Elevate 28 - A 28 Day Challenge to Intentionally Engage with God's Word
"in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies,
promised before the ages began"
The Hope of Eternal Life
By Billy Graham, December 24, 2014
Some of you have been stunned by the sudden passing of a consecrated person—a godly pastor, a devout missionary or a saintly mother. You have stood at the open grave with tears coursing down your cheeks and have asked, “Why, O God, why?”
Allow me to assure you that the death of the righteous is no accident. Do you think that the God whose watchful vigil notes the sparrow’s fall and who knows the number of hairs on our heads would turn His back on one of His children in the hour of peril? With Him there are no accidents, no tragedies and no catastrophes as far as His children are concerned.
The Apostle Paul, who lived most of his Christian life on the brink of death, expressed triumphant certainty about life beyond this realm of time and space.
When things didn’t work out according to Paul’s plan, he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
When his tired, bruised body began to weaken under the load, Paul said in triumph: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
The world called Paul foolish for his belief that men could become partakers of eternal life through faith. But he jutted out his chin and said, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Every one of these triumphant affirmations rings with the immortal truth that the death of the righteous is unlike the death of the unrighteous.
Though Christians have no immunity from death, death is to them a friend rather than a foe—the beginning rather than the end.
Paul believed in Christ and committed his all to Christ. The result was that he knew Christ was able to keep him against that day. Strong faith is the result of unconditional commitment to Jesus Christ.
A Wonderful Hope
One of the bonuses of being a Christian is the wonderful hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and of a non-Christian as there is between Heaven and hell.
The death of the righteous is not to be feared—it is not to be shunned. It is the shadowed threshold to the palace of God. No wonder Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10).
Let’s notice some of the statements in the Bible about the death of a Christian, as distinguished from the death of a sinner who refuses or neglects to believe in Jesus Christ.
First, to the Christian, death is said in the Bible to be a coronation. The picture here is that of a regal prince who, after his struggles and conquests in an alien land, comes to his native country and court to be crowned and honored for his deeds.
The Bible says we are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in Heaven. To those who are faithful, Christ will give a crown of life. Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
When D.L. Moody was dying, he looked up to Heaven and said, “Earth is receding; Heaven is opening. This is my coronation day.” Yes, death is the Christian’s coronation, the end of conflict and the beginning of glory and triumph in Heaven.
Second, the Bible speaks of death for a Christian as a rest from labor. The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … they may rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13). It is as if the Lord of the harvest says to the weary laborer, “You have been faithful in your task, come and sit in the sheltered porch of my palace and rest from your labors—enter now into the joy of your Lord.”
Third, the Bible speaks of death as a departure. When Paul approached the valley of the shadow of death he did not shudder with fear; rather he announced with a note of triumph, “The time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
The word departure literally means “to pull up anchor and to set sail.” Everything that happens prior to death is a preparation for the journey. Death marks the beginning, not the end. It is a solemn, dramatic step in our journey to God.
Believers know, as did Paul, that “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). The Christian says “Goodbye,” but only until the day breaks and the shadows flee.
Fourth, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a transition. Paul wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Death to the Christian is the exchanging of a tent for a building. Here we are as pilgrims or refugees, living in a frail, flimsy home—subject to disease, pain and peril. But at death we exchange this crumbling, disintegrating tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The wandering wayfarers come into their own at death and are given the title to a mansion that will never deteriorate or crumble.
A Place Prepared for Us
Do you think that the God who has provided so amply for living has made no provision for dying? Bear this in mind: The hope of eternal life rests solely and exclusively upon your faith in Jesus Christ! Make no mistake about this.
Before Jesus told His disciples about the many mansions and before He gave them the hope of Heaven, He said, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Then He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
Eternal life comes by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it in the Bible’s words, here is the secret of the blessed hope: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36).
When Christians die, they go straight into the presence of Christ—to Heaven—to spend eternity with God. An unsaved sinner’s destiny is separation from God, a place that Jesus has called hell.
I wonder where you are going. Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? Have you been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God? You may say, “I’d like to know that I am going to Heaven—I would like to have this hope in my heart, that when I die I will go into the presence of Christ. I don’t want to be lost—I don’t want to go to hell—I don’t want to have to face the searching judgment of God.”
If you say that, then read Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
There is no judgment, no hell, for those who are in Christ. You can confess your sins, turn your back on your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior now.
At this moment, you can bow your head and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). He will hear that simple prayer. The Spirit of God will come into your heart.
You will become a partaker of eternal life. You can have the hope of Heaven today, so that if you died tonight, you would be ready to meet your God. You would go straight into His presence!
Even if you are an elderly man or woman lying on a sickbed and you have never made your peace with God, it is still not too late. The dying thief on the cross turned to Christ and said, “Lord, remember me.” And Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
William Franklin Graham Jr. was an American evangelist, a prominent evangelical Christian figure, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who became well-known internationally in the late 1940s. One of his biographers has placed him "among the most influential Christian leaders" of the 20th century.
REFLECT & RESPOND
As a family or small group - make an Eternal Life Promise Calendar for your home, bedroom, or office.
Each scripture used to create the calendar should speak to God’s Promise of Eternal Life.
Here are some examples:
· Titus 1:2
· John 6:47
· 1 John 2:16 – 17
· Romans 6:23
· John 14:2
Use the scripture images provided to create your calendar pages. Feel free to find other scriptures online that can represent calendar months.
Another option for younger children is to illustrate applicable scripture or use coloring pages to make the calendar. See coloring page links.
You will need 12 scripture images – for each of the 12 months. You don’t have to use 12 different scriptures – but try to use varying images for each month.
Follow this link for a free calendar template: https://www.calendarlabs.com/blank-calendar/
Hang your calendar in a place that your family and/or group will be able to see it often.
This activity was provided by the Teacher Love Project - a Why Not Charleston community education initiative. The Teacher Love Project aims to provide love and encouragement to teachers that will elevate their wellness and care and therefore, enhance student achievement. We must care for those who care for our children - we must love each other because God loved us first.
"We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:19
by Taraea L. Griffith
Father I seek first your kingdom and your righteousness and everything else will be given to me as well. Whatever I do, I do to the least with humility as a righteous vessel having eternal life. This day I leave behind my possessions, family, and anything that may hinder me for your sake knowing I will receive a hundred times as much and I will inherit eternal life as I put you first in Jesus Christ name Amen
Taraea L. Griffith lives in Charleston with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She is a poet and writer, and making an offering of her special gifts and talents as a Why Not Charleston 2020 contributor.
THRU THE LENS - FINDING YOURSELF IN GOD'S WORD
A blog by regular men and women about finding themselves in God's world
By: Shannon Sears
The last time I saw my mother she was being carried out of the house on a stretcher by paramedics. Her fever was so high, she did not even recognize who I was. Later that day, I remember my grandmother crying as she told me my mom might not even live through the night. I didn't understand what was going on. Just the night before, my mother sat on the couch telling me she was going to be ok and that she just had the flu. I was not allowed to hug her or touch her, or even be close to her, but she promised me all the hugs and kisses in the world when she got better. I never saw her again. She never got better and passed away just three weeks later.
Everything was such a whirlwind after that. Everyone was so upset, angry. I wasn't allowed to go to school, a funeral was being planned, and no one ever really explained to me what had happened, just that she was sick and now she's gone. Gone? Gone where? How? Why? At eight years old I was confused. Why wasn't she coming back? It all seemed so wrong and so unfair. The night of her funeral came. People tried to put on smiles. People joked about how my mom would have hated her make-up and the clothes she wore. I stood by her coffin thinking she looked like a plastic doll that was sleeping. I slipped a valentine's card in her hand and that's when I broke. I ran to the bathroom and turned off the light. I sat the the stall crying and I told God I hated him, did not want him in my life, he was unfair and mean. I blamed him for taking my mom away and he could just take me too or leave me alone.
Years later at the age of fourteen, I was sitting in a church on Folly Beach listening to Matt Taylor preach. I still wanted nothing to do with God and was only there because I had a crush on one of the boys I was with. As I sat there listening, the Holy Spirit started to come over me. Matt was preaching about death and how those in Christ go to heaven. He was talking about those that die from sickness will never be sick again, will never suffer. How those that die young, will always be beautiful and whole. He talked about joy, and life, and eternity. In those words the Lord spoke to me. He told me my mother had come to know him before she died and in knowing him, her brought her home to be with him for eternity. God's mercy came over me. The wall around my heart started to break and crumble.
The Holy Spirit revealed to me the promise of eternal life for my mother. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior that night. I just love how God works! Looking back, I see how first God revealed to me the promise of eternal life for my mother. I needed to know she was healthy and whole, young and beautiful. I needed that to heal my heart. With a healed heart and a growing love for Jesus, I now know the promise of eternal life for myself. I know that I am just passing through this world and one day, I will be called home to be with my God at his timing. I will be with him, my mother, and my brothers and sisters in Christ for all eternity.
Written by: Shannon Sears
Shannon Sears lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, Jimmie, their son, Elijah, their daughter Charlotte , and two cats.
She operates a dry cleaning business, serves in many capacitie