When I was growing up, we sang about heaven in the church. I expected, on any given Sunday, to sing with a southern gospel twist, songs like “When We All Get to Heaven,” “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” or “Victory in Jesus.” And there was both a goodness and something not-so-good with the way that all went.
On the negative side, so many of the songs that we sang about heaven had a sadly misplaced focus. There was a fascination with golden streets and reunion with long lost relatives that, as I grew older, bothered me. It was as if the songs removed the focus from the presence of the Lord, the prime focus of heaven, and majored on the accoutrement’s of heaven. So, of course, as I grew, and while I was far too full of myself and my own wisdom, I found myself turning away from wanting to sing those kinds of songs.
But there is a problem. Singing about heaven is good. Focusing on the eternal life to come is, without question, a Christian salve to soothe our burdened souls in the here and now. Focusing on things above is a godly spiritual discipline. And my turning up my nose at the songs that made me think of heaven did not help.
Hebrews 11:13-16 – 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
People who speak of their eternity being bound up in heaven please the Lord. People who sing of the joys to come when we are freed from this sin-cursed world to stand face-to-face with our Savior do him honor. People who recognize that we can let go of pleasures in this life for the sake of the pleasures of the life to come give the Lord an honor that the world around us cannot and will not understand.
So, my conclusion is that we need more heaven. We need more heaven in our thinking. We need more heaven in our singing. No, I’m not suggesting that we pick up weak songs that focus more on gold, jewels, and grandma than they do on Jesus. But there has to be something better than throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We need heaven in our songs. We need heaven in our hearts. WE need heaven on our lips. WE need heaven in our minds. WE need heaven in our motivation. We need heaven to give us comfort in our sorrow. We need heaven to drive us to obedience to the word of God. We need heaven to fill our lives so that people will know that we live, not for this world’s rewards, but for the rewards of the world to come when Jesus will make all things new.
So, we should sing of heaven. We should consider heaven. We should study heaven. We should dream of heaven. We should not remove the focus from the focus of heaven, the presence of the Lord in his glory. Nor should we ignore the other joys of heaven. But we, modern, thinking, growing, studying Christians should be sure that heaven is at the center of our hearts just as it was for those who pleased the Lord as the author of Hebrews showed us.