Learning to see the world through the lens of eternity and live accordingly..
Its been a while since I last posted something and this was a post which I started some months back but held back on because I was sharing a little on this subject in Norway. In previous blogs we discussed hope as a culmination of a temporal hope (based on God’s promises for us now) and an eternal hope (based on God’s promises for us in the future). In this blog I want to begin to address the latter, namely our hope for eternity.
I wonder how often do you think about life after death, eternity and specifically Heaven? I wonder how much such thinking is on our minds day by day? If you are like me the reality is that these things, though clearly important, are not on our minds anywhere as much as they ought. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:18 writes “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. Too often we spend our time thinking about the seen and that which is temporary rather than what is unseen and eternal.
Frances Chan tells an illustration about having an eternal perspective. It is much better if you watch the video below but if not the gist of it is as follows: Frances asks us to imagine a long rope that goes on and on forever and ever. The rope is a timeline of our lives; at one end there is a short red section which represents our life here and now and the remainder of the rope represents our life in eternity. He says that it’s crazy that we spend almost all of our time thinking about the red section and very little of our time thinking about eternity. We are so caught up with this world, so caught up with being comfortable here that we don’t think about what is to come. This short red section he says determines how we are going to live forever…
So why would we want to spend this red part trying to make ourselves as comfortable as we can, trying to enjoy ourselves as much as we can? Listen again to the words of Paul;
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
Paul says we should set our hearts on things above. Why? Because that is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. He says we should set our minds on things above rather than earthly things. Why? Because we died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God and one day we will appear with Christ in glory. Paul knows that this world is full of all sorts of stuff vying for our attention but he says focus on ‘things above’. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes:
“21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Philippians 1:21-24
How extraordinary that a man like Paul would ‘choose life’ for the benefit of others! His preference would be to ‘choose death’ and be with Christ which he says is better by far. He is clear however that his mission whilst living during the red section is about the people God had given him and he is determined to make the most of it. To what extent do you think that you could make such a statement? We have no guarantee that there will be a tomorrow so why oh why do we spend all our time thinking about earthly things rather than the glory which awaits us when Christ appears.
Pete Grieg (who started the 24/7 Prayer movement) in his book “God on Mute” writes;
“The contemporary Western Church at large seems to me to have little belief in the afterlife. We are so temporal and comfortable. We can perpetuate the delusions of our own immortality for longer than any previous generation, but ultimately, unless our death comes instantaneously in earthly life, we must think about such things. We will be poorer if we do not. And so I have begun a solemn pilgrimage that some might deem a little morose. My aim? To envision eternity with Jesus.”
Pete’s encouragement is to enter into a journey to increasingly envision an eternity with Jesus. In recent months I have been doing some reading about Heaven and it has been a huge encouragement to think through some of the things that will characterise our eternal existence. It has helped me to start to get excited about all that awaits me in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I encourage you to do the same, focusing less on the tiny red part and lifting your eyes towards things above.
Just imagine the difference it would make to our lives, to our priorities, to our worries if we were able to do that. Randy Alcorn writes “If we really believed that what we do with our money and possessions – and everything else – will have an irreversible effect on eternity. Wouldn’t we live differently?”
Hope strengthens us, motivates us and makes a difference as we face the various storms of life coming our way in the years to come. These past 2 years have been particularly difficult for me and especially for Debs; at times both of us have felt pretty hopeless. Yet even in the storms we have never given up hope and hope has never given up on us. It really matters that God is in complete control. It matters that He displays His wisdom, goodness and love in our lives. These truths have been the bedrock of my thinking about hope. The realisation that Jesus is the source of our hope and indeed the substance of that hope has also been quite the lesson to learn. The times when I have felt most helpless (esp. when things have felt out of control) have been the times when I have needed to cling most to hope, to cling most to Jesus.
So why do we spend all our time thinking about that red section of the rope? Let’s resolve to have more of an eternal perspective and start to see life through a hope-shaped perspective; a perspective that helps us to trust God in what He is doing in our lives and helps us to walk with Him as we face the storms that come our way.