Do you remember Gomer Pyle, the cuddly sitcom character portrayed by Jim Nabors? As a naïve Southern bumpkin blissfully navigating life as a U.S. Marine, Gomer often greeted his sometimes-friend, sometimes-nemesis, Sgt. Carter, by announcing. “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” in his hayseed accent.
Well, I’ve been wondering if, when we get to Heaven, and someone like Gomer Pyle were there to greet us, whether we’d also be welcomed with the words, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
If there’s a Heaven – and I have no doubt about that – we can only speculate what it will be like. The Bible speaks quite a bit about it. Randy Alcorn actually wrote a 560-page book, appropriately named Heaven, detailing what he believes the Scriptures tell us. But as it states in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." At best, as a popular MercyMe song expresses, we can only imagine.
So we can expect many surprises when we get there, things far beyond human comprehension. Someone has said we’ll likely be surprised by who we see there, who we don’t see there, and – once the reality of being in the presence of our holy God has sunk in – even surprised and overwhelmed with gratitude that He allowed us to be there.
But there’s another kind of surprise I’m anticipating, one suggested by another tune from years ago, “Thank You,” by Ray Boltz. The song’s refrain, “Thank you for giving to the Lord,” is repeated – referring to giving not only money but also time, prayer and care.
Envision a scenario in which a tour guide, if not Gomer Pyle then maybe someone like Joey Tribbiani in the sitcom, “Friends.” He welcomes us saying, with a big smile, “Hi, how ya doin’?” Then he commences to give the proverbial cook’s tour of the celestial realms. Afterward he asks something like, “So, do you see anyone you know?” We look around and recognize faces of old friends and loved one who arrived before us. As we continue glancing around, other faces seem somewhat familiar, but not as easy to identify.
After we’ve finished spotting people from our temporal lives, the guide – or perhaps the Lord Himself – starts introducing us to people we never met face to face, but whose lives were touched by something we said or did, maybe things we don’t even recall or weren’t aware of at the time.
The Boltz song describes people that gave to support missionaries, performed acts of generosity and compassion, taught a Sunday school class, or invested in someone’s life in other ways.
There’s no limit to how we can have a positive, everlasting impact in the life of another person, simply by saying or doing what God impresses upon our hearts to do. One biblical truth not often mentioned is that in heaven there will be rewards, bestowed in recognition of faithful service and stewardship of the gifts and resources God entrusted to us on earth.
For instance, 2 Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The Bible clearly asserts our eternal destiny is solely “by grace through faith…and not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But there still will be accountability for how we lived.