After watching the funeral of Billy Graham this week, I discovered his final column where Billy states: “By the time you read this, I will be in heaven.” I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that Billy Graham is in heaven. Why are we all agreed that he is in heaven? We might answer, with all the good he has done through his preaching to millions, you know he is going to be in heaven. After all he was “America’s Pastor” and the world’s best known evangelist, so he is a obviously in heaven.
What’s interesting is the reason Billy Graham gives for his entrance into heaven. He states, “But I won’t be in heaven because I preached to the crowds or because I have tried to live a good life.” It is only his faith in Jesus Christ that gave him the confidence of heaven. If Billy Graham will “be in heaven for one reason,” our hope of going to heaven is because of the very same reason.
Randy Alcorn says this:
Many mistakenly believe that heaven is our reward for doing good things. This is absolutely not the case. Our presence in heaven is in no sense a reward for our works, but a gift freely given by God in response to faith.
Well, what about the millions that Billy Graham preached to and the lives who came to Christ because of his preaching? Doesn’t that account for anything? The answer can be found in Eph. 2:9, which Billy clearly understood: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (NLT). In other words, what you believe is the key to entering heaven, not what you do. That is a good thing because if it is based on our efforts then most of us would have a difficult challenge ahead, especially if we compare ourselves to the accomplishments of someone like Graham.
However, we can’t stop reading there because immediately after saying salvation is “not by works,” the next verse clarifies that our works matter a great deal.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
Even though salvation is not through our works, we are actually created to do good works. A lifetime of good works was actually prepared in advance by God for us to do. A few years ago I did a study using a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “A Life God Rewards” which explained how Jesus taught the promise of reward in heaven.
“He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27)
“You will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).
“You will be blessed … for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14).
This certainly suggests that God is keeping track of what we do for Him every day. Wilkinson speaks of two keys: The first is belief that unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where we spend eternity. The second is our behaviour which unlocks the door to reward and determines how we will spend eternity.
The reality is we have the same hope of heaven that Billy Graham had because it is simply through faith that we enter heaven, which is really the foundation. At the end of Wilkinson’s book, there are several quotes from well-known theologians and preachers, of which is Billy Graham.
“The believer has his foundation in Jesus Christ. Now we are to build upon this foundation, and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; the final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.” – Billy Graham
Are we living and working everyday with an eternal perspective? Will our good deeds, acts of kindness (works) pass the ultimate test?