A Healing Service, A Widow, A Book, A Truth

This past Monday evening, we had our monthly healing service at Good Shepherd.

And the most interesting thing happened.

A woman who is actually a member of another United Methodist Church in Charlotte came and as the service wound down, she made her way to my prayer station. After introducing herself, she said that she had been widowed a year ago and that The Storm Before The Calm had helped her get through her grief.  

As you might suspect, that was music to my ears.

She went on: “Yes, that chapter about ‘Storm Shelter’ and how the reality of heaven IS peace on earth … that has helped so much.”  

Drawing from Isaiah 25:4 and 25: 8 —

You have been a refuge for the poor,
    a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
    and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless

he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken —

here’s what the pivotal part of that chapter has to say:

If you’re in the middle of a storm that’s not of your own making, a storm that shows no sign of letting up, here is what Isaiah says to you: The assurance of heaven is your shelter on earth. This is not a cliché; it’s not a denial of how hard life can be; it’s not a way of lip-syncing your way through difficulty. It’s a deeply God-centered way of looking at the world. This storm rages, but we know that it’s temporary and short-lived when compared to the love for all eternity that awaits us. That truth, that assurance, that constant self-reminder, is not just a way of coping with our problems. It is shelter. It is peace. You have to anticipate Isaiah 25:8 to appreciate Isaiah 25:4!

The assurance of heaven is your shelter on earth.

You may have heard the line that “some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” As clever as that sounds, the reverse is true! The more heavenly minded you are, the more earthly serenity you receive, and the more good you can do. Know this: If you trust in Christ for salvation (or even if you don’t), you’ll be dead a lot longer than you’ll be alive. My mother is ninety-nine years old, and she still writes and plays tennis. That seems to us like a long time to remain active and healthy, but the fact is that ninety-nine years is still very short compared to eternity. The storm is temporary, but what happens after you die will last forever. And if you live in the confidence that Jesus Christ is victorious, that confidence will be your shelter in whatever storm may come. What death did to Jesus is nothing compared to what Jesus did to death. He swallowed death up in victory and rendered it powerless. That assurance can define your life. The assurance of heaven is your shelter on earth.

I remember from my days as a tournament tennis player that the key to hitting a good shot was to see it before you hit it. The technique is called visualization, and it’s especially effective with the serve. Many times before I’d line up to hit that shot, I’d see a perfect serve in my mind before I wound up to hit it. And with surprising regularity, it worked! It’s a proven way of seeing where you’re going before you even get there. As long as you don’t lose sight of where you’re going, you can make sense of today. You can handle the trip getting there.

The assurance—and anticipation—of heaven is your shelter on earth.

One lady on the American frontier, before she died, told her family that she wanted to be buried to the east of their cabin, with her feet pointed to the east. Why? “So that when I get up on resurrection morn the sun will be in my face!” When you have that kind of trust and confidence and even anticipation, you can endure anything.

The assurance of heaven is your shelter on earth.

Once eternity is settled, everything else in life comes into proper perspective. One of Methodism’s many gifts to the larger world of Christian thought is our doctrine of assurance. It’s the first cousin of what our Baptist friends call “once saved, always saved” and what our Presbyterian siblings call “the perseverance of the saints.” Methodism’s teaching on assurance reminds us that while it’s possible for a person of faith later to deny that faith (see Hebrews 6:4-8, for example), such denial is by no means inevitable.