A few months after my father died, I met him in a farmer's field scattered with carnival rides, craft tables and food booths where he told me a secret about heaven. While I was surprised to see him, I wasn't surprised to see him there, because it was when he was happiest—barbecuing a side of beef, wearing an apron, toting a carving knife and inviting small-town carnival goers to sample his secret sauce.
At first, I couldn't believe it was him. When I saw him from the back many yards away, I thought, That can't be Dad because he died! Then as he strode toward me, excitement engulfed me. Oh, my gosh! It's him! His smile beamed as the sun glistened on his wire-frame glasses. True to form, he wore socks that didn't match his shorts with legs that needed to see more of summer. When he reached me, he smiled broadly and said, "Well, hi Shana!" I was surprised that he acted as if he hadn't died and that no time had passed at all. He placed his foot on the curb next to me and bent down to tie his shoe. I gazed at him in awe. I intuitively knew I would only have a short time to say what was most important to me, so I spoke quickly.
Because I wanted him to thank him for his care, I said, "Dad, I want you to know that I took the money that you left, paid off all my bills and I invested the rest of it." He stood up, looked me straight in the eye and grinned, "Well Shana, I'm proud of you!" My heart melted. He said what I wanted to hear my entire life—he was proud. My chest ached with tears that wanted to come out but didn't.
Then he shared something I needed to know about eternity, "You know what I've learned?" he quipped. "I've learned that it really does matter in heaven what you do on the earth."
And then he was gone—quicker than he had come.
When I woke from my dream, my eyes filled with tears and I quickly found my journal to record the message for a future time. That time is now. You see, my father's message wasn't just for me—it's also for you because the Bible echoes my father's statement about heaven.
What the Bible says about your purpose and eternity
In his book, "Driven by Eternity," John Bevere writes how important it is to plan for our eternal future. Of those who plan for forever with God, John writes, ". . . they live with purpose and know their eternal destiny is being written by how they live on the earth. This will provide them a grand entrance into the Kingdom of God, rather than them slipping in with all they've done burned up and destroyed."
What? Burned up? Destroyed? What is John talking about? He is referring to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 which reads:
"If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his will work will be shown for what it is, because the Day [when Jesus Christ returns] will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping the flames."
Building with gold, silver and costly stones means "building on Christ" by obeying Him and His calling (or purpose) for your life. Building with wood, hay or straw means following your own fleshly desires to live life your own way regardless of God's plan. Can you imagine working your entire life, doing good works and accomplishing things that you thought would matter to God, then finally meeting him face-to-face only to realize that you were only doing what sounded good to you and that you weren't "building on Christ" at all?
Granted, no one builds entirely on Christ because we often sin and we are generally selfish. For this reason, I'm glad that salvation does not depend on works (Eph. 2:8-9), instead, we are justified through the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). But as you can see, heavenly rewards do depend on works and those rewards we will be a direct result of how we lived on the earth, just as my father said. Perhaps these heavenly rewards are a reason why Paul exhorted the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
All of this doesn't mean that if you are a stay-at-home mom that you should feel guilty or that "I should be doing more for Christ." Neither does it mean that if you are not in the ministry that you should run out to become a missionary. Instead, remember that God's rewards will be granted based on obedience to fulfill whatever vocation or purpose He has called you to, whether you're a doctor, teacher, stay-at home mom or landscaper. Therefore, your life's purpose must begin and end with Him. So when He reveals what He wants you to do with your life, do it wholeheartedly! Then, when you come into His Kingdom, you will hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21).
Remember, love is big in God's book
Maybe you're thinking, But I have no idea what my purpose is. God hasn't revealed it to me yet. Be encouraged! While you are waiting for Christ to reveal His entire plan for you, you can still build on the foundation He is by living out what He says is the greatest gift of all—love (1 Cor. 13:13).
I once read a story about a man who gave his sister a very small gift and God noticed it, too. The man, a high-dollar philanthropist, was also a mover and a shaker in higher education. Unexpectedly, he became ill and died for a few moments. At this time, Christ appeared to him in a dream to show him scenes from his life. While reviewing each scene, Christ revealed the value He placed on each of the man's actions. Surprisingly, Jesus didn't do cartwheels because the man had given away large sums of money. And He didn't say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," when He reviewed the man's academic achievements. Rather, it was a simple encounter the man had with his sister that pleased the Lord.
One day when the man noticed that his sister was heartbroken in an effort to comfort her, he embraced her tight for a long time. In Christ's book, this was the man's greatest accomplishment.
While you are seeking God to reveal your life's purpose, sometimes little acts of love can seem mundane and unimportant, like helping your husband balance the checkbook, choosing to have patience with one of your children or reaching out to a neighbor that you find less than desirable. But remember, God notices. So the next time you're beating yourself up because you're not sure of His purpose for your life, think of this man and his brotherly embrace. Then smile, because if you are building your life on Christ with love, what you do will matter for eternity.
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)