It has just occurred to me today that I have not been looking forward to any special trip or big occasion in several months. On April 5, 2020, I settled into my retirement. It is mislabeled for me. I have not retired from pastoring Simpson. I have not retired from study — in fact, on an ongoing basis — I study more in a week now than I ever did. There were weeks here and there in my experience during which I studied as much; but now I study just because I love it and I study as much week in and week out! I have not retired from being creative in my sermon preparation and in my writing. But I am dependent on my retirement account and social security, and I expect to be in this exact situation as far as I can imagine into the future. So I have been missing something important that I suppose some folk in my situation have to discover anew. That something is the answer to the question, “What am I going to look forward to?”
There are two things I’m going to put my mind to looking forward to from now on. The first is a new day dawning. Psalm 118 has been coming to mind. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I had a friend that loved that verse — Dr. James Cecil. I believe God was behind it, but James was the human instrument responsible for my becoming Pastor of Simpson’s church. After he was diagnosed with a terminal illness he said to me that his hope was to see one more spring. He didn’t make it. He died that February. We do not have any powers to negotiate new days. So, I’m going to start now. I’m going to bed tonight looking forward to the new day tomorrow brings. If the answer to this old prayer is that I have another day on this ancient earth — “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” — then it will be a day already born in my imagination and a day formed in a plan to rejoice in it. I will look forward to new days from now on.
The second thing to look forward to is heaven. Psalm 118 is really focused on the second thing. The “day” is the day our glorification is complete. I thought through the question of what to look forward to today and decided I would put my mind — my imagination — my thoughts — my pondering — to looking forward to heaven, just like I used to look forward to a big trip planned in advance. To get me started I stacked up my unread books on heaven and started on the first one, Scot McKnight’s The Heaven Promise. I don’t know how it will turn out but after several pages meant to capture interest and warm up to the subject; Scot jumped in by focusing on “the single most important fact the Bible teaches about heaven [which] is that it is promised.” God promised it! God promised heaven! God has proven himself to be an expert promise keeper. And so I’m going to meditate on its coming. I am going to put my mind to envisioning heaven each night after I turn out the light.
I believe the trip will be the best one I have ever taken. I will see the most beautiful scenery I have ever imagined and the people will be the best people I have ever imagined being around. The one’s I knew before they died will have been transformed. I will find out for myself that the man who runs everything is even more clearly perfect and fun to be with than I have already come to know him to be. His name is Jesus.
© W. Stephen Williams
June 14, 2022
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