Is There Something Beyond Death?
"Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?... We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed... Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:12, 52-53, 58 (RSV)
A woman named Judy Rogers from Westville, Ohio was asked about memories that affected her life the most. She submitted the following words to a magazine in 1988, "
- "I remember one year, after daddy was laid off from work and money was tough, that Daddy gave Mom a dishwasher for Christmas. Now, you have to understand the magnitude of the gift. Our old house had its original wiring and plumbing, and neither could handle the required installation of a new dishwasher. There was no spot in the small kitchen for such a large appliance. And we hadn't even been able to meet the mortgage interest payments for over six months due to the financial burden of the layoff. Though Dad hated the thought of washing dishes; he wanted to do something. My Mom had undergone major surgery that spring, a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, and she found it difficult to do any work requiring the use of her arms. No large box appeared, no new plumbing or wiring was installed, no remodeling of the kitchen occurred. Rather, a small note appeared on a branch of the Christmas tree, handwritten by Dad: "For one year I will wash all of the dirty dishes in this household. Every one." And he did. He really did. I’ll never forget his gift." -Judy Rogers. Westerville, Ohio in Guideposts, Dec. 1988
Those little gifts of love, those little and big deeds make a big difference in life. When a person needs a hand, when a needy family gets some extra food, when a neighbor comes through when you are in a pickle… those are times you never forget. And now, I’m going to tell you something.... God doesn’t forget them either.
In our scripture reading from I Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul is talking about eternal life. He mentions what it is like, who goes there, and how it all works. Then, Paul says this: “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Paul knew that God remembers for all time is the work we do for others in His name, our "labor is not in vain". God remembers gifts of love, work for those in need, helping others. God remembers what you shared, what you did, what you said. People may not notice the help you give…. but God always notices those things. Heaven will be full of people who have done wonderful works for others. God blesses such people, that’s clear in these verses of the Bible. Paul even says, "How can people say there is no resurrection of the dead?" Paul knew resurrection was real. He saw Jesus himself, with his own eyes, spoke to Jesus AFTER JESUS' DEATH! Paul knew that death could not be the end, because he personally saw Jesus alive. Five Hundred People in the year after Jesus died saw him at one time alone! (I Corinthians 15:6) Five Hundred people can't see the same illusion of a resurrected Jesus at the same time! Jesus' resurrection was real! The scriptures are true!
A farmer was out plowing his field one spring morning. The spring thaw had just occurred and there were many muddy valleys in the field. In one particularly wet place, the farmer's tractor became stuck in the mud. The harder he tried, the deeper he became stuck. Finally, he walked over to his neighbor's house to ask for help. The neighbor came over and looked at the situation. He shook his head, and then said, "It doesn't look good, but I tell you what. I'll give it a try pulling you out. But if we don't get it out, I'11 come sit in the mud with ya!" Although we may not all be farmers, we do experience getting "stuck in the mud" from time to time. And chances are we probably know someone who is stuck right now in some of life's "mud". Have you tried "mud-sitting" with a friend? It may be the best thing you can do!
People used to help one another years ago. Farmers would look out for one another. If a farmer was sick, neighbors would hop on the machinery and get the job done. People looked out for people. Many did it not only to help, but because they knew their actions were seen by God. This God remembers things forever.
God has a list in heaven of what we have done in our lives. (Revelation 22:12) It contains all those deeds of our lives. On that list, God remembers the deeds done for and against others, the work where you reached out and helped in the name of God, the moments where you sinned and did not repent. Scripture is clear…”Excel in the work of the Lord. Your labor is never in vain.” God remembers. God knows. God doesn’t forget deeds of love and care. It will come back to you. And when you repent, your sins are washed away. They are forgotten, while you and your acts of love are remembered. I wonder what that book says about you?
A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night's dinner. Well, as such things go, one thing led to another. The sales manager talked longer than anticipated and the meeting ran overtime. Their flights were scheduled to leave out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and they had to race to the airport. With tickets in hand, they barged through the terminal to catch their flight back home. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of baskets of apples which flew everywhere.
Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed plane...all but one. He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination, and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor. He was glad he did.
The sixteen-year-old girl who was watching the stand was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping, and no one to caring for her plight. The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the baskets, and helped set the display up once more. As he did this, he noticed that many of the fruit had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, "Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?"
She nodded through her tears. He continued on with, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly."
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, "Mister?" He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, "Are you Jesus?"
He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly, he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: "Are you Jesus?".
Do people mistake you for Jesus? When you do deeds of love, when you take time out of your day to help another, when you work with a smile on your face and love in your heart… better watch out… you might be mistaken for Jesus!
Jesus paid a price to offer his life for others…. for you and for me. The scriptures say that Jesus noticed those who worked hard for others, who did things out of the love of God in their hearts. Jesus remembered their works… and those works outlive them. Jesus still remembers what we do in this life… even when we reach the next.
I pray you remember to be better people because of the sacrifices others have made for you. Jesus knows. Jesus remembers. God has a list of it all. I pray you all remember too. Life is too short not to help, to love, to reach out to others, to repent and forgive… those are the things that God celebrates in this life and unto the next. Don't worry about "if there is a heaven", because there is. The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians even calls Heaven a "fact" (I Corinthians 15:20). What you need to focus on is what is remembered there, because it is all remembered there. If you have even one breath left in you, there is time to affect what is written about you in God's eternal book. What would you like written there? What is written there?