27 Jun The Closeness of Heaven
The following is a guest post from Kaycee Browning, a student at NC State who is serving with one of our Second City teams in S.Asia.
Occasionally, there are moments when heaven seems very close. I don’t mean that in a morbid sense of course; I’m referring to the moments when everything seems perfect and you just know that God’s love truly does endure forever. I’ve felt this way during moments of laughter and family, rainy afternoons with tea and my Bible, and the quiet thrill of worship when I realize the Gospel anew.
I didn’t think much of these times. Sometimes, I remembered to take the opportunity to praise God for the grace He’s given me, and sometimes I didn’t. Either way, these moments seemed mostly irrelevant.
My Second City team and I are currently in South Asia, serving with the field partners to further the mission of God within the city. This particular city is massive and growing, adding thousands to its population every day. It’s an exciting place- there is constant noise and bustle, friendly people everywhere, and a general willingness to listen to the Gospel. However, it’s also a dark place. Only about one percent of the population are Gospel-believing Christians, most people are extremely poor, and sexism and classism are considered both normal and moral. It’s a darkness that can only be relieved by the light of Christ.
One day, after a long and, from my perspective, fruitless day, I was thinking about this darkness. It was nearly evening, and the sky disappeared behind oncoming storm clouds. Streetlights flickered on, but only in the rich areas. Shadows crept over the slums and hovels. Cars seemed to move both faster and slower, as if people were rushing to beat the night home, but in doing so, confused the traffic even more than usual. I sat in a rickshaw, watching these events with dull eyes and bitter thoughts. I hated the way everyone pretended the slums didn’t exist, as though the darkness saved them from having to look. I hated the way drivers constantly honked, though it accomplishes absolutely nothing. I hated the droplets of rain beginning to fall, the dried sweat on my tunic, the fact that I had to wear long sleeves in the heat–
The rickshaw finally began to weave through the traffic. We passed a market, and I perked up. I like markets. The food on the stands always looks fresh, and the smell affirms this theory. Colorful dresses and scarves flutter in the wind, men and women walk as equals throughout, and craftsmen like tailors and woodcarvers sit beneath umbrellas. I’m sure there are markets like this in heaven, I thought. Then I frowned. I bet they are quiet though. I hate how loud it is here.
Immediately, God brought to mind a verse that had been shared during one of the team devotionals. 2 Timothy 4: 17-18 says “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
At the same time, God allowed me to completely reimagine the market. It was still loud, and people were everywhere, but it was awesome. Instead of hawkers vying for attention, what if people shouted God’s name for his glory? Instead of intense bartering, what if people talked over each other in their haste to tell of God’s wondrous deeds? What if my perspective, so darkened by sin, was replaced with the perspective that can only come from the Almighty God in heaven?
The verse changed in my mind. Rather than only being a slogan for missions, it caused me to realize God’s perfection and enduring love again. The Holy Spirit taught me that, though I could not understand the mysterious workings of God during seemingly fruitless days, being in South Asia was not about gathering numbers for God, as if He needs enough followers to be successful. No, he has already won the victory. He already has a heavenly kingdom. But God, because of the great love with which he loves us, has made it possible for his heavenly kingdom to be made known on earth. He sent his one and only Son to die the death that we deserved so that we might become heirs of this kingdom, sons and daughters of God!
This world, this noisy, colorful, dreary, curious, and dark world, is truly passing away. People die and slums grow. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. God has gifted us, his children, with a message that all the lost might hear. He has given us the Gospel, the only message that can light the darkness, the only message that can cause people to desire God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And his will is so, so good. His will and his plan are so much bigger than mine. I could only see noise and discomfort where he sees people to love and opportunities for his children to know him better. Heaven is close, because the God of Heaven, the one without whom heaven would be worthless, is literally standing next to me. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He has promised to gather every tribe, tongue, and nation into his heavenly kingdom (Revelation 7:9-10). He has promised that he is with me always, to the end of the age, even as I give into my fleshly despair, even as I dwell on the darkness, even as I forget that my real home is with God in heaven.
That brief glimpse of a heavenly market does not need to be resigned to heaven. God-willing, it could exist in South Asia now. After all, God has provided everything necessary for it to exist. He provided salvation. He sent his children to the nations. He says the harvest is plentiful, and I believe him. So please, pray with me for South Asia, specifically for this amazing city. Pray that the field partners will constantly be reminded that God stands by them and strengthens them. Pray that the message will be fully proclaimed and that all the lost might hear it. Thank God for salvation and thank him for his promise to bring his children safely into his heavenly kingdom.
Finally, pray God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.