Denise and I are in Maine celebrating God's goodness in giving us three decades together!
While we are here, we are immersing ourselves in God's word as well as a variety of other books, including a powerful book about marriage called You and Me Forever – Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis & Lisa Chan. We have just cracked it open and are already excited to see how God will grow our love of Him and our love for each other as we read together.
Even though we’ve just started the book, I feel compelled to share something important that Francis shares right up front… and it applies to far more than just marriage. Specifically, Pastor Chan reminds us vividly that our relationship with God and our eternal destiny is the only foundation on which to build a healthy marriage (or a healthy life, in general). He says,
“FEAR GOD. I’m guessing those are two words you didn’t expect to read in a marriage book. But nothing could be more foundational for marriage. Without a healthy fear of God, we will not fully enjoy life and love. Without it, our priorities will be completely off. Yet if a healthy fear of God is at the foundation of who we are, a beautiful life and marriage can be built upon this.”
He goes on to say that most people underestimate how terrifying it will be to see God. And yet, the examples we find of people in Scripture who have had the experience should get our attention:
- Job came face-to-face with God after complaining about how God had been treating him and said: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” ~ Job 42:5-6
- Isaiah saw the Lord in His throne room in a vision and was sure he was doomed because of his unworthiness: “And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’" ~ Isaiah 6:4-5
- John encountered the risen Christ in a vision and said: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.’” ~ Rev 1:17-18
- And Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” ~ Matt 10:28
Pastor Chan goes on to encourage us to frequently contemplate meeting God face-to-face, consciously preparing for the day that will matter for all eternity!
“Oddly, I meet very few people who think about that moment. Is it because we don’t really believe it’s going to happen? We think about upcoming vacations and imagine how much fun we will have. We think about upcoming trials and worry about how difficult they will be. Why don’t we think about seeing God for the first time? I try to think about it often because it keeps me centered.”
Further, he insists that we must lift our eyes off of self and stare at God. We must stop focusing on our transient life on earth and contemplate what our eternity will be like. He rightly points out:
“If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves. When we focus on ourselves, we naturally begin to structure every aspect of our lives around the few years we have here on earth, rather than the millions of years we will spend in His presence… or out of His presence. We live as if we are not dying. We live as though the King is not returning!”
But He is returning! And Scripture is clear that His return should inspire awe and reverence in His children, not to mention abject fear in His enemies. Notice that both Old and New Testament passages convey the same terrifying image of God's judgment:
“The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols will completely vanish. Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, in order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” ~ Is 2:17-22
“Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” ~ Rev 6:15-17
In closing, I need to admit that Pastor Chan’s admonitions hit too close to home. I spend entirely too much time chasing counterfeits like wealth, pleasure, respect and esteem of others instead of intimacy with Him. I need to lift my eyes to heaven and stare at God. I need to spend time and energy contemplating life from the perspective of eternity. I need to proactively prepare to meet my Maker. I want the most important meeting of my life to be filled with awe, reverence and blessing... not terror.
How do you want that meeting to go for you?