We should be thankful that God does not operate like the folks in the fairs and carnivals that take your good money to play a game that is almost impossible to win.
The phrase they shout at their clientele when 99 percent of them can’t win the game is, “Close, but no cigar!” This phrase goes back 100 years when these fair and carnival workers would offer special cigars as prizes to those that could win the game.
God has a different kind of operation with us. He wants 100 percent of us to win His prize. That prize is salvation and an eternal relationship with Him as we live this natural life and pass on to a closer presence to Him. In John 5:24 we hear Jesus tell us, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
When in the Temple, Jesus addressed the Jews that doubted His relationship to God. He told them of the children of God and in John 10:28 He says, “And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Peter refreshes our spirit in 1 Peter 1:6-9 saying, “ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
As a struggling Christian growing up, I had some notion of being with God after death in my natural life. I remember things that my mother and other relatives would say about death when we lost someone. When I was fourteen, I came home from school one day to hear my younger brother tell me, as I got off of the school bus, that our dad had died of a heart attack. He was thirty-nine years of age. With my dad and other family members who have died, I have always had a sense of spiritual connection with them. This was a beginning of knowing that any suffering that I might endure would somehow be eased in a spiritual afterlife.
In my experience of a life threatening brain tumor removal at age 49, God revealed some wonderful things to me. He allowed me to look into eternity with Him from my hospital bed. I then realized that I was already on the fringe of His eternal kingdom. His forgiveness of my sins, which I was already feeling, and my faith in Him had opened His kingdom to me.
I had the distinct feeling that no matter what the outcome of my surgery, that I would be blessed. And in seeing this as my gift from God, I could see the same gift for all of those I might leave behind.
I had a vision of Eternal Life as I was experiencing God’s Love & Grace during my surgery. I envisioned Eternal life to be like the ocean. The ocean waves moved toward the shore around the jetties and onto the beach. The shallow water of the beach is where I saw myself in this natural life, however; God’s Eternal Kingdom washed upon me at the beach. It revealed to me that we are already at the edges of Eternal Life and it washes over and around us. If we don’t realize that the surf on the beach is God’s spirit washing over us, we are stuck on the beach and don’t enjoy His Kingdom.
I will never be the same. I am sure of what lies ahead for me, so the troubles of today are easy to bear.
I want all of my brothers and sisters in the Lord to be as happy as I am. In Mark 12:32-34, when Jesus responded to a Scribe’s question as to what is the first commandment of all, the scribe said to Him, “’Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”
Now, that’s not a close, but no cigar statement, but a close and keep on reaching for God statement.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943 and grew up in Rockville, Md., Pine is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extention: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South. He is involved in prison ministry and is a leader in his church and community.