“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21; NASB).
Jonathan Edwards was a man who longed for heaven. In one sermon he said,
“Labor to obtain such a disposition that you may choose heaven for your inheritance and home, and may earnestly long for it and be willing to [exchange] this world, and all its enjoyments, for heaven. Labor to have your heart taken up so much about heaven, and heavenly enjoyments, as that you may rejoice when God calls you to leave your best earthly friends and comforts for heaven, there to enjoy God and Christ….Let nothing stop or discourage you, or turn you aside from this road. And let all other concerns be subordinated to this.”
That heavenly passion is seemingly rare today. To be too heavenly minded is to be or no earthly good, we are told. Yet the Bible instructs us that being heavenly minded is the means by which we live most effectively on earth. For instance, longing for heaven will:
- fulfill our deepest, eternal longings. To see the face of God and fellowship with Him was the longing of Job (19:25-27), Moses (Ex. 33:18), David (Ps. 16:11; 27:8-9), Peter (Lk. 9:33), Philip (Jn. 14:8), and Paul (Phil. 1:21-23). And it is ours as well. Every longing for joy is ultimately a longing for heaven — the place where joy will be known in infinite fullness and without blemish.
- keep our problems in Biblical perspective. Our burdens tend to overwhelm us. Longing for heaven, and focusing on the delights that will be ours there (seeing God being the preeminent joy) will enable us to see that our earthly concerns are fleeting and light in comparison to the eternal weightiness of fellowship with God (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
- provide us with motivation for holiness. Yearning for heaven will result in a desire to be now what we will be in eternity (Phil. 1:9-11; 1 Jn. 3:2).
- provide us with motivation for service (Col. 1:28-29; Phil. 1:21-26). Our joy and goal is to “present every man complete in Christ,” and our greatest understanding of that completeness comes from meditating on the place where we will be complete — heaven (Rom. 8:30b).
- encourage our hearts with hope (Rom. 8:18-25). Since Genesis 3, every man has been on a collision course with death. Every man struggles with sin and longs to be released from it. Every man longs for the fellowship that was interrupted by sin and cannot be fully restored until we are completely transformed. Heaven is that confidence which strengthens us to continue living for Christ. J. Oswald Sanders noted that there is a saying in Africa, “Only mention home to the weary traveler, and his legs become as bars of iron.” That is what the mention and thought of heaven does for the believer.
So think about (meditate on) heaven. Pray for Christ’s return daily. Think thoughts that are other-worldly. Read books and writings that focus on the eternal and not the temporal (as an example, you might consider Jonathan Edwards’ funeral sermon for David Brainard or the books Heaven or Heaven Revealed). Anticipate and long for the glory of heaven. For being there is very much better than being here (Phil. 1:23).
Do not be so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good, for when we are heavenly minded, we will be of the greatest earthly good.