A PREPARED PLACE FOR A PREPARED PEOPLE
In order to be, we have to become that which we hope to be. Before a husband or wife can be, they must become a husband or a wife. Before a teacher, doctor, nurse, or lawyer can be, they must first become. Prior to being anything we have set our sights on in life or hope to achieve, there are some preparatory steps we must take and a process we must go through before we realize the finished product. As long as we are in the process it signals that we are in the preparatory phase of becoming and the final product is not yet finished. Suffice it to say, this principle applies to all people and entities in life, yes, even the church. Before a church can be, it too must first become.
I find it interesting that the Bible opens in the first chapter of the first book with God taking nothing and making it something. The Bible then closes in the next to last chapter of the last book with God taking something and making it something else. In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth and God made it out of the nothingness that existed. In the end God makes a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
The Bible teaches us that God is immutable – He does not change. While God personally does not change, we see that God is the author of change. It is through the process of change that God gets not only His people ready, but also, His creation ready to be. Change is the necessary step a caterpillar must take if it ever hopes to become a butterfly. For as long as the caterpillar slithers along on the ground it is at risk and vulnerable to being swept away by the fierce winds, crushed under the foot of an entity a thousand times its size, or consumed by a hungry predator. Therefore, if nothing more than for survival sake the caterpillar must engage in the process of becoming, for if it does not it will surely die.
It is truly amazing how God has created a world in which nothing stays the same. Children are conceived and born and from the moment they are conceived they are engaged in the process of becoming. No matter how hard a parent tries to keep a child a child, eventually the child will leave childhood behind and pursue a path that will lead to them becoming. Of course what the child will actually become will be influenced by many factors.
Of all of God creatures, human beings seem to be the only ones that for unexplainable reasons attempt to thwart the process of becoming. While every other created being within creation is content to get with the program of becoming in order to be, we can find a million and one reasons why we should stand fast, stay the way we are, or simply maintain the status quo. It appears that we would much rather die a caterpillar than at least try to become a butterfly. It is inconceivable why anyone would want to remain vulnerable when the potential for reaching higher heights is within our grasp.
Jesus said, I am going to prepare a place for you. There are many people who talk about going to heaven, but the words of Jesus remind us that Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. In fact, John declares in verse 2 & 10 – “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Here John describes I believe both the people of God that have been prepared to inhabit the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, which has been prepared by God for them. In verse 10 it says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” Again, John reiterates what he has just told us. Clearly, we can see that God has taken the time and painstakingly gone to great lengths to prepare a special place for His people.
With regards to the place that God has created, God uses John to articulate both the purpose and the goal. Look at verse 3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, now, the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” What is God’s purpose for creating a special place for His people? So that God and His people can spend eternity together.
One of the things that you have to love about God is that God does not compel or force anyone to do anything. God simply gives us options and says choose for yourselves. As we consider where we will spend eternity, John points out that we have two options. Option A is found in verse 3 we can spend eternity in the presence of God. Option B is found in verse 8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Option B offers eternal separation from God. These are the choices before us, we can choose to spend eternity with God or we can choose to spend eternity separated from God.
To help us make our decision, God offers some incentives for choosing option A. There are three characteristics of the place that God has prepared for us. First, It is a place where people personally experience God. Verse 3 says, “Now, the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” Second, It is a comforting place. Verse 4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Third, It is a transformative place. Verse 5 says, “I am making everything new!”
And so, John lays out for us a glimpse of the hereafter. But, what about the present? What about the more immediate right now? While this passage most certainly speaks to us about the hereafter, it also speaks to us about the right now. For while God has prepared a place for His people in the hereafter, God has also prepared a place for us right now. The place that God has prepared for us now is called destiny. It is important that we get it into our spirit and into our soul that God has created a special place for you and I. It is important that we understand that the reason we are still here is not to waste time by allowing ourselves to become distracted by the mundane, the trivial, or that which really does not help to move us closer to our destiny. Life is perhaps the most precious gift that God gives us and every day that we are able to open our eyes is God giving us another opportunity to move closer to our destiny. It is God saying here is another chance to be better than you were yesterday, another chance to accomplish some of those things I have placed in your heart to do, another opportunity to do something great and become that which I have created you to be. It is another day that we should be moving closer to our destiny.
Let me just say this, I do not know what your destiny is that is something that only God can reveal to you. What I do know is that God has prepared a special place for each of us and that it is our responsibility to get ready to step into it. Like heaven in the hereafter, God is calling His people to get ready. God is also calling His people for the right now; prepare yourself for the place God Himself has prepared for you.
How will we know if we are ready?
We will know that we are ready when God is our top priority and holds first place in our lives. The text says, “They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” If God has prepared a place for you and I, it stands to reason that God is the only one who can reveal where that place is, provide the direction on how we are to get there, and help us to understand what our purpose for being there is and the mission we are to accomplish when we get there. For this to happen we must cede control of our lives over to God. We must relinquish the reigns and allow God to lead us, guide us and provide the direction. In essence we must allow God to be God so that God can help us to become and then eventually be what it is that God has ordained that we will be.
We will know that we are ready when we no longer sweat the small stuff. Look at verse 4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death or mourning or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” In order for great people to accomplish great things they cannot worry about small things. Let us go back to the example of the caterpillar for a moment. Consider that from the moment that caterpillar is a larva and not yet even a caterpillar there is something that has been implanted in its DNA that tells it you are not going to always crawl around on your belly. At some point you are going to change and become what you were created to be. However, before that change comes the caterpillar must endure a cruel environment that includes variant climatic conditions. It must live with the reality that at any moment its life could be snuffed out by giants that are 100,000 times its size, and that it is the number one item on the menu for predators it cannot even see. In spite of all of this because of something divine in its DNA it seems unfazed by its reality. Because of something divine in its DNA it has decided that the reward is well worth the risk. It has made up its mind that nothing great or small will stop it from reaching the place that God has prepared for it. It has decided that at the moment it is time for it to enter into a cocoon and then complete its change it will become and then be the butterfly that God created it to be.
We will know we are ready when we have been transformed. The writer declares in verse 5, “I am making everything new!” We will know we are ready when we stop thinking like a caterpillar and start living like a butterfly. Caterpillars live with their problems, but butterfly’s soar above their problems. We will know we are ready when we stop turning our problems into excuses and start solving our own problems. As long as we make excuses for why things are the way they are, we will never move toward fixing what needs to be fixed, correcting what needs to be corrected so that things can become the way they should be. As long as a plane is at the gate it is not ready for takeoff. We have to pull away from the gate so that we can taxi toward the runway and as we pick up speed and build up momentum God is able to help us elevate and eventually takeoff. There is a saying that says, wherever you go you take you with you. Reaching higher heights is not a problem, but the challenge is staying there. Many people have ascended the ladder of success, but once they got there they discovered that it is exponentially more difficult to stay there then it is to get there. And so, God has prepared a place for His people and it is God’s intent that we not only make it but that we also stay there. Therefore, God has to remove from us all of the things that would trip us up and pull us down and in order to do that we have to be transformed. From head to toe God has to create a new you and a new me. You cannot live in a penthouse with a park bench mentality. You cannot run a Fortune 500 company the same way you would operate a Burger King or a McDonalds. And so, while we may get there, it is God’s will that we have staying power.
How do we get ready?
We get ready by becoming, becoming means:
1. In everything we do we begin with God – God has set and established what we will be and only God can give us the focus we need to become
2. We have to surrender, give up, and let go – If God is the captain of our ship then we must let go and let God lead us every step of the way
3. We must be determined – If God has taken the time to prepare a special place for me then my response must be that nothing or no one will stop me from getting there except God calls me home
The bottom line is that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. While God has gone to great lengths to prepare a place for us in the hereafter, God has also prepared a place for us in the right now and that place is called our destiny. If God in love has prepared a special place for His people should not our response be to get ready for what God has prepared for us. You see when we get ready to embrace our destiny here on earth we are also getting ready to inhabit God’s special place for us in the hereafter. Are you ready?