3 : 12 December 2004

Live With Heaven in Mind
Pastor Dave Strem with James Skeen


When it looks like the curtain has come down on a tragedy and tears are running down your face because you do not like what is happening, I want you to know that instead of the lights going out, God raises the curtain again because it is not over. God sets the stage for a brand new scene that causes the audience to erupt into praise and shouts of joy. Open your Bibles to Philippians chapter two. We are going to look at God's instructions of how to get good out of bad situations. Philippians 2 shows us how to snatch victory out of the hands of defeat. As Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over until it's over" and this morning you need to realize that God is the one who says when it is over.


Philippians 2:8 says:

Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Therefore, because he humbled himself, obeyed and died on the cross, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, continue to work out you salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.


As we look around our problem infested world, it may look like death and evil win, but there is more to the story. And if you miss it, you miss the purpose, direction, and hope that God wants to give your life. Not just at the end, but through each and every day as you walk toward that end.

Verse 9 says: "Therefore God exalted Christ to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name." In the life of Jesus, it looked like Satan and death won. If you saw the movie "The Passion," do you remember how you felt as Jesus suffered and then gave up His last breath on the cross? Do you remember the look on Satan's face, the smirk? The smile that says "I have got you now!" His victory dance was short-lived because death was swallowed up in victory -- both in the resurrection of Christ and also in the ascension of Christ where Jesus was seated at the right hand of God the Father.


God the Father exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is better than any other name. The two phrases "the highest place" and "the name above every other name" means that He has been given total authority. The word for "Lord" means master, supreme ruler, the one who has total authority. He is Lord of all creation. He demonstrated His care and dedication to us and He is entrusted with power and authority. It says: "Therefore, Jesus earned the Father's reward by his self-sacrifice and humility in obedience." It did not end at the cross for Jesus and you need to remember it does not end with the grave for you.

First Thessalonians tells us clearly:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first and then after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we shall be with the Lord forever.


When it looks like it is over, God sets the final stage. Keep heaven in mind. There is another scene that we do not see played out during our lifetime. It goes beyond what we can see. It is described for us in Revelation chapter 21. It says:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and earth had passed away. I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven prepared as a bride, beautiful for her husband. And I heard a loud voice of the throne saying, now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eye. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things is passed away.


There is a new stage, a new scene. It is not over yet. When it looks like it is over, God sets the final scene. So keep heaven in mind! Live like you are a future citizen of heaven, not as one who invests everything he or she has in the here and now with no thought toward the implications of the eternal future that is in God's control.

Jesus Himself promised,

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will certainly come back and take you to be with me that you might be where I am. That you and I and the Father might be one.

Second Timothy says it clearly.

Jesus, our Savior, has destroyed death revealing real life here and now as well as an immortal future life in eternity.

Do not be short-sighted in life. There is more than the here and now that you see. Keep heaven in mind!

Secondly, when it looks like it is all over, you need to remember that Jesus is in control. Verse 10:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, on earth and even under the earth. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.


Every being will acknowledge it, but many will not accept it and be at peace with it. The Father demonstrated His great love for us that He sent us His beloved Son. And His Son demonstrated His great worthiness and great love for us by giving His life for us. Therefore, the Father gave Him the keys to all of His creation. He is essentially saying,

You are worthy of caring for it. I trust you to use your authority effectively.

Satan would not use such authority for the greater good. Satan would use it for his own glory. We would use it for our own aggrandizement. But Jesus used it as a service opportunity to demonstrate God's love and mercy.


Inspired by the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2, Peter recognized the supreme position given Jesus Christ. When the church was just getting started in the immediate days after Jesus' ascension, Peter went to those who crucified Jesus and told them, "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." Ephesians makes it very clear. "God placed all things under his feet." And Revelation paints a vivid picture.

Then I heard the voice of a hundred million angels singing, worthy is the Lamb who is slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory. Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and all the sea and all that is in them singing, to him be praise and honor and glory forever and forever.

God has placed Jesus in control. He has been given the power to control because He has the character that makes Him worthy of the Father's trust.

Jesus said in John 14 that He has prepared a place for you. It is not over until you are there. He said, "Do not worry. I will return for you. You can count on it." Jesus promised that He will return to earth to distribute justice and rule in a righteous manner. Death does not end it for us. You can trust in His promises concerning your future. He is worthy of our trust. Living with heaven in mind will give your life and death special meaning.


Thirdly, we are not alone. Verse 12 says, "Therefore, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Did you catch that? God is at work in you. The Almighty Creator, the Designer, the Sustainer of the universe is actively involved in shaping your attitudes, inspiring your actions and guiding your thought process; but never without your participation. The God of the universe wants to be involved in your life and the decisions you make. That should take your breath away.

You have the Almighty God, the Controller, the Wise One, the One who has the power and strength and love for your life saying, "I am here to help. I want to be involved in your life. I want to give you what you need to get you through this next week. I want to help you with those temptations you are facing. I want to be with you when you talk to that man because you are going to need all the patience you can muster, and more." He is there to be with us and that should take our breath away. Verse 12 says, "…with fear and trembling." Fear and trembling simply means that you are to take it seriously, with respect and passion, to hunger for, to long for, to know that He is there to work with you in what He is trying to do in you.


The question is, "Will you work with Him?" He wants to work on you, but He will not work on you, will not work in you without you working on you. We all say that we want God to work in us, to fix us. "Lord, will you just do that for me, take that, give me more patience."

And God says, "I'll give you more patience, but there is only one way to get patience. You are going to go through some hard things and then as you go through them, I will strengthen you and you will grow patience." "Lord, give me more faith."

You will be faced with challenges that will test your belief in God. Without that test, without that challenge, there is no need for faith. God will grow it in you. God wants to work on you and work in you. He is with you. You are not alone and that is why He says to work out your salvation as God works in you.


Many think that salvation refers only to what happens to us after we die physically. Although it does refer to this truth it entails so much more. Ephesians 2:10 says: "... you are created as his workmanship for good works to be active as he leads which he has predestined from eternity past." He has designed you for good works and He participates in your life to encourage those good works to come out of your heart and into the lives of those around you.

Some people practice piano for years and years and never play anyplace except in their living room for themselves. God wants you to let it out. Let that musical gift be a blessing to somebody else. Let out what God has put in you. God wants to put good things in you so you will let it out and be a blessing to others around you. Some of you do not want to grow anymore. "Every time you talk about growing it gets hard and my life is hard enough right now."


The reason it is hard is because God loves you and He wants the best for you, not as the materialistic world we live in counts "best," but best from an eternal, spiritual perspective. Let me say this. When you are healthy, wealthy, and self-sufficient you do not think you need God. When you think you have all the answers, God is not in the forefront of your mind. You think about the next football game. "Is it time to trade in a car?" "You know, that flowerbed out in front of the house needs to at least get petunias in it this season." These concerns define your life. You have no time or interest in considering the things of God. Is it any surprise that God allows problems to come into our lives if that is what it takes to get our attention?


This earthly life is designed to include troublesome times because we need to be reminded that this world is not the end, that it is only temporary. Jesus promised that we will always have troubles. The world will bring troubles into our lives. It is not God, it is the world itself that brings many of these troubles into our lives. "But take heart, I have overcome the world," Jesus said. God is invested in your life. You are not alone. God wants to work in and through you.

When it looks like it is over, realize that actually it is just getting started. When your earthly life ends, realize, it is just beginning. Larry Peter, a blessed brother, is near death. This blessed brother is struggling to breathe. His lungs can barely take in oxygen. He can hardly see anything. He can hardly hear. But soon his life is going to begin. Soon he is going to be taking a deep breath right beside his Savior. He is going to look across the valley of the shadow of death and see those little wildflowers growing on the hill on the far side and see every petal on them. He is going to hear the whisper of his Lord's voice in his ear. "Well done, good and faithful servant." Larry's life is getting ready to begin. It is getting ready to start for eternity.


In the days and weeks and the months that God gives you, will they count for anything, or are you just marking time in your life until you are resting in a pine box? Will the days He gives you amount to anything? If you let Him work in you and then work through you to touch others around you, your life will count for something in God's eyes. God has great things planned for your life, but you have to let Him in. You have to invite Him. That starts the whole process. Until then, you are trying to do it on your own.


Somebody e-mailed me a picture this last week. When the hurricanes were blowing, there were all kinds of billboards blown down. But one of them on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, stood strong but had its message changed. The high winds blew several of the outer layers away to reveal an old sign that was covered over quite some time ago. Remember a couple years ago when they had all those black signs with white letters that were purchased by Christians. "Don't make me come down there and talk to you. God." "Got Faith?"

Those type of signs. The people sponsoring these signs ran out of money so they have not been seen for quite a while. And then during the latest hurricane, one of the messages was revealed. It said: "We need to talk. God." Was this just a coincidence, that it ripped away several other signs to reveal this particular message? Can God make it any clearer? What does He have to do? Give you a sign? Yeah. We laugh and think it is cute. Do you realize God wants to talk to you? Do you realize God wants to hear from you? Will you listen to Him? Will you allow Him to work in your life?


James Skeen