Mere Christians

Randy Alcorn (Author of Heaven)

Episode Summary

Heaven, work, and “planned neglect”

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Randy Alcorn, Author of Heaven, to talk about the difference between Heaven and the New Earth and what it means for our work, the 2 excellent questions Randy asks when evaluating requests for his time, and how the hope of the gospel is getting Randy’s wife Nanci through the fight of her life.

Links Mentioned:

And don't forget, if you pre-order a copy of Jordan's new book, Redeeming Your Time, you can enter to win a trip for two to the Holy Land (or a cash prize of equivalent value)!

Entering to win is super simple:

NO PURCHASE NEC. Restrictions apply. U.S. + D.C. residents only. Visit for full rules, prize info, odds, free entry method & other details. Void where prohibited.

Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] JR: Before we get to today’s episode, a quick announcement. October 19th, I’m releasing my next book, Redeeming Your Time: 7 Biblical Principles for Being Purposeful, Present, and Wildly Productive. But in case you haven’t heard, I’m giving you guys an amazing over the top incentive to preorder the book today. I’m giving away a trip for you and the guest of your choice to visit the Holy Land. Here’s why.


The new book is all about these seven time management principles from the life of Christ that we can see in the gospels, believe it or not. Essentially, what I’ve done in this book is I’ve taken those seven timeless principles and mapped them to 31 hyper practical practices to help you live out those principles today, ensuring that you and I can walk like Jesus walked in the 1st century here in the 21st century today. So I thought, if I’m teaching people how to walk like Jesus walked, how awesome would it be to send a listener of the podcast to go walk where Jesus walks? So that’s exactly what I’m doing.


Now, listen. I know many of us are not comfortable traveling internationally right now. That’s why I’m giving the winner of this sweepstakes three years to book their trip to Jerusalem. Now, if you’re still not comfortable traveling to the Holy Land, I get it. No worries. If you win, you can choose to receive the equivalent cash prize of the trip instead.


All right, so with all that away, entering to win this trip or the prize, whatever you want, super simple. Step one, go preorder Redeeming Your Time on Amazon or wherever you buy your books. Step two, go to You’ll find a form right there on the website where you can enter in the number of books you preordered and enter to win the trip. That’s it. Now, here’s today’s episode.




[00:02:16] JR: Hey, everybody! Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week, I host a conversation with a Christian, who is world-class at what they do vocationally. We talk about their path to mastery, their daily habits, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ influences their work.


Today’s guest doesn’t need much of an introduction. Today, we’re talking with Randy Alcorn. He’s the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 books, including Heaven, which is one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. You probably heard me mention on the podcast many times before. That book alone has been translated into something like 70 languages, sold millions of copies. Trust me, Randy is world-class at what he does. He’s a prolific writer. Today, he’s the Founder and Director of Eternal Perspective Ministries. Before that, he was a pastor for 14 years, obviously seminary-trained, knows what he’s talking about on this topic.


Randy and I sat down. We recently talked about the difference between heaven and the new earth and what it means for our work. We talked about the two terrific questions Randy asks when he’s trying to evaluate requests for his time. We talked about the very real tragic situation that Randy and his wife, Nancy, are going through right now with Nancy’s fight with cancer, and just talking through the resolute hope that the gospel provides in the face of those kinds of trials. This is a really special episode. Please enjoy this conversation with Randy Alcorn.




[00:04:18] JR: Randy Alcorn, truly a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.


[00:04:21] RA: Hey, it's a pleasure to be with you, Jordan.


[00:04:23] JR: So, I read your bio. You're an audiobook lover. I am too. So, I'm curious. I know I'm a stickler for narrating my own audiobooks, is that true for you?


[00:04:33] RA: I have narrated the great majority of my audio books. There have been a few cases where time just has not permitted it. My wife has some health issues. So, in recent years, there's been a few audiobooks I just haven't been able to take the time to do. I love doing it myself. I feel like I know exactly what I should emphasize. The words in the sentence that sometimes every once in a while, I'll hear a great, great audio reader of one of my books, who understandably didn't know the right thing to emphasize and it kind of drives me nuts.


Yes, I'm a stickler in that sense. I want to get it right. I've spent lots of times in studios here in the Greater Portland area. Sometimes I've traveled. I don't like to travel to record audio. It's almost never necessary anymore. But yeah, I would say probably, my nonfiction books, 80% to 90% of them I've recorded. Now fiction is a different story.


[00:05:39] JR: Yeah, that's a whole different ball.


[00:05:41] RA: Yeah, you've got to have real talent to do accents –


[00:05:47] JR: Which I could never pull off. Yeah, I will say I was surprised how much I enjoyed the process. But it's also by far the most exhausting two days of my life. All you're doing is talking. But you're saying, I like to stand into it. I don't know. It's an exhausting thing. All right. All right, on to more, much more significant things.


[00:06:07] RA: Let me interject one thing on that though, the audio book, by far that I'm most enjoyed recording is my book Heaven for Kids. It's not that long of a book. But the great thing was because you're sitting there by yourself and there are editors, studio recorder guy, that you can maybe see through a glass, you're in this soundproof room, by yourself. It's you and the Lord and your imaginary audience. Now, it’s a real audience. But for the moment, it's imaginary, because you're not seeing them. So, here I am speaking to kids, and the entire time, I'm picturing my grandkids that's sitting right there in the room with me and that was an absolute delight. The time just flew by.


[00:06:56] JR: That's fascinating. Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers was really good at this. He was able to visualize kids on the other end of that camera. You would talk a lot about this in interviews, it fascinating. I'm so glad you brought up Heaven, because you've had some incredible books a lot that are on my bookshelf. But Heaven is by far been the most influential to me. Sold, I don't know well over a million copies of that book thus far. I actually don't know though, what was the impetus for writing the book? Why did you finally say, I need to tackle this enormous topic?


[00:07:28] RA: The seeds of it go back to when my mom was dying in 1981. I would come to her bedside every day and read to her the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21, and 22. And then it dawned on me, I gone all the way through Bible college and seminary both and not one time, in one class, had we had any kind of extended discussion of our teaching on the subject of the New Earth. I thought, this is where we're going to live forever.


I mean, I've heard way more about the present heaven, though much of that tends to be a little more speculative, like what's going on right now, with people who are in the presence of God. We know they're conscious. We know we’re with the Lord. To be as real bodies be present with the Lord. We know there's communication, there's dialogue, there's consciousness, all of that. We know some other specifics. But we actually know far more or should know far more that God has revealed to us about the New Earth, the prophets who speak of it, and we know for sure that we're speaking of it because they're quoted, specifically in Revelation 21 and 22, the last two chapters of the Bible, which are like a mirror image of the first two.


It just hit me not only in the experience with my mom, but years later when I was a pastor, and then when I was writing. I have so many conversations with believers who say they believe in the resurrection, but they don't believe in the resurrection because they'll say things like, “Oh, my daughter who died of leukemia, and it's just a tragic story. And his dad is crying and he's telling me and I'll never be able to put my arms around my daughter and hug her again.” I said, “Wait a minute, you've been telling me you're a believer. Your daughter's a believer. Okay, so why would you say that?” I said, “Don't you believe in the resurrection?” “Oh, sure. I believe in the resurrection. We all know we're supposed to believe in the resurrection. But if you don't believe that you will ever hug your daughter, again, your physical body, her physical body, then you don't believe in the resurrection.”


[00:09:39] JR: Paul makes that pretty clear in First Corinthians 15. Alright, for those who haven't read Heaven, because by the way, I had never – I was shocked. I grew up in the church. I went to a Christian School for 13 years. Randy, I don't think I heard anybody talk about the New Earth until I read your book a decade ago, and it was the most mind-blowing thing I've ever read. So, for those who haven't heard this, let's break it down as simply and quickly as possible, debunk our misconceived notions of heaven and what heaven actually is, what the biblical promise actually is, of the New Earth.


[00:10:13] RA: I think, the most confusing thing, Jordan, is that there is the heaven you go to when you die, if you know Jesus.


[00:10:19] JR: The present heaven.


[00:10:21] RA: The present Heaven, exactly. That's going to live with God in his place, and where the angels are, and the people of God are, and all that throughout the ages. All right. But the present heaven is not the same as the eternal heaven. It will be relocated, and that promise is explicit in Revelation 21:3, three times, it says, “God will come down, he will actually bring the present heaven, down to the New Earth, and he will dwell with his people forever. Redeemed people with new bodies, redeemed bodies on a redeemed Earth. It's not just that we will be changed, transformed, redeemed, in the full sense, resurrected, at last, it's that the Earth itself will be resurrected and that's where we will live with God and His people forever.”


[00:11:15] JR: All things will be new, as Jesus says in Revelation 21. But I'm going to butcher the N.T. Wright quote, but he says it all the time. It's like, “It's not us that go to heaven when we die.” It is. But that's not the end of the story. It's God who brings heaven to us here on the New Earth, on a restored Earth, right?


[00:11:34] RA: That's exactly right. The difference between the heaven that we go to when we die, we go up to live with God and His place, is that God promises us he will come down to live with us in our place, not his place, but our place. It'll be his place, because he'll make it his place. But he is coming out of heaven to dwell down on Earth. Now, we've got a picture of that, because you got the illusion in Genesis 3 of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And for sure, that was something that he did regularly, because it's not like one time and only one, God came down to walk with – no, that obviously was a common thing.


[00:12:12] JR: Yeah. My lane in this podcast, my books, everything I do, is to help Christ followers grasp how the gospel shapes their work. And for years, I believe so strongly that it is impossible, or very difficult, I shouldn’t say impossible to have a solid theology of work without having a solid theology of heaven and the New Earth. I'm curious if those two ideas are linked for you, Randy. Really broad question, how does a solid theology of the new heavens and the New Earth shape how we think about our work today?


[00:12:48] RA: Oh, it shapes it tremendously, Jordan, because if you think that heaven will be floating around, nondescript, nowhere to go, nothing to see, nothing to do, except worship God, what does that even mean? Because we're told, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, so we can eat and drink to God's glory in this life, First Corinthians 10:31. And we should. What's more plain and ordinary and physical than eating and drinking? I ride my bike to the glory of God. I play tennis to the glory of God. I spend time with my wife and watch a movie to the glory of God. This is something that we can do in physical bodies.


Well, we've never not had physical bodies. So, heaven, when we die, to go to be with the Lord, at first, will be quite a transition, but it'll be a temporary state. Now, it's possible that I talked about this in my books, but that we may have physical forms that God gives us temporarily, so that we can function as human beings. Because human beings are not disembodied spirits. That is not our nature. Our nature is spirit and flesh joined together. So, that nature will be restored fully in the resurrection. Meanwhile, maybe God does some things and there's physical descriptions in heaven where we get by without bodies, certainly we get by without our human body that has died and has not been raised yet. But then, forever, we will live with him on this New Earth.


Now, what will we do there? Well, what we will do is we will reign over it. We will have dominion. Now that only has meaning if there's physicality, because that's exactly what God told Adam and Eve to do in the garden. They were to care for the animals, they were to care for the garden, they were to attend it, and then had they not fallen into sin, sinless civilization would have developed and art and music and sports and work would have gone on unimpeded. There would have been no curse. That's what we see. When we think of work we think of, “Oh, gosh, it's just so hard.” Sometimes we think. Now, in our better moments, we realize this is fulfilling. This is what God has called us to do work to his glory, and nothing should energize us, refresh us, encourage us more than to do what God has called us to do.


But in a world of the curse, that's become, of course, much more difficult. But that's the beauty of the New Earth. There will be no more curse, Revelation 22:3. No more curse, no more thorns, no more thistles, no more impediments to the work that we do. No more bad relationships that challenge us on a daily basis, no more sin in our hearts. So, we will work for God forever and reward in God's kingdom for what we have done in this life is about having more responsibility, greater responsibility, as we work for him and live for him in the new world.


[00:11:53] JR: I think it was you who first helped me realize that there will be work eternally on the New Earth. Isaiah 65 makes this pretty clear. Can you break that down for us, that passage? I think you know what I'm referring to.


[00:12:10] RA: I do. Yes. Isaiah 65, Isaiah 60, Ezequiel 47, Isaiah 11. There’s a number of these New Earth passages that are there that we often those of us who believe in a literal thousand-year millennial kingdom, we often make the mistake of limiting them, we'll see these pastors will say, “Well, that's millennium. That's the millennium.” Okay, well, millennium is just thousand years and Daniel 7 repeatedly says, “Forever and ever, serving Him and His eternal kingdom.” It says that he will take the earth, and God's kingdom will be the ultimate one that replaces all these kingdoms that preceded it. You got Babylon and Persia, and you got Greece and you got Rome. And then ultimately, God is going to replace those earthly kingdoms, with another earthly kingdom, which will be heaven on earth, where Jesus will reign over the earth.


Isaiah 65, alludes to that, but it's even more explicit in Daniel 7, because you've got, “And then God, Christ, the Ancient of Days in trust to the Son of Man, Jesus favorite name for himself, the Messiah, the care of and rule over the earth.” And then it says that he entrusted it to his people, and the saints of God will reign forever and ever. Well, that reigning is working. A king doesn't have nothing to do. He has a great deal to do.


Now, he delegates responsibilities, but that doesn't mean he sits around and does nothing. I mean, a good king is actively involved. He goes out and sees his people and spends time with his people, and all of that. So, working is what we will do. I mean, I don't mean will never rest, of course, it's depicted as rest as well. But even our work I think will be restful.


[00:18:16] JR: Yeah. One of my favorite passages of Scripture. One of the most inspiring visions for work, I think comes from Isaiah 65: 21-23. This is a picture of the New Earth. Randy, you know this way better than I do. Correct me if I'm going off base here, but it's a picture of New Earth. They will build houses. They talk about us. They will build houses and dwell in them. They will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them and others eat. And then it goes on to verse 23, they will not labor in vain, right? So, if you're having a bad day at the office today, you can lament with hope that one day even work will be new. It will be perfect. It'll be just as Adam and Eve experienced prior to the fall. Right?


[00:19:05] RA: Exactly right. What happens Jordan is that people will and I have cited this passage many times, read from and they said, “Oh well that can't. That’s not heaven. That’s Earth. That's just the millennium.” You got to get straight in your mind that God is going to bring heaven down to earth. How do we know that this is really about the New Earth? We'll go back to verse 17. He says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a New Earth that's synonymous with new universe.” Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created heaven, the earth”, that means God created the universe, because that's all there is. All the material existence, the entire universe he created, and then he's going to recreate and resurrect, and I think resurrect is the best word for it. Because it's just like people say, “Well, no, wait. Second Peter 3 says the earth is going to be destroyed.” Of course, it's going to be destroyed. So, our bodies are destroyed, right? In this life, when we die, there's people that died thousands of years ago.


So, God is going to resurrect their bodies that were destroyed. God will resurrect the earth that's destroyed and we know that to be true, because Second Peter 3 says it explicitly, that the elements will burn with fire and this whole earth, it'll be destroyed and all of that, but it doesn't end there. It says, “Therefore, we are looking forward to new heavens and a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells.” A redeemed one. So, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that Satan pulled off this great victory against God. He defeated God somehow. And Genesis 3 messed up God's plan forever. So, even though God explicitly says he wants Adam and Eve, to rule the earth, to have dominion over the earth, for His glory, it's as if we think, “Oh, well, only two people ever experienced it, and that for a short period of time, and then God's plan was spoiled forever.”


No. Jesus came to fulfill God's plan, not to reverse it, or say, “Okay, well, I've come now so that I can drag people's souls off into a ghostly existence for all eternity.” No. He came to bring a kingdom into earth. And then people say, “Oh, but wait, Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this earth.” Well, it wasn't at that time. But the point is, he is going to bring his kingdom to earth and we’ll enjoy it forever. But the Isaiah 65 passage, people will just say, “Well, yeah, but buildings and all of that? Well, that's not heavenly stuff. That's earthly stuff.” Well, God made us to live on the earth and the promise of the resurrection is that we will live on the earth and do what he intended us to do forever. So, when he says, he goes to prepare a place for us, in my Father's house are many mansions, rooms, whatever translation it is, but their physical aspects to it.


[00:22:05] JR: So, you mentioned this a couple of times, this idea that Jesus inaugurated the eternal kingdom of God on that first Easter Sunday by conquering death. But he didn't bring it to earth fully in that moment. He won't do that until he returns to finish this kingdom building project. So, here's my question, if God is going to finish the work, of restoring and repairing creation, in the end, why does our work matter right now?


[00:22:34] RA: It matters, partly because God is with us here and now and a large part of our stewardship is the work we do for him. Now, our relationships, our families, our friends, our church, those are all part of that. But those two involve work, service for our kings. So, God has made us to serve and to find fulfillment in serving. So, I think what we do is we need to take the eternal perspective that says, “Alright, help me Lord today to take what you say about your eternal kingdom, and the beauty and the wonder and the creativity and all that you have for us. And now help me to front load it into my life today, so that I serve you today through my work, and through other means as well. But I serve you today through my work, my play and all the other things in my life, with eternity in mind and with the meaning of being your servant and being faithful to you, and doing what needs to be done.”


So, all the passages that have to do, and the Old Testament is full of them and there's a lot in the New Testament as well, caring for widows and orphans. This is serving. This is the Good Samaritan. He doesn't walk by like the other religious leaders did. I mean, the religious leaders did. They just walk by. The man that's in the ditch he goes and he takes care of it. He takes him out of there, and he entrust them to the innkeeper and leaves money with him to care for him and then says, he'll come back. That kind of service, giving is a form of work. It's doing the works he has called us to do.


I also love the fact that in Ephesians 2: 8-9, which we often quote, leave out verse 10.


[00:24:36] JR: Yes, please go there. This is one of my favorite topics.


[00:24:42] RA: “For by grace, you have been saved through faith, not of yourself, the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should bust.” So, what happens is we get this anti works mentality, which we should have, if we're talking about salvation. I mean, in other words, because our works do not, cannot contribute to our salvation, it is only the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. However, just keep reading the next verse, because we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do what? To do good works.


[00:25:21] JR: We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works. That's why we've been redeemed. We've been set right so that we can partner with Jesus setting the world back to rights. I grew up in the church, I memorize the Ephesians 2: 8-9. I memorized Ephesians 2:10 separately, never together. And the marriage, though, could not be more important.


A big part of this book that I'm releasing right now called Redeeming Your Time is this idea that the gospel provides our ultimate source of ambition, and rest. Ambition, because we believe that we're Christ's workmanship created to him for good works, but also rest knowing that he alone is going to finish his kingdom building project. God doesn't need us to finish our to-do lists. We are off the hook for that. We are off the hook for the results. We're just called to be faithful in the present, right Randy?


[00:26:17] RA: Exactly. This is where we need to see continuity between this life and the life to come. What are we told? We're told that when we leave this world, at some point, whether it's immediately or a little bit later, there's debate about that. But we will all give an answer for what we have done in the body. We will be held accountable for what we have done in this life, how we served the Lord while we were here, in our bodies in this world under the curse. What that means, first of all, is that I think one of the ways that we get this discontinuity sense between this life and the next is imagining that we won't remember this life. We'll remember this life far better. In other words, my memory right now, I'm 67. So, I look back at life, and I go, “Okay, I remember a lot of things that happened to me.” But there's a lot of things I don't remember and you kind of see that very clearly where you got Jesus in the sheep and the goats, where he says, “When I was hungry and thirsty, you fed me and you gave me something to drink.” When did we do this? We don't even remember what you're talking about. And part of it is because you know, in as much you've done unto these least of my brothers, so you've done unto me, so maybe it wasn't directly to him, it was indirectly.


But also, I think, if you've only done a few good works in your entire life, you'll remember them. But if you just daily aren't doing acts of kindness in the supermarket parking lot, and helping an older person get some bags in their car, take the cart back for them, or help them reach something up on the shelf or something. I mean, that's just a part of your life, which it should be as believers. We're not going to remember the vast majority of good things we've done. I'll never forget when I was – speaking of supermarket, I was in one day and the checker looked at me and said something to me. It was a very obvious she was depressed and it was someone that I kind of remembered. I'd gone to school at the same time. She was in the same grade level as I was, but she remembered me and we were talking. Well, I said some things to her. I gave her one of my books, I always carry around my smaller books in my pockets, I just give them out to people.


And then we're at a school, like class reunion where they had all the different classes that were there at the same time. So here we are, and she stands up and tells a story of how she was on the verge of taking her life one day. And then she mentions me by name, and I'm sitting there about 20 feet from her and she's looking at me and says, “I was going to take my life that day. Literally my plan was, I'm saying goodbye to my coworkers they don't know, it's going to be a forever goodbye. And I'm going home and I'm going to take my life.” As a result of a booklet that he gave me that talked about God and a relationship with Christ. I'm sitting there, and at first it was hard for me to remember. It's like me to give out books. So, “Oh, yeah, I probably did that.” Well, of course I did that. She's saying I did.


But my point is, I was not a big deal. It truly wasn't a big deal, yet it was a big deal. That's what I think we're going to find out that the things we've done in this life, are going to matter for eternity.


[00:29:41] JR: When Paul and Jesus talk about good works. Most often in the New Testament, you're much better biblical scholar to me, so correct me if I'm wrong. But a lot of times it's this Greek word, Aragon. That's what it is in Ephesians 2:10, that we translate that works. And from my understanding, the word connotes, yes, charitable deeds. Giving a book to a woman in a parking lot like that, sharing the gospel explicitly with people. But it also connotes, I was looking at my coordinates, “work, task and employment”, right? So, is there a sense in which Randy just going to work, and doing our job and doing our job well, and serving our employers and customers well, is good? Is a part of the good works we're doing on behalf of King Jesus?


[00:30:28] RA: Absolutely, yes. I'm glad you said that, because it's not that you have to import sharing the gospel into every moment, of course. But it is that God gives us relationships and actual work to do goods and services. Those are good things that God calls us to do. Yes, the world is under a curse all the more need for good products, goods and services, even the fact that goods are called goods, they’re goods. You produce goods and you do services for people. So, the person who sells tires at the tire store, he's doing a good thing.


Now, if you are doing something, which involves things that harm people, and not just drugs –


[00:31:19] JR: That is contrary to God's word, right? That's a different story.


[00:31:23] RA: I mean, I would even very honestly, though, certainly, many faithful Christians have been part of the tobacco industry from – especially in the old days, but even now, some are whatever, I would just say, okay, for the most part, is this thing that I'm devoting my life to helping produce? Is it for people's good? If I decide that it's actually not, I find, how about I just go over and do something else. If it's selling vacuum cleaners, vacuum cleaners are fine. They're great. I mean, they help people do a job. But all I'm saying is, yes, there are times where we say, “Am I doing the right thing? Is it going to matter for eternity?” If it's doing harm, then that's not what God wants.


[00:32:08] JR: Not all work is good work.


[00:32:10] RA: Right, exactly. But then sometimes there's the mistake of spiritualizing. Okay, I've had a number of successful businessmen come to me, God has just changed my life. And I've learned so much about giving all this kind of stuff. And then they say, “I just wonder, does God want me to go into pastoral ministry? Does God want me to become a missionary?” And my usual thing as well, he might, and by all means, if you believe he does, then do that. But do not assume that for a moment. I would start with the opposite assumption. I would say, “Lord, I'm going to stay and faithfully do what I'm doing now. Use it to your glory, of the work itself, and the income from the work to your glory. Unless you make explicitly clear otherwise, I'm not going to go into the ministry.”


[00:33:02] JR: Amen. Paul talks about this. I can't remember where maybe you can help me but he talks about the kind of our default posture should be. In absence of that explicit call to stay put where you are, when you are saved, and you just keep doing what you're doing. I think about Jesus. Jesus called certain people to “full time ministry”, my most hated term in the world. Paul, Peter, whatever. But he called others to go redeem their vocations. He told Zacchaeus. He didn't tell Zacchaeus to leave his profession as a tax man. He just called him to change his orientation to that work. I think that's an important distinction for us to make.


So, all right, Randy. This podcast is really about two things. One, which we've already talked about, how does the biblical narrative in general, and the gospel more specifically shaped our work. But number two, I think part of our response to the gospel is just this commitment to excellence, the Ministry of excellence, and mastering the crafts that the Lord has entrusted us with for His glory and the good of others. And for you, you've talked a little bit about this in blog posts in the past, a big part of mastering your work as a writer is just saying no to requests like this one for you to come on my podcast, right? You call this planned neglect saying no to good things so you can focus on your most essential work. What do you mean by that term? And what is that term planned neglect meant for you and your career?


[00:34:27] RA: Well, it's been huge to me, Jordan, because when I was a young pastor, especially, I just believed that any invitation to serve, to teach, to lead a group, to travel somewhere and do something for a group of people, well, obviously, I was asked, so it must be God's will. Well, you're going to burn out really quickly if that's the case. I actually did. I burned out in a lot of ways. I mean, I continued in pastoral ministry, but it was only after I – for the most part, I was out of pastoral ministry, and starting this new ministry, eternal perspective ministries that we have, where I just realized I have to change my whole way of thinking. Because it's not a sufficient reason to do something that it is a good thing. It is not even sufficient reason to do something that it is a great thing. Because what I have to do is, among those things that come my way, and I'm asked to do, I need to decide what are the very, very few things that God has really called me to do.


So, I started asking God, “Okay, Lord, changed my assumption. Lord, I assume my answer should be no.” That's what I do. Every invitation I get now, I start thinking, “No. Nope. Nope. No.” But then I say, “But open my heart and draw me to this if you want me to do this.” I recently did that was something where my assistant, Chelsea, nicely says no to almost everything on my behalf. And then I tell her, “Look, I'll overrule that if I look at it and pray about it, and then I'll get back to him.” And I did that. I got back to somebody, said, “Chelsea was right to say no, because I'm saying no to almost everything. But in this particular case, I just, I sensed as I prayed about it, God wants me to say yes.”


So, planned neglect means what am I going to neglect to the glory of God? What am I going to not do to the glory of God? Now, last year, I had a blast doing fantasy football for the first time I've ever done it. I started getting my emails and sign up for this and all this stuff. I was going, you know what, I have some things that I've got to get done and I've taken on a responsibility. I've gone back to coaching High School tennis, that's a big-time commitment. I have to carve something out. I've got to neglect something. So, I am with a certain amount of sadness. I'm still going to enjoy football. But I'm not going to do fantasy football, which is the ultimate – I know people who spend more time on fantasy football than they do on their jobs.


[00:37:17] JR: Yeah, a great time suck of our era. I talked about this in this new book, Redeeming Your Time, this idea of the importance of not just identifying priorities, but what Peter Drucker called postorities. The list of things that you're going to avoid at all cost until you finish working through your priorities. I'm curious, do you have a couple of quiet – sounds like you pray over a lot of these requests, very wise. Do you have any questions that you systematically work through when evaluating requests for your time?


[00:37:49] RA: Yes, I do. One of them is, am I uniquely qualified to do this?


[00:37:56] JR: I love that question.


[00:37:57] RA: This is one of the things that I realized years ago, I was doing a lot of speaking for the prolife movement, pregnancy center, banquets, events on the East Coast conferences. I was speaking at missions, conferences also and other general Christian conferences. But I started asking myself, “Okay, really?” So, I'm flying across the country. So, you're in Tampa Bay, is that what you said?


[00:38:25] JR: Yeah.


[00:38:26] RA: So, you would get this, if you did the exact opposite. I think you were recently in Portland so you understand what's involved in that. But why am I flying across the country to speak somewhere for 40 minutes and it's taking the better part of three days of my life? There's the first travel day to get there. Because coming out of Portland, I usually have a connection. By the time I actually get there, it's too late to have done the travel that day and what happens if I miss a flight or you know, whatever.


Okay, so there's that day. And then there's the next day where I'm actually speaking at the event. And then after that, then there's the travel back home, which often takes me into that third day. So, I've just taken three days of my life to speak for 40 minutes. It doesn't make sense. Aren't there people on the East Coast who can address prolife issues? And the answer, of course, is yes. I know that because they're always flying out here to the west coast.


So, in other words, how about we just say there is something to a regional thing. Now, I've traveled around the world, and I get it. I know there's time and that's not a hard and fast rule. But it is something where I say, “Why would I do this?” The only reason would be, if I am just in a unique position to do it, another thing I would add to that is, do I have a unique passion for this that energizes me and my wife? And that's going to answer one of these things that I chose to do. About five years ago, Nancy and I were praying that God would help us to get involved with more younger people. By younger people, we didn't mean teenagers, but more 20s and 30s, people who we could pour into their lives. And then I got an invitation to speak at a pro athlete’s conference put on by a Christian organization. That opened up incredible doors and relationships were one of the athletes that I'd known, Matt Hasselbeck, who used to play for the Seahawks and other teams as well.


But he remembered me from a Seahawks chapel and he said, “Hey, how you doing? We're catching up.” He says, “Hey, you want to come to my small group?” And I said, “Well, isn't that just for players?” He goes, “Well, I want you to be there and you'll be like my Bible Answer man or whatever.”


[00:40:46] JR: My living cordons.


[00:40:49] RA: Some of the tough questions, whatever. So, I come and here, Matt’s leading this group and these guys are in it. And Andy Dalton and Nick Foles and Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins and these guys, and I develop these relationships with these guys and I'm able to pour into their lives and do an online study with the – there are 18 active quarterbacks in the NFL and a number of retired ones. They're in this group, and it's not that big of a thing. But it results in getting text. “Hey, what does this Bible verse mean? I'm leading a small group tonight. Can you help me with this?” And all of that.


So, that's something, I could go, “Well, I'm not the only person who could do this.” But for whatever reason, it kind of brings joy to us because my wife's a huge football fan. She's struggling with cancer. For her to find the light in something, she always tells me, “You can't say no to any of these NFL things.” Because she says, “If you go, they won't just be in Chapel, we get free tickets. Okay, so we're going.” And I go, “Well, I don't know if I have time to prepare.”


[00:42:02] JR: You're doing it. Make it up on the way. That's terrific advice. I love your perspective on that. All right, Randy, three questions we'd love to wrap up every conversation with. Other than your own books, which it sounds like you give away a lot, which books on the whole do you tend to gift most frequently to others or recommend most frequently?


[00:42:23] RA: Well, pretty much anything and everything by CS Lewis, and also a lot of John Piper books. I've given away many copies of many of his books. Certainly, Desiring God, but also, a smaller book that he had that most people probably don't even know about. The original title was The Dangerous Duty of Delight. It wasn't that great of a title, but small book that it takes the essence of desiring God. I’ve given out a lot of those. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. I've been given that one away numbers of times for the last year. Terrific book about the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers and it's a book that's really spoken into our hearts and lives and everybody I give this to, has come back to me and said, “Wow, what a book.”


[00:43:13] JR: Okay, I got to check this out. Hey, who would you most like to hear on this podcast talking about how the gospel shapes their work? Ideally, somebody working outside of the four walls of the church, but I'll take any answer you give Randy.


[00:43:24] RA: Nick Foles. Here's why Nick Foles would be a great one. Because he came in the NFL, very successful for a couple of years, then not successful, almost quit the game completely and talk to me about it when he was going through the process of whether to continue or not. Then came back as a backup for the Chiefs, then went to the Eagles and ended up being Super Bowl MVP. First Super Bowl win for the Eagles, a legend there, they build a statue to him. Now, in the years since has had some tough experiences with injuries and not – he’s a backup and right now he's the third quarterback on a team. It's just inconceivable. But he has had the full spectrum of ups and downs and he has developed a true eternal perspective. So, he's not just the great success story. Yeah, there is that. There’s Super Bowl MVP. That's as high as you can go. But there's also the struggles and things not going my way, and the media criticisms and all that. He'd be a great one.


[00:44:41] JR: Yeah, he would be. Text Nick and tell him he's invited anytime. I’d love to have him on. All right, last question. What's one thing from today's conversation that you want to reiterate, highlight for our listeners, before we sign off? Again, an audience of Christ followers, who’s just trying to do great work for the glory of God and the good of others.


[00:45:00] RA: I would say, the idea of the cultivation of and the clinging onto of an eternal perspective. We look not at the things that you're seeing, but the things which are unseen. The things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are unseen are eternal. God is using our light and momentary afflictions, to achieve in us in eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all. I would say, take that eternal perspective, and in particular, apply it to the very hard things you're experiencing. My wife has stage four cancer in the lymph nodes for three and a half years. We have walked this journey together/ We got some bad news just yesterday, a test that did not go the way. We prayed that it would. We've asked God for complete healing. He hasn't chosen to do it yet. He may still do it. We're going to still keep praying for it. But it was some very discouraging news for a test.


So, my wife, we cried together, we talked together, we prayed together. And then she told me at the end of the day, she says, “You know, God has been with us and this has been one of the best days of my life.” She was not kidding. She wasn't trying to say a super spiritual thing. She was just saying it. And this morning, we're talking, and she's talking about how she views God at work in this and she says, “You know what, I have been thinking about angels today and I got the biggest smile on my face.” It's my wife talking to me. She the biggest smile on my face, because I thought, I'm going to meet angels, Guardian, angels, whatever, that have worked in my life and protected me. I'm going to ask them tell me about some of the things that you did. And she says, “I just can't wait to meet them.” Tears aren't coming down her eyes of sadness, because she's overwhelmed with grief. She's just saying, “What a delight.” It's going to be only people who cling to and have a god empowered, eternal perspective can think like that, in the midst of what's a pretty devastating situation for her and for me.


[00:47:20] JR: Randy, can I and our listeners with me pray for you and Nancy, right now?


[00:47:25] RA: Please.


[00:47:26] JR: Father, God, our hearts break for Nancy, and for Randy, in hearing this not great report from Nancy's doctors just yesterday. We lift them up, ask for a miracle in Nancy's life and our health and you would heal her and give her many, many more years to do your work in this world. But if you don't know, we pray that Nancy and Randy would cling to the truth that you are working all things for our ultimate good, and for your great glory and may we rest in the peace that that hope and that truth brings Father God. Amen.


[00:47:58] RA: Amen.


[00:47:59] JR: Randy, on a personal level, I just want to thank you for the extraordinary work that you and Nancy and the team at Eternal Perspective Ministries have done throughout the years. Thank you for helping us rediscover a biblical view of heaven and the New Earth and for giving us great hope for our lives, for our work. Guys, Heaven is the book. You can buy wherever books are sold. You can also check out Randy's, I don't know, 50 plus book at


Randy, thank you for spending some time with us today.


[00:48:29] RA: You're very welcome. It's been my pleasure.




[00:48:33] JR: Man, I love Randy so much. This is an episode I’m going to treasure for a really long time. I really love the questions he asks to help him evaluate requests for his time. I love that question about am I uniquely qualified. Great question.


Guys, in Redeeming Your Time, my new book, I offer eight questions to help you say no to request for your time. Four questions to ask of favors things that are primarily of value to others and four questions to ask of opportunities, things that are primarily valuable to you. But I also made the case in the book that, listen, worldly wisdom about saying no doesn’t align all the time with Christ’s example. The sacrificial example of Jesus Christ compels us to have a unique approach to the word no, and I unpack this at length in Redeeming Your Time.


Remember, if you guys preorder the book today, you can enter to win a trip for two to go to the Holy Land. It’s real simple. Step one, go preorder Redeeming Your Time on Amazon, wherever books are sold. Step two, go to Fill in the form, and you’ll be entered to win. Guys, thank you so much for tuning into the Call to Mastery this week. I’ll see you next time.