Finding Joy In Heaven

Summary: Lehi told his son Nephi that he was favored of the Lord because he didn’t murmur when keeping God’s commandments. The apostle Paul told the saints that God loves a cheerful giver. But why was Nephi favored of the Lord simply because he didn’t murmur, and why does God love a cheerful giver? Isn’t it enough that we do what God asks of us regardless of why we do it? The scriptures tell us that we will be rewarded for our works, not our attitude. In that case, why must we also cheerfully live the gospel of Jesus Christ without complaining?  This article provides the answer to that question. 

When Lehi told his sons that he had had a dream where the Lord had commanded that he should send his sons back to the land of Jerusalem to ask Laban to give them the brass plates on which was recorded the record of the Jews along with Lehi’s genealogy, his two oldest sons murmured, saying it was a hard thing they were being asked to do. However, Nephi readily accepted his father’s assignment and was willing to do what had been asked of him. For this reason, Lehi told Nephi, “Thou shalt be favored of the Lord because thou hast not murmured” (1 Nephi 3:6).

Why was Nephi going to “be favored of the Lord” simply because he did what was asked of him without murmuring? Isn’t doing what God asks of us what’s most important? Jesus taught this very principle when he asked the Pharisees, “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matt. 21:28-31).

It would seem from this parable that it isn’t so much our willingness to do what God asks of us as it is for us to simply do what he commands. The scriptures further tell us that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). However, it doesn’t say that every man will be rewarded according to how willingly he performed his labor. For example, in business, the slothful employee receives the same wages as the most diligent employee.

With this understanding, although Laman and Lemuel complained at first, they nonetheless did what their father commanded them. Then why was the Lord inclined to be more favorable toward Nephi on the basis that he didn’t murmur or complain?

However, the apostle Paul said much the same thing to the saints in his day as Lehi said to Nephi. As Paul traveled from city to city proclaiming the gospel, he asked the believes to donate money that was to be used for the poorer saints living in Jerusalem. He told them that if they would gather this money together that he would pick it up on his return trip back to Jerusalem.

Because of the slowness of travel, he had told the saints living in Corinth to gather this money a year before he was able to stop by and collect it. But, before he actually arrived there, he wrote to them saying, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or out of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The New International Version of the Bible renders this verse a little clearer when it says: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The question we need to ask is, why does God love a cheerful giver, and why does God find favor with those who do what he asks without murmuring, complaining or doing it reluctantly?  Isn’t it enough that we do what he asks of us? Why is it so important to God that we also have to like doing it?

Because we live in this mortal world and cannot see what heaven is like, we tend to view much of what we do through the lens of our current living conditions. In other words, we have the tendency to liken or apply the teachings of the scriptures to us while living here in this world. For example, when God tells us to be honest, we naturally understand this to mean being honest with those we come in contact with in our everyday activities here on earth. Very rarely do we view this commandment as telling us how to behave after we leave this life, or even after we’ve been resurrected. But if we were to view the commandments of God in that light, then the scriptures would take on a whole new dimension of meaning.

For Christians, the teachings of Jesus Christ are meant to help us to become saved in the kingdom of God. What that means is that if we follow the commandments God gives us, our sins will be forgiven and we will then become justified to live in heaven with God forever. Thus, keeping the commandments are viewed as being the necessary requirements that will allow God to let us into heaven when we die.

With that kind of thinking, we tend to view the commandments of God as though they are stepping stones that are necessary for us to make it to the pearly gates of heaven where St. Peter will be waiting to open the gates of heaven and let us in. Once that’s happened, many people have the idea that keeping those long lists of does and don’ts won’t be necessary anymore. They imagine that once we get into heaven, life will become a joyful, blissful experience where we won’t have to worry about anything.

However, Christians also believe that Christ wants to make us into his image, and that God’s ultimate goal is to help us become as perfect as he is (Matthew 5:48). As the apostle John put it, we don’t know what we will be like when we get to heaven, but when we do get there, we will find that we have become just like Christ (1 John 3:2).

But if God forgives us of our sins and lets us into heaven as we are, then why is it important that we become like God? Why can’t we live in heaven without being perfect as God is, or being just as righteous as Christ? And if that’s what needs to happen in order for us to live in heaven, then why can’t God just wave a magic wand and make us all suddenly become righteous and perfect?

When we come to understand the answer to that question, then we will also be able to understand why it is essential for us to keep the commandments of God willingly, cheerfully, without murmuring, complaining, or being compelled to keep them.

The first step in finding the answer to these questions is to realize that the commandments God gives us are not meant to be kept just during our life on earth. In other words, they are not temporary or temporal. They are eternal. All of God’s commandments are meant to be obeyed with precision throughout all of eternity.  As such, our time here in mortality allows us to learn how to keep the very laws that those living in heaven will also need to keep, but to a much higher degree.

To illustrate this principle, we can look at a familiar situation. If a person wants to become successful in business there are certain things they must do. If they violate any of these rules for success, they will be guaranteed to fail.

For example, one mistake that many people make when starting a business is thinking they can do it with only putting in a few hours of work a week. However, successful owners of a new business will put in 80-100 hours a week, and even when their business is thriving, most owners will still put in more hours than their hardest working employee will give. Thus, one secret to success in business is the willingness to do a lot of hard work. It is said that the first five years of starting a business is the hardest. Therefore, to be successful takes a lot of patience. And there are many other such rules that if followed will not guarantee success but if not followed will certainly guarantee failure.

Another example is mountain climbing. There are some people who have a burning desire to climb extremely high mountains, but the higher they go the more difficult and dangerous the terrain becomes, the colder the temperature gets, and the thinner the air is to breath. Therefore, to successfully make it to the top of a very high mountain, a climber has to carefully prepare for their journey ahead of time. They have to be in good physical condition, have to have the right climbing tools to scale vertical cliffs, have to know and follow safety rules, and have the right kind of clothing to protect them from the cold. In addition to this, they will need oxygen masks, as well as food and proper shelter. Yet, even with all of this, there is no guarantee that they will be successful in reaching their goal, but if they don’t properly prepare for the journey or fail to follow all the safety precautions, they are guaranteed to fail at completing their journey.

If we want to become like God and be transformed into a Christ-like person, there is no magic wand that will make that happen. It will take following certain rules, and those rules can be found in the commandments God gives us. Thus, the way to become more like God is to keep the commandments, and the closer we follow them the sooner we’ll become like him. But unlike starting a business or climbing a mountain, Christ will do everything in his power to assist us in being successful, but for that to happen we also have to put forth a lot of our own effort and have the desire to do as he asks.

But why is it necessary for us to become like God?

The answer is that God can live in heaven precisely because of the kind of person he is, and if we want to live with him then we have to learn to become the kind of person he is. To illustrate this point, if you took an uneducated farmer, who only knows how to tend cows, raise chickens, and feed pigs, and ceremoniously give him a Ph.D. in science that he didn’t earn, and put him in with a group of scientists who all have Ph.D.s in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering, he would feel completely out of place. Worse yet, he wouldn’t be able to relate to them nor they to him.

In the same way, if God were to take us as we are right now and put us into heaven, we would feel completely uncomfortable being there.  As the saying goes, we would feel like a fish out of water because we would have nothing in common with the angels or with God. Therefore, to prepare us to live in heaven, God gives us the rules we need to know and learn so that we can successfully function in that kind of an environment.

Jesus taught that we cannot serve God and the world (Matthew 6:24) and Paul told the saints that there is nothing in common between God and the devil, between the believer and unbeliever, and between the temple of God and the temple of idols (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). If we want to live in heaven with the righteous saints, then our thoughts, actions, desires, hopes, and aspirations have to be in harmony with theirs and with God. If it isn’t then we won’t have much in common with them

The greatest commandment in the law is to love God with all of our heart, mind, and strength, but that doesn’t pertain just to living here in mortality. We will need to continue loving God that way for all of eternity.  Jesus taught, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mark 12:34). If our heart is not centered on serving God and serving others then heaven won’t be much of a treasure to us.

But there is more to being in heaven than just having the same attitude that God has. The common impression that most people have is that when we get to heaven all we will be doing is sitting around singing praises to God forever, however it is not logical to think that God’s work with us will end once we get to heaven. God will still require us to do his will.

If we are keeping God’s commandments now only because we think we have to in order to get into heaven, we will be sadly disappointed when we find that we still have to do whatever he asks of us when we’re living in heaven. If we keep his commandments grudgingly now, our life in heaven will be miserable because if we are not willing to keep his commandments now we won’t be any more willing to keep them throughout eternity. Therefore, if we want to be happy living in heaven, we have to learn to enjoy keeping his commandments while living on earth.

God wants us to come live with him and to find joy being there, but he will not force anyone into heaven. We will end up there because we want to be there, and to go there we have to be willing to cheerfully submit our will to his. If that is something we are not inclined to do, if we were to make it into heaven we will quickly find ourselves asking to be transferred to a different place because, although God is a very loving and patient being, he can also be very tough on, and sometimes angry with those who are not faithful to him.

Those living in heaven don’t sit around doing nothing for all of eternity. That would be boring. The scriptures are replete with examples of the work that the angels of God do, so there is no reason to believe that as resurrected beings we won’t have any work to do.  As Jesus taught, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required, and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

Those who enter heaven have indeed been given much and therefore God will require much from them. When God asked Lehi to send his sons to go get the brass plates from Laban, Laman and Lemuel complained about doing a simple task. Those who inherit the kingdom of heaven will be asked to do things that will be much harder and more complicated. If we complain about doing the simple things now, we will really complain about the things we will be required to do as resurrected beings.

It’s been said that God uses mortal people to accomplish his work. When we submit ourselves to serving God, he uses us to become his voice, his heart, his feet and hands as he meets the needs of others. By keeping the commandments God gives us now we are actually learning by practice how to keep those same commandments when we get to heaven so that God can use us for even a greater work. Therefore, we can think of ourselves as being in training to become mightier servants of God.

Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It’s when we keep the commandments of God, willingly and cheerfully that we truly show the Lord how much we love him. And the opposite is equally as true. Those who complain about what God asks of them and who perform their duty to God grudgingly, are actually showing their disdain for him. That’s why God loves a cheerful giver and shows his favor on those who don’t murmur at his word. And those are the only people who will truly find joy being in heaven.

 

Related articles can be found at The Nature of Heaven

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