God made man to be happy, did He not? He created because He loved mankind. He created everything to make mankind happy.
Sin has come into the world now, which has ruined relationships, health, longevity, peace, and the other things that make for happiness. But God sent His Son to redeem us, and if we are willing, He has promised to save us and to give us that joyous life that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden.
Even here, God’s desire is that we might have joy and happiness. I like this passage: “The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:14–16.
Have you ever fallen? The Bible says that the Lord upholds those who fall, and raises up those who are bowed down. Have you ever felt like you were burdened down with some weight? It may be a misunderstanding. It may be duties that overwhelm you. It may be the lack of friendship or poverty. God’s purpose is to satisfy everyone’s desires completely.
There are those who have developed desires that are not holy, and those desires need to be changed, refined, and purified. God’s purpose is to fulfill every pure and true desire. Often God wants to fulfill as many of those desires as He can right here on earth. However, He will not be able to fulfill some desires until eternity. For example, a person who is born blind may have a great desire to have sight—to see colors, to see people, to see things—something that we take for granted. We wake up each morning and open our eyes, and we go about our day’s activities. Most of us do not bother to thank the Lord for eyesight. It is just something that we have. But many of the individuals who are born blind have a great longing for something that they do not have.
Sometimes God has fulfilled such desires here on earth. Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth (John 9), and other blind and suffering individuals also received healing (Matthew 15:31; Luke 7:22).
God is the same Healer today, and sometimes He heals people here too, but those longings cannot always be fulfilled here. Paul had an infirmity in the flesh, which seemed to involve his eyesight. He prayed three times for God to heal him, which He could have done, but God saw that it was best for His cause and for Paul’s character development to allow that infirmity to remain. He said instead, “My grace is sufficient for you. It will be fulfilled in its time, but not right now.” Paul had to endure the affliction of the flesh. (11 Corinthians 12:7–9.) But, nevertheless, God is going to answer that prayer. In fact, James 5 tells us that everyone who comes to the Lord for healing, confessing their sins, will be healed. Not all of them will be healed immediately; not all of them will even be healed in this life, but everyone will be healed.
The Bible says that God satisfies the desires of every living thing. Whatever true and holy desires we have, God intends for the desires to be completely fulfilled far beyond anything we can imagine. Whatever we can ask or think, God desires to fulfill it. (See John 14:13, 14; 15:16.) “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children.” Education, 18.
A text that applies to heaven as well as to this life is 1 Corinthians 2:9: “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” That is supposed to be realized right here on earth. More than we can think or imagine God desires to give to us, even here. This does not necessarily mean finances—that is the first thing a lot of people think of—but the real things of life, the things that make us happy, joyful, and peaceful; the things that make us truly successful.
God intends for us to be able to develop talents beyond what we can imagine. God intends for us to have success and joy in the real things of life beyond what we could ever hope. And then, in the life beyond, when He comes again, there are things prepared that will satisfy us throughout eternity, things into which we will be growing in more knowledge and joy throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. There will be friendships there that we cannot imagine. There will be activities there that go beyond anything we have ever imagined for enjoyment and pleasure. We will experience real friends, real joy, real activities.
Before we can enjoy the pleasures of God in heaven, we must first learn to enjoy the pleasures of God here. We must first develop a little heaven within our hearts for us to take to heaven and enjoy there. It is here that we must develop those characters and habits that prepare us to fit into the society in heaven.
Biddings are Enablings
Our characters are not changed when Jesus comes. They remain exactly the same. This is why God’s ideal for us here is higher than we can imagine, because what we are there, in heaven, is what we become here, and that is beyond what most of us can imagine.
Now, when we consider this, some of us may say, “Well, that is just far beyond anything that I could ever achieve. I mean, I have so many faults in my heart and in my life and character that I could never get to the place where I could really fit into the society of heaven. I could never accomplish it here. If every thought that I think and every sentence that I speak has to fit into the society of heaven, I just do not see how I could ever achieve such a thing. It is beyond the realm of possibility.”
Have you ever thought that? I have wondered how I could ever achieve such a thing, but God has promised it. Remember, all of God’s biddings are enablings. What God has asked us to do He is able to accomplish. “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333. If He is able to accomplish it tomorrow, He is able to accomplish it today; at least it begins today. In fact, today is the only day we have to accomplish it! This is the reason God has given us a life of existence here on this earth. Why, when we come to the Lord and confess Him, does He not just take us to heaven at that moment? Because we have to develop our characters.
Some people have the idea that God should just come down to earth and ask people where they want to go. If they choose heaven, He can take them to heaven. If they do not choose heaven, then they do not need to go to heaven. If God did that, everyone would choose to go to heaven, would they not? Of course, some people think that would be wonderful. Would it? The only trouble is they would not be prepared for heaven, because we do not change when we go to heaven. We change here. That is why, throughout the ages, God has always given people a space of time in which it seems as though nothing is happening; it seems like things are sort of in neutral, but that is where the things are really happening. That is when God is really developing the character.
Old Testament Examples
Think of Moses who was ready to lead the children of Israel out from Egypt. He went out and herded sheep, day after day after day, doing nothing. At least that is what he thought he was doing, but that is from where his real preparation was coming—from herding sheep, taking care of the sick sheep, taking care of the orphans who had no parents, the ones who were wayward and unruly and independent, searching after that lost sheep that had gone off by itself, and instead of letting it suffer the consequences, going out and searching and bringing it back. That was where his character was being developed.
Think back to Noah’s day. We are told that in Noah’s day, when he began to build the ark, there was a great number of people helping him. If the flood had come quickly, within just a matter of a few months or maybe even a few years, there would have been many who would have gone into the ark. They believed Noah. He was a prophet of God; he was a great-grandson of Enoch, who had been translated to heaven.
Noah was in the line of holy men, and people knew at the beginning that he was a prophet called of God. Perhaps God gave signs, as He usually does when there is a prophet, in order to show people. Maybe Noah had some open visions where people could test the gift of prophecy, and there may have been some other prophecies that he gave that people could test. God never leaves us without evidence upon which to base our faith. Whatever evidences God gave, the people could test them and know that Noah was true. So there was a great number who followed and helped to build the ark.
But no one ever figured it would take 120 years to finish the ark. That was a long delay, year after year after year, decade after decade, and still doing the same thing—sawing wood and pounding nails. That got old after awhile! The people surely began to wonder when the ark would be finished. They became weary.
People lived hundreds of years at that time. Most of the people who were there and helping with the ark when it was first begun were still living. They perhaps were still active in some religious activity, but where were they? There was no one left to help with the ark. Noah stood all alone as far as all those who had begun. He had only his own children who had been born 20 years after the project was started.
Egypt to Canaan
Think of the children of Israel who left Egypt. They all intended and hoped and thought and believed that within a short period of time—just a few months’ journey—they would be into the Promised Land. God led them out of Egypt and gave them the manna to sustain them in the wilderness. He gave them the water that flowed from the rock, and then they had the cloud to give them cooling shade by day and the fire to give them warmth and protection by night. They could march right across that desert and soon be in the Promised Land. Wonderful! They had all chosen to leave Egypt; they had all chosen to go to the Promised Land. There were approximately 600,000 men, plus women and children.
Of all those men who left Egypt, only 2 out of 600,000 entered into the Promised Land. We are told that this is an example for us today as God’s remnant people. “I [Ellen White] was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbathkeepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them.
“A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God—a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven. The sins and iniquities of rebellious Israel are recorded and the picture presented before us as a warning that if we imitate their example of transgression and depart from God we shall fall as surely as did they.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 609.
Only a few of those who leave Egypt—the sins of the world—actually end up entering Canaan. Do you know why? because God gives them time for their characters to be developed. While many responded to the altar call, while many answered the initial invitation to join the happy band going to heaven, only a few are willing to go through the character development it takes to enter in.
Many Are Called
What does the Bible say? There are many who are called and who respond to the call, but there are only a few who develop a character that allows them to be chosen to go in. “Many are called,” Jesus said, “but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14.
1 Corinthians 10:1–12 refers to this experience of the children of Israel. It says, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” Verses 1–4.
God gave them all the same opportunities. They all had the same food; they all had the same drink; they all heard the same sermons from Moses; they were all delivered from Egypt; they had all seen the miracles, but what happened?
“But with most of them God was not well pleased, for [their bodies] were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ ” Verses 5–7.
What was happening back then? They were involved, as were the people before the flood, in eating and drinking and playing. I am afraid that is what is happening to most of our young people today. They are involved in sports and eating and drinking and these kinds of things. If somebody goes out on a date, they know nothing else to do but to go to some activity or to some restaurant. That is what most people do when they want to have a night out or to do something.
Eating and drinking and playing—that is what happened to the children of Israel. There is nothing wrong with eating and drinking the right things. There is nothing wrong with exercise and some recreation, but somehow these were the things that absorbed their attention right there below Mt. Sinai, when they should have been dedicating and purifying their hearts for the manifestation of God. It was the wrong time. They did not know when to play and when not to play. They did not know when to eat and when to fast. Their day of opportunity came and they let it pass by.
“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted . . .” by murmuring and complaining and questioning Providence, wondering, “Lord, are You really leading us? I do not like this that You are doing.” They tempted the Lord, and they “were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Verses 10–12.
As we look at the children of Israel, we shake our heads and wonder at their unbelievable shortcomings. I mean, they left Egypt and lived their whole lives in the wilderness. They never got to enjoy the final reward for all their work. But then we stop and consider their trials. They were specifically tried ten different times. The sad thing is that they failed every time they were tried. They did not pass a single trial. These trials began while they were still in Egypt. You see, God was—and is—a God of love, and when the children of Israel failed once, He was loving enough to give them another opportunity. Trials are the opportunities God gives us to develop our characters. Obstacles and trials and temptations are the opportunities God gives us to reveal what is inside and to develop that character which will fit us for heaven.
We are not developed except when the trials come. That is what we are told in Hebrews 5:8, 9 where it says that Jesus was perfected by sufferings: “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.