A busy mother of four often said, “Oh for the peace of the grave!” I like being busy, but that line crossed my mind this morning. I’ve papers to write and long articles to read for the course I’m taking, all due the end of this week. Also on the calendar are a baby shower, a funeral, a meeting, a doctor’s appointment, and finishing a book for book club, never mind the ordinary chores of daily life. I try to tell myself this is nothing compared to the schedule of the American president, but I don’t have his staff!
That mother was not serious in sighing, “Of for the peace of the grave,” nor am I, but it makes a nice lead into the devotional today. The topic is the nearness of heaven and I’m thinking how life can change from here to there, even in the blink of an eye.
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)
Spurgeon, who wrote the devotional, is often prompted by verses that only suggest his topic. He starts with the idea of joyful angels, skips the part about repentance, and lands on the topic of those on earth not being as far from heaven as it might seem. He begins by saying Jesus Christ is nearer than anyone else we know.
I know that is true. Sometimes the sense of Jesus’ presence is all that keeps me going. Then Spurgeon jumps from that to say that heaven and earth are also close together, even like “two ships moored close to one another.” With a vivid word picture, he adds that only “one short plank of death” will enable me to step from one to the other.
I think immediately of two accidents in yesterday’s news. In one, five members of one family died instantly when their car was hit by another that sped through a red light. That short plank took them in a moment from this life to the next. In the other accident, the daughter of a friend is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after her car hit a light pole. One short plank indeed. Life can change so quickly.
My ship on earth continuously moves closer to mooring alongside that heavenly vessel. I’ve finished the business of yesterday, even though I feel intimidated at the log for today. I’ve had a full cargo and now an emptying. I’ve known battles, victories and sorrows. But that other ship, as Spurgeon describes, is “all golden, with its ensign flying and its sails all spread, fair as the angel’s wing.” It remains always beside me, always ready, so when the time comes, I can leap from this dark one to the deck of that happy one, a golden deck on which I will sail forever.
Two additional thoughts catch my attention. One is that all who have gone before me form a “cloud of witnesses” as I sail. While live my life here, they look down and observe. These are described in Hebrews 11 then Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” Are they cheering? I hope so.
The other thought is of the angels. They rejoice when I repent, meaning they are also keeping an eye on me which is a great comfort. What else do these angels do? The Bible says they are mighty and quick to obey God’s commandments according to His Word — and they are my servants, sent to help me…
Are they (the angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
The bridge between the two ships is a dread for most, yet as the days go by, it helps me to remember that no one who has been redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ is very far from heaven. It could be hours or days or months before I step across that plank, but knowing it is such a quick, short bridge is actually a comfort. Even more, knowing that those on the other side are experiencing great joy and perfect peace is also a comfort. I’m not far from Jesus, and when I’ve weathered all the storms of life, I will anchor with Him and the saints of God within the port of everlasting peace.