Going through Hell to get to Heaven
If someone is an unbeliever, this world is the only heaven they will ever know. 
If Jesus Christ is Lord of our life, earth will be the only Hell.  

For the unbeliever, their only happiness will be the temporary good experiences they can squeeze out of this world full of trouble. Things just get worse for them from here.
For the believer, we get the joy of knowing the Eternal One here, and afterwards it just gets better!

The experiences Earth gives us are temporary. After we leave here they are forever, either in indescribable joy and peace in the Presence of God, or banished eternally in the Lake of Fire.

There is just one thing eternal about life on earth and that is being with Jesus wherever He is, in His perfect will. The joy of that is "unspeakable". 1 Peter 1:6-9 The peace is beyond comprehension. Philippians 4:7 His love is "beyond knowledge". Ephesians 3:17-19 Everything else is temporary, especially the pleasure of sin. But afflictions and tribulation on Earth are also temporary. Storms here are just a fact, but they all pass!

Sometimes, (way more often than we would like!) living for Jesus feels like Hell. He reveals His will for us, we obey, and then suddenly we feel everything but "love, joy, and peace"!

Instead, heartache, pain, hopelessness, and gloom (to name a few) try to overwhelm us. That's because in order to obey Him we have to deny our flesh, (which is in love with this world and the devil), as well as our feelings, emotions, and our own will. But that, is "taking up your cross to follow Him"! It is the only suffering that is truly "of God".  

We find favor with God when we suffer for doing the right thing, whether it causes persecution or pain. I Peter 2:20   We are sowing seeds of righteousness in a time of pain, in order to reap a harvest with great joy.  Psalms 126:5,6  And the harvest will come! Just be patient, keeping the joy set before you. Even if you can't see what the joyful harvest will be, you can be sure that Jesus does! Taking up your cross truly is the greatest act of spiritual warfare against Satan and the kingdom of darkness.

Let's close with a meditation-exercise we'll call, "How do you think they felt?"

* Do you think Abraham enjoyed taking Isaac, his only son, up that mountain to sacrifice him  in obedience to God? Yes, he had great faith that they both would come back down alive, but do you think he enjoyed it?? Genesis 22

* How did Daniel feel when he faced being thrown in the lion's den because he disobeyed the king and prayed to the living God? Daniel 6

* Or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who faced the fiery furnace because out of love for God they wouldn't bow down and worship an idol? Daniel 3

* How about the Virgin Mary who faced the loss of her future husband Joseph, her friends, her family, and even her acceptance in the "church," all because God asked her to give birth to His Son! Luke 1:26-38

* How do you think the Father felt when He had to send Jesus from the glory of Heaven down to earth to suffer and die on our behalf? It hurt, but it was the right thing to do.

* And how must the disciples have felt Friday night, all day Saturday, and early Sunday after Jesus died on the Cross?? But Sunday came and Jesus rose again, painfully sowing His life for a new day of greater joy, glory and power for us all!

These few examples are what the Bible and living for God, are all about...Denying ourselves to please and obey Him, knowing better things await!

It may feel like Crucifixion-Friday, but Sunday is coming!!

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