READ: Psalm 26, Isaiah 37-39, John 19, Acts 5
THE JOYS OF EARTH
Before the things of earth grow strangely dim, we who still walk this fallen planet would be wise to enjoy its joys. Unusual as it sounds, there are some privileges of earth that heaven does not afford–deliverance, praise in pain, and suffering shame for Jesus’ sake all are things impossible to enjoy in heaven.
Deliverance: In heaven, of course, we will have the unbounded joy of being eternally free from all forms of the curse, and how we long for that unending liberty! But there is the raw joy of deliverance in the now. One day all enemies will be vanquished. One day there will be no one to be delivered from. We do not foolishly wish evil to continue that we might be delivered, but there is a delight in being rescued, in God saving for His own name’s sake. When God’s people are threatened, God considers it as a reproach against Himself (Isaiah 37:14, 23). God intervenes and saves us for His name’s sake. In other words, attacks against God’s people are in effect insults against God for the attacker is effectively saying God is not able to defend His own. God steps in and proves otherwise. Our salvation then is never about us–we are not the center of our deliverance. Rescue gives glory to the rescuer. Our salvation makes God look good. In heaven we celebrate this wonder retrospectively. On earth we are allowed the privilege of experience God magnifying Himself through rescuing us in real time.
Pain Praise: There is a type of praise only possible on this side of the grave. “Death cannot praise You!” is how Isaiah 38:17 puts it. There is a praise that can only ascend from earth. It is the agonized praise that rises from the midst of prison, sickness, trial, tragedy, loss, weariness, and pain. Heaven does not know this praise, for all those thorns have been taken away and burned forever. It is a privilege as long as we live to offer the praises of earth–pain praise is precious to Jesus. Heaven’s praise is pure and complete; earth’s praise is raw and in process. Heaven’s praise is from what is sure and seen; earth’s praise is by faith in the midst of danger and despair. One day we will praise from eternal safety and final deliverance, but in the now we have the opportunity to delight the heart of God by praising from our pain. We join Hezekiah in saying: “The living man–he shall praise You, as I do this day” (v. 19).
Suffering Shame: Heaven will wipe away all tears and embarrassment. In Acts 5:41 the apostles rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. What an honor it is to be counted an associate of Jesus and in some small way receive a tiny portion of the scorn He endured for us. Gladly we will be free of shame one day, but in the now, we too should count it a privilege to suffer for Jesus. It is a priceless opportunity, and a passing one. Let us enjoy the joys of earth while they are yet available. The beauty of earthly struggle is that we can offer it as precious praise to Jesus in a way that is not possible in heaven. We are not glorifying evil, pain, or shame–these are bad things. We are determining that bad things are going to cause us to glorify a good Jesus. Therein is a double delight–God’s and ours.