As of two weeks ago today, Nanci is with Jesus. So happy for her. Sad for us. But the happiness for her triumphs over the sadness. Grieving is ahead, and it will be hard, but these last years and especially this last month have given us a head start on the grieving process. I am so proud of my wife for her dependence on Jesus and her absolute trust in the sovereign plan and love of God.
Nanci is and always will be an inspiration to me. I have spent the last two weeks with family and friends, thanking God for His grace and the promises of Jesus that we will live with Him forever in a world without the Curse, and He will wipe away all the tears and all the reasons for the tears. All God’s children really will live happily ever after. This is not a fairytale; it is the blood-bought promise of Jesus.
What a great and kind God He is. As of March 28, Nanci now lives where she sees this firsthand, in the place where Joy truly is the air she breathes: “In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Thank you so much for all your prayers, some of you for four years of praying consistently for Nanci. My heart is full of gratitude to you. Don’t feel your prayers were not answered—many of them were, and many others were answered in a better way than we could ever ask.
Today’s blog is excerpted from my book We Shall See God. It’s the first of 50 entries drawn from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons on Heaven, and it’s entitled “Dying Is But Going Home.” It seems fitting to share right now. Spurgeon delivered this sermon on March 21, 1886, just three days after the death of his friend and fellow pastor Charles Stanford. In it, he encourages his congregation to view death as a home-going, as the gateway to full union with Christ:
Breathe the home air. Jesus tells us that the air of his home is love: “You loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Brothers and sisters, can you follow me in a great flight? Can you stretch broader wings than the condor ever knew and fly back into the unbeginning eternity? There was a day before all days when there was no day but the Ancient of Days. There was a time before all time when God only was, the uncreated, the only existent One. The Divine Three—Father, Son, and Spirit—lived in blessed camaraderie with each other, delighting in each other.
Oh, the intensity of the divine love of the Father to the Son! There was no world, no sun, no moon, no stars, no universe, but God alone. And the whole of God’s omnipotence flowed forth in a stream of love to the Son, while the Son’s whole being remained eternally one with the Father by a mysterious essential union.
How did all this which we now see and hear happen? Why this creation? this fall of Adam? this redemption? this church? this Heaven? How did it all come about? It didn’t need to have been. But the Father’s love made him resolve to show forth the glory of his Son. The mysterious story which has been gradually unfolded before us has only this one design—the Father would make known his love to the Son and make the Son’s glories to appear before the eyes of those whom the Father gave him.
This Fall and this redemption, and the story as a whole, so far as the divine purpose is concerned, are the fruit of the Father’s love to the Son and his delight in glorifying the Son.
That [the Son] might be glorified forever, [the Father] permitted that he should take on a human body and should suffer, bleed, and die. Why? So that there might come out of him, as a harvest comes from a dying and buried grain of wheat, all the countless hosts of elect souls, ordained forever to a joy exceeding bounds. These are the bride of the Lamb, the body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Their destiny is so high that no language can fully describe it. God only knows the love of God and all that it has prepared for those who are the objects of it.
Beloved, I am lost in the subject now. I breathe that heavenly air. Love surrounds all and conquers grief. I will not cause the temperature to fall by uttering any other words but this—hold your friends lovingly but be ready to yield them to Jesus. Don’t hold them back from the One to whom they belong.
When they are sick, fast and pray. But when they are departed, do much as David did, who washed his face and ate and drank. You will go to them; they cannot return to you. Comfort yourselves with the double thought of their joy in Christ and Christ’s joy in them. Add the triple thought of the Father’s joy in Christ and in them.
Let us watch the Master’s call. Let us not dread the question—who next, and who next? Let none of us start back as though we hoped to linger longer than others. Let us even desire to see our names in the celestial roll call. Let us be willing to be dealt with just as our Lord pleases.
Let no doubt intervene; let no gloom encompass us. Dying is but going home. Indeed, there is no dying for the saints. Charles Stanford is gone! Thus was his death told to me: “He drew up his feet and smiled.” Likewise you and I will depart. He had borne his testimony in the light, even when blind. He had cheered us all, though he was the greatest sufferer of us all. And now the film has gone from the eyes, the anguish is gone from the heart, and he is with Jesus. He smiled. What a sight was that which caused that smile!
I have seen many faces of dear departed ones lit up with splendor. Of many I could feel sure that they had seen a vision of angels. Traces of a reflected glory hung about their countenances.
Oh, brothers and sisters, we shall soon know more of Heaven than all the Christian scholars can tell us! Let us go home now to our own dwellings, but let us pledge ourselves that we will meet again. We will meet with Jesus, where he is, where we shall behold his glory.
Here are my reflections on Spurgeon’s sermon, also included in We Shall See God:
Charles Spurgeon, always God centered rather than man centered, starts this message on Heaven with an emphasis on the triune God, whose eternal fellowship among Father, Son, and Spirit is the basis for all our relational capacities and longings and joy.
Spurgeon, speaking this message at age fifty-one, passionately anticipated Heaven. He speaks with a warm fondness for his colleague Charles Stanford, who lived and preached in south London, not far from Spurgeon. Stanford had been blinded by glaucoma five years before his death, but he continued to write with the aid of a typewriter until his life ended, just before Spurgeon’s message.
Notice Spurgeon’s confidence that Heaven is the place of great union with Christ and reunion with redeemed loved ones. As a caring pastor, Spurgeon desires his people to understand that embracing the gospel should change their view of death. He says, “Let no doubt intervene; let no gloom encompass us. Dying is but going home.” Only six years later, at age fifty-seven, Spurgeon himself would go home to Jesus, joining his friend Charles Stanford.
Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death, “so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15, niv). In light of the coming resurrection of the dead, the apostle Paul asks, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, NIV).
We should not romanticize death. But those who know Jesus should realize that death is the gateway to never-ending joy.
Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life. This is why we should always seek to keep Heaven in our line of sight.
In 1952, Florence Chadwick stepped off Catalina Island, California, into the waters of the Pacific Ocean, determined to swim to the mainland. An experienced swimmer, she had already made history as the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways.
The weather that day was foggy and chilly; Florence could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam steadily for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water, her mother, in a boat alongside her, told her that she was close and that she could make it. But Florence, physically and emotionally exhausted, stopped swimming and was pulled into the boat. It wasn’t until she was on board that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day, she said, “All I could see was the fog. . . . I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
When you face discouragement, difficulty, or fatigue, or when you feel surrounded by the fog of uncertain circumstances, are you thinking, If only I could see the shore, I could make it?
Set your sights on Jesus Christ, the Rock of salvation. He is the One who has promised to prepare a place for those who put their hope in Him, a place where they will live with him forever. If we can learn to fix our eyes on Jesus, to see through the fog and picture our eternal home in our mind’s eye, it will comfort and energize us, giving us a clear look at the finish line.
When the apostle Paul faced hardship, beatings, and imprisonment, he said, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV). What gave Paul the strength and perspective to “press on toward the goal”? A clear view of Heaven.
Ask your Savior for His grace and empowerment, and keep your eyes on the shore. By His sustaining grace, you’ll make it.