By Billy Graham
Why doesn’t God take us to heaven the moment we commit our lives to Christ? After all, since heaven is our ultimate destination, wouldn’t it be better if God took us there immediately and spared us all the problems and heartaches of this life? Then we’d never again have to experience worry or sorrow or suffering, and all the burdens and temptations that trouble us now would vanish.
The reason is simple: God still has work for us to do right here. Heaven is our goal, but until that final moment when He takes us home to Himself, God has a purpose in keeping us here. Earth isn’t just heaven’s waiting room, where we sit around doing nothing until it’s finally time for us to depart. Earth is the stage on which the drama of the ages is being played out – the drama of Christ’s victory over sin and death and hell and Satan. And no matter who we are, we have a God-given role to play in that divine drama.
What is this role God has for us? Why does He keep us here?
The Bible gives us the answer: As long as we are on this earth, God’s purpose is for us to bring honor and glory to Him by the way we live. The Bible says God “chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world … in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:4, 12). Jesus told His disciples, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Is your goal to bring glory to God in everything you do?
But this doesn’t fully answer our original question: What is God’s reason for keeping us here?
To answer this, imagine what our world would be like if God did take us to heaven when we first believed. Without anyone left to demonstrate Christ’s compassion and righteousness, what kind of world would it be? Without anyone left to tell others about God’s love, how would anyone ever hear about Christ or put their trust in Him? The answer is obvious: Our world would be condemned to live in perpetual spiritual darkness, forever bound by fear and hopelessness and evil.
Why does God keep us here? For one reason: to tell the world the Good News of Christ. The Bible says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus’ command to His disciples has never been revoked: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Does this mean we are all supposed to be preachers or evangelists or missionaries? No – although some are. But it does mean we are all called to be witnesses for Christ, bringing His love and transforming power to a broken and confused world.
Excerpt from The Journey by Billy Graham, 2006.