Something that’s energized me lately is the idea of living with the end in mind. Think about that feeling you get when the last day of the semester is approaching, or you’re only a few weeks away from vacation at work. Better yet, imagine the feeling you get when Christmas is right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but for me the problems I face during these times don’t seem as big and it’s easier for me to push through. It’s amazing what you can do when you can see, or at least know, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If I know the race is approaching I can handle the training (no comments from the peanut gallery, Mark). If my last day at work is Friday, I can handle more workload. I can handle the temptations of the engagement with the wedding date approaching quickly. The anticipation is almost palpable as the excitement builds for whatever it is that the light at the end represents for you.
As Christians, we have an incredible light at the end of the tunnel. James 4:14 says, “…What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” It’s a wonder that most Christians (myself included) live as if this life is all there is. In reality, this life is a dress rehearsal. Death is not the end, it’s the beginning. Jesus even now is preparing a place for us so that we can be with Him where He is (John 14:2-3). Paul says in Philippians that our citizenship is a heavenly one. Peter echoed this when he referred to his readers in 1 Peter as “sojourners and pilgrims.” According to Peter we have reserved in heaven for us a living hope through the resurrection of Christ to an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that will not fade away (1 Peter 1:3-4).
Knowing this should affect how we live our lives in many profound ways so I’d like to spend the next couple of posts discussing some of the effects an eternal perspective can have on a Christian. Living in light of eternity will drastically change your life. It can affect your attitudes, actions, motivations and decisions, as well as revolutionize your relationships. The first thing that always comes to my mind is that the pain of suffering is mitigated when viewed in light of eternity. On the one hand we have all these promises in the Bible about what heaven will be like and how it’s going to be. On the other hand we have our experience on this present earth as a constant reminder that things are not as they should be.
Under the sovereign hand of God, Satan has been given permission to rule over this earth. This is his kingdom for now. In Ephesians 6, Paul commands all believers to put on the whole armor of God. The putting on of armor presupposes some sort of resistance, or battle, does it not? 1 Peter 4 says not to think some strange thing is happening to us when we experience fiery trials, but, in fact, we should rejoice in them. John 15 says that because the world has hated and persecuted Jesus, they will hate and persecute us. So it’s clear the Bible promises some sort of suffering and persecution for believers, but read these other verses and pay close attention to the flip side of the suffering coin.
- Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
- 2 Cor 1:5 – For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
- 1 Pet 4:13 – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.
- Rev 3:21 – The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne.
We can see a couple of things from these verses, namely that we will suffer and that there is a light at the end of that tunnel (in the form of God’s glory being revealed in us). One of the affects of seeing this light ought to be that we can and should be willing to endure much for the advancement of God’s kingdom, but we will not be able to do this if we don’t keep the end in mind. If this life is all there is and all we have to look forward to, it would make the most sense for us to avoid all suffering and seek as much comfort as possible. Understand I am not proposing that we actively pursue suffering and persecution, but I am saying that we should not avoid it at the expense of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God promises us a couple things:
1) we will suffer in some form or fashion if we live a life worthy of the gospel and 2) those sufferings cannot compare to the future glory to be revealed in us.
Press on. Suffer well. Follow the light.
Next up…Store up your treasure, but where?