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. 2 Timothy 4:18
I grew up in a church of an evangelical tradition, meaning we placed high value on salvation – being born again into a new life. In church, it was not uncommon to hear terrifying stories of hell from the pulpit. Whenever we had a guest speaker, he would inevitably give an alter call at which time, one was supposed to come forward and ask Jesus into your heart. This is something I did . . . and did often. My memory may exaggerate, but it seems like every time someone invited us, I went forward. I just wanted to make sure. Hell was not something I wanted to risk. I worried about the afterlife, and I worried whether I was truly a Christian.
The thing I missed, was that conversion was supposed to be the beginning of the new life of following Christ. I’m sure I knew that to be true in my head, but experientially, I understood that I’d been forgiven and so, I could simply live however I wanted. Yes, I believed in God, but I followed me. This is what led to the disaster of my addiction – pursuing my impulsive appetite above all. In the destruction of my addiction, I had to question my faith once again. Was it real? I again found myself asking whether I was even a Christian.
In today’s passage, Paul spoke of God ushering him into his heavenly kingdom. Imprisoned in Rome, he wrote his final words to Timothy, using language that indicated Paul knew he was at the end of his life. He didn’t sound fearful, but rather he claimed faith and comfort in the knowledge that God would deliver him safely into his heavenly kingdom. Paul knew he was going to die but he was also absolutely confident of his final destination.
We maybe don’t like to think of it often, but death is the one thing we all must experience. We will all face the afterlife. Like Paul, we can have confidence in our final destination. God loves us and created us to know him. If we place our faith in him, asking forgiveness for our past failures, we can enter into a relationship with him. Knowing him in this life means that we will enter safely into his heavenly kingdom in the next life.
Knowing God in this life though, isn’t just about being saved from hell. Knowing God means we’re saved from the disaster of ourselves. Daily, as Christians, we’re to abandon our way for God’s way, finding joy and peace here on Earth. In doing so, we experience the new life while being filled with confidence that he will rescue us from every evil deed and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom.