The Hope of Heaven
with Dr. Robert Jeffress
Q: Is there anything special that you would recommend doing in order for our readers to position themselves for success in 2018? If so, please explain.
A: A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a great question for the beginning of the year: What change can I make in my life in the coming year that would most please my heavenly Father? I would encourage readers to ask the same question.
One of the greatest suggestions I can make would be to encourage readers to start with an assessment of their heart. Make sure you have a heart ready to receive what the Lord wants for you in 2018. I think it is also important to assess that our hearts are free from spiritual weeds. Are there possessions, relationships, and addictions in your life that are strangling your spiritual growth? Maybe this is the year, this is the month to end that relationship you know is displeasing to God; to deal with that addiction in your life that has taken over your life; maybe it’s time to let go of that possession that has become an obsession in your life and taken your focus off of God.
Another thing you can do to make sure you have success in 2018 is make sure you are feeding your heart and life with the Word of God and surrounding yourself with God’s people in order to grow. A seed needs the warmth of the sunlight to grow. We need the warmth of being with God’s people in order to grow. And that’s why coming together week after week for worship is not a ritualistic, legalistic duty but a privilege for us. It allows us to receive the encouragement we need to grow in our faith.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says it this way: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Success in 2018 won’t come by pursuing earthly things. It will come by nurturing your heart, committing yourself to God’s Word, and spending time with God’s people.
Q: What would you say to those who feel like they’ve made too many mistakes and are disqualified from experiencing God’s best in the year ahead?
A: Well I have, as the old joke goes, some bad news and some good news for you. The bad news is you can’t rewrite history. Life has no rewind button on it. But here’s the good news: God has the ability to take your worst mistakes and turn them into stepping-stones for even greater success in life. The Bible says there can be a second act, a second chance in your life if you follow biblical principles.
We must acknowledge that mistakes are inevitable but God offers to redeem them. You can be confident that God is willing to take the worst things you have done in the past and still use them in some inexplicable way this year and in the years ahead for your good and his glory. Isaiah 61:3 says, “God will give a crown of beauty for ashes; a joyous blessing instead of mourning; festive praise instead of despair.”
If you have a hard time believing that God could ever forgive or ever help you experience His best in the coming days, consider Abraham. Abraham was one time an idol worshipper. Even after his conversion, he had an inappropriate relationship with his handmaid Hagar. He left his wife Sarah in the harem of another man for a night just to save his own skin. He was hardly husband of the year material. And yet even because of all of that the Bible called Abraham a friend of God in James 2:23.
Or think about Noah. We love Noah, but one night in a drunken romp, he humiliated himself before his own sons, and yet the Bible says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Or think about Rahab, the most notorious prostitute of her day; and yet in spite of that God used her to save a nation. And today she is still listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.
Or consider the Apostle Paul: a blasphemer of Jesus Christ, a persecutor of Christians. He tortured and murdered Christians and yet God not only forgave him of all of that – God transformed him into the greatest missionary and apologist for the Christian faith in history. God is willing not only to forgive you of your mistake, but also redeem your mistake, to use it for your good and for his glory in the year ahead.
Q: You have always been very bold and outspoken when it comes to defending biblical values. As you look to the future, why is it so important for the Body of Christ to unite and use our voice to transform the culture?
A: Nothing causes more damage to the reputation of Jesus Christ than when his bride, the church, is brawling. We see a lot of that happening today over politics, social, and economic issues. You see fighting inside of churches and between denominations. One thing our church has committed to is that we are always going to remain faithful to the Word of God, no matter our denomination, no matter who is office, no matter what laws are passed. That’s the heritage and foundation of this church. It’s a rich legacy begun by faithful men and women before us, and we want to pass that legacy down to our grandchildren and their children until the Lord returns.
Now, I do believe there is a remedy for division in the church. We must share a common foundation and a common attitude.
Paul described this unifying attitude in Philippians 2:4-8: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped, held onto, but instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men, being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Instead of putting our individual interests at the top of the list, we must put the interest of others before ourselves.
The unity Paul talks is automatically ours by virtue of our relationship in Christ. When we become a Christian, we become part of the body of Christ. But unfortunately, we don’t always act unified. How can we be unified with other Christians with whom we disagree, with whom I don’t share the same perspective? Well it’s a challenge, but Scripture says it is possible.
What knits us all together is truth, the infallible truth of God’s Word that reminds us that we are one in Christ. But beyond even that, what should knit us together is love. That is a choice, and action, and a daily decision. Colossians 2:2 says, “My prayer for you is that you would be knit together in love.” Love is what ties us together. That’s true in friendships, marriages, and it’s true in the church.
Q: You’ve recently released your latest book, A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths About Your Eternal Home. What can readers expect as they turn the pages?
A: It’s interesting as I talk to believers that many of them fall into two categories: they are either fascinated with the idea of heaven, or they don’t think about it at all. But I believe God says we are to be eternally minded, which means we as believers should be preparing for our eventual home going to heaven. That’s one reason I wrote this book. As readers turn the pages they will discover a few things:
- Answers to the ten most common questions asked about heaven
- Learn not everyone goes to heaven
- Heaven won’t be the same for everyone who does go to heaven
- Encouragement about the future—either your future or loved one who have died (if they are believers)
- Answers of how they can go to heaven
Q: With so much attention in our world focused on “living in the moment,” why is it so critical that we also consider eternity in our everyday lives? What difference does a future heaven make in my life today?
A: The overwhelming responsibilities of this life sometimes eclipse our thinking about the next life. Not only that, I think to many people heaven seems remote. It seems irrelevant to those of us trying to rear a family, or keep a job, or make a living. And yet even though we don’t think about Heaven that much, there are times in our life when we long for a better place than Earth. The truth is, whether we think about it or not, we all long for that home, that place called heaven. It’s how God created us.
I believe it is absolutely critical for us to consider eternity in our everyday lives for one overwhelming reason: our departure for Heaven is both certain and relatively soon. One out of every one of us will die. It’s guaranteed.
When we make focusing on eternity a priority, we are reminded of the brevity of our earthly life and therefore make the time count. It also helps us focusing on living pure lives that honor the Lord.
It also helps us place suffering in perspective. Most of us have experienced suffering of some kind. In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 Paul who certainly had his share of suffering wrote, “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal way to glory far beyond all comprehension. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” We all will live somewhere after we die. It is important that we make a focus on eternity part of our everyday lives.
Q: As a special sneak peek, can you share a few things you learned about heaven while researching and writing this book?
A: Heaven is a fascinating topic to study. During the research, I did learn a few things. For example, when Jesus said to His disciples that in God’s house there are “many mansions,” as the KJV reads, it doesn’t really mean “mansions.” Literally, the Greek means “dwelling places”—apartments, if you will.
I also discovered that Scripture refers to four heavens: the atmosphere (first heaven), space (second heaven), the place of God’s dwelling where all deceased believers are now residing (third heaven, also called the temporary heaven), and the New Jerusalem, which will physically reside on the new earth (fourth heaven, also called eternity).
Thinking deeply and writing about heaven strengthened my faith. The cliché is wrong, being heavenly minded actually makes you more earthly good. It has made me more zealous to evangelize—to tell people how they can go to heaven. It has given me greater encouragement in the face of death—dealing with those in my congregation who have died and with facing my own eventual death. It has created in me greater hope—that God will make all things right.
Q: For those who haven’t seen your program on Daystar, Pathway to Victory, what can viewers who tune in expect to hear?
A: Well, I think the first thing viewers can expect to hear is God’s Word. God’s Word is the foundation of every message, and I do my best to present it in a way that is practical and applicable for every day life. I also believe the only way to preach God’s Word is boldly. We must stand for truth in a decaying culture. That’s why Pathway to Victory is focused on piercing the darkness with the light of God’s Word.
Q: As believers, how can we successfully apply God’s Word to our lives in order to truly be victorious in 2018?
A: I believe following God’s Word is the only way for all of us to be truly victorious in 2018. But figuring out where to start or even committing to start studying the Bible can be a challenge. If you don’t have a regular plan for growing yourself spiritually, let me suggest what I call the five-five-five plan. It’s really simple. Five days a week I’m going to spend five minutes reading God’s word, and five minutes praying. Five days a week. Five minutes in God’s word. Five minutes praying.
Now some of you will read that and wonder: Well, pastor, that’s not very much. It’s five minutes more than most Christians are spending right now. It’s five minutes more than many of you are spending right now in God’s word and praying. If you’re not spending time on a regular basis in God’s word, don’t worry about starting big. Start small. Five, five, five. You’ll be amazed at how quickly that time expands and how what you read and learn will impact your decisions, actions, and relationships.
In Jesus’ day that word “disciple” referred to an individual who might be enamored with a particular rabbi, and so he sought to learn everything he could from that rabbi; not just by his words, but by his actions. The disciple of a particular rabbi would study the rabbi’s teachings, but he would also try to emulate the rabbi’s actions and attitude as a part of his everyday life. Now that’s what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It means you not only study his teachings, you try to duplicate his life in your life as well.
The best way to be victorious in 2018 is to make a commitment to study God’s Word and then pattern your life to live how Jesus lived: Kingdom-minded, loving and serving others, with his identity firmly rooted in his Father in heaven.
Q: Although no one can go back in time and make a new start, how can we learn from our past mistakes in order to move forward filled with hope for the future?
A: Unfortunately life doesn’t have a rewind button on it. But God does have a way for us to deal with the mistakes and a hurts of the past. It’s a process called forgiveness. We must forgive others and ourselves and also learn to receive forgiveness from God and others. And that means we have to ask God to reveal to us in our life anything that is displeasing to him.
In Psalm 139:23-24, David prayed, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any hurtful way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way.” Do you know what David was saying? He was saying: God, I want you to take the searchlight of your Holy Spirit, and I want you to shine it into every corner, every crevice in my heart and see if there is anything that is displeasing to you.
Whenever you confess your sins to God, he not only crosses through it with a line, he blots it out and erases it completely. Whenever you are reminded of those sins you have committed in the past, remember that phrase “paid in full.” With that in mind, you can enter the new year with incredible hope and confidence in a God who redeems our mistakes.
Q: What advice would you give those embarking on a new journey in life this year? For example, they are changing careers, getting married, or starting a ministry.
A: Every day in America we’re engaged in endless activities. We make numerous decisions. But as we stand on the brink of 2018, the greatest decision a person can make as they embark on a new journey in the coming year has nothing to do with changing careers, where you’re going to live, getting married, or even starting a ministry.
The single greatest question to ask as we face 2018 is this: Are you going to make loving, serving, and obeying God your highest priority? If he is your highest priority then everything else will fall into place.
Q: What’s next for you? Can you share what the Lord’s placed on your heart concerning future projects and events in 2018?
A: Concerning our ministry, I’m looking forward to the continued expansion of Pathway to Victory on both radio and television. There has never been a better time or more needed time to be sharing God’s Word than right now. Of course, my primary attention always begins with home base for our ministry First Baptist Church, Dallas. Our congregation has exciting plans to both expand and deepen the ministry of our church.
I’m also looking forward to the release of my newest book in September on the life of Elijah titled CHOOSING THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE: God’s 7 Secrets for Success And Significance. We will be airing this series on Pathway to Victory in September and October of 2018.
And on the family front, Amy and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first grandchildren – three at once! Our daughter is pregnant with triplets and by the time you read this, they should have made their grand entrance into the world. These are exciting days for the Jeffress family!
You can see Dr. Jeffress in his program, Pathway to Victory, weekly on Daystar! Tune in Sundays at 6pm ET and Fridays at 10pm ET. Click here for more information.