hold onto these promises. We must stand firm and trust Jesus. Jesus Himself tells us this in Luke 21 as He talks about the trials Christians will face in the end-times. Jesus tells us to stay the course; that we will see our reward in Heaven.
Stand firm, and you will win life.” Lk 21:19 (NIV)
Stand firm, Jesus tells us. Persevere. Be patient in affliction. Your reward will come.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Js 1:12 (NIV)
We can be patient in our trials and in our sufferings because we know that God is our strength. He is our hope and the source of our comfort. Trusting Jesus, we can stay the course.
FAITHFUL IN PRAYER
Prayer is simply defined as “a conversation with God.”
I learned early on in my Christian walk that prayer was about me talking with God about the things that were on my heart and learning to listen to His promptings. His gentle nudges.
We are reminded countless times in the Bible that God hears our prayers. He wants to be in a relationship with us, and by praying, we give Him access to our hearts. Scripture shows us this in Luke 18:1 (NIV) as Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow. We all remember this story in which the widow goes to the town judge begging for justice. The judge is annoyed with her persistent requests and continues to refuse them. But finally, he gives in because of her constant pestering. But Jesus gives us a different message from this story as we see Him tell His disciples:
… they should always pray and not give up.” Lk 18:1 (NIV)
Jesus goes on to remind them that God will bring justice for His chosen people and hears those who cry out (PRAY!) to Him day and night. God is happy when we turn our hearts to Him in times of trouble. When we put our complete faith and trust in Him for solutions. We are to lay our concerns at the feet of Jesus. Lay our burdens at the cross. God wants us to live with joy and to rejoice in Him. And that is why we are told in Scripture:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6 (NIV)
A peace that will help us to stand firm in the trials and sufferings that we encounter.
Heaven rejoices when we live a joyful life full of hope in Jesus and look toward our eternal life. When we stand firm and persistent in afflictions that come our way. And Heaven rejoices when we remain faithful in prayer, trusting God to supply us with a sense of peace.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to give us hope in the life to come. Help us to be joyful in that hope, resting in your promises and your faithfulness. Show us how to remain patient throughout trials and at times when we suffer. May we open our hearts to you and be faithful in prayer, as we place our trust in You alone. Let Heaven rejoice in the life that we live out for you, Jesus. In your name we pray. Amen.