Published April 16, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Eternal Perspective"

Snap your fingers. Or, if you prefer, clap your hands once. (Go ahead, I'll wait.)

Hear that?

That sound represented your entire lifetime in the perspective of eternity. In fact, it considerably over-represented it.

Wow — does that help put things in perspective, or what?

The Psalmist referred to the brevity of life in this way: "Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor..." (Psalm 39:5.)

One of chief problems we have in this life is thinking about things in the proper perspective — an eternal perspective. The problem is that we are living in this world and are very much a part of its daily rituals and apparent requirements. As the poet William Wordsworth wrote in 1806, "The world is too much with us... Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers..."

And yet it's what we do during this seemingly all-too-brief lifetime — the decisions we make, especially regarding our relationship to God — that will affect us throughout an endless eternity. As Hebrews 9:27 reminds us, " is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..." It is what we do in this life that determines where we will spend eternity.

But there's more. The Bible doesn't just provide us with the information we need regarding the next life and how to get there. It's not just a road map. It's also a survival manual. Indeed, the Bible is a very practical book that, if properly understood, will affect us each and every day of our lives – what we think, what we do, how we relate to others and how we structure our priorities. To paraphrase the old saying, we are not to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. The Bible instructs us in kingdom principles so that we may live with an eternal perspective each and every day.

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:24-25.) Jesus was trying to instill in his disciples an eternal perspective. When four Southern Baptist missionaries were killed in 2004 in Iraq, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin noted that these missionaries put their lives at risk because they were focused on something beyond this life, something of eternal significance. They had an eternal perspective – and gave their lives acting upon it.

Let's think about this for a moment. How important are your goals for today from the perspective of eternity? Suddenly, some things that seemed so important just don't seem so important anymore. And some things that we usually leave on the "back burner" – spiritual things – find their way quickly to the "front burner."

So... What changes would it mean in your life if you were truly always aware of things from an eternal perspective?

Would you spend more time reading your Bible to learn God's word? Someone once asked a child why older people seem to read their Bibles more than younger people do. The response is instructive: "Perhaps they're cramming for their finals." The Bible introduces us to eternity, of course, but most of it is instruction for daily living, here-and-now for believers.

Would you spend more time praying, seeking God's will for your life? What could be more important than seeking daily guidance from the One with Whom you will spend eternity – and the One whom you are to be serving here and now, each and every day?

Would you spend more time teaching your children about God? Even if you're living a good Christian life day after day (and that certainly is important), your children will not become Christians merely by some passive form of "holy osmosis." You must instruct them, teach them, show them and then challenge them to accept Christ and then to live daily for Him.

Would you spend more time telling your friends and neighbors about your Savior? Do you love your friends enough to want to be with them in heaven throughout eternity? Do you love your friends enough to want the best thing they could acquire in this life – forgiveness of sins and a promise of eternal life in heaven?

Would you spend a lot less time worrying about things that really don't matter from the perspective of eternity? Getting those petunias in the ground would be nice, but might there be something more important to do today from eternity's perspective?

Would you spend a lot less time watching non-Christian TV shows? Could you find something better to do with your time? (That shouldn't be difficult.)

Would you be more active in the work of your local church? Although the "church" is the aggregate of all believers, your local church fellowship is where believers come together to worship – and serve. Often we have the "worship" part. We're not so good on the "serve" part.

Would your life be oriented less to "my will" and more to "God's will?" So often "my will" reflects a lot of "today." God's will reflects an eternal perspective. "WWJD" – "What Would Jesus Do" – is still a pretty good test of your eternal perspective.

If you're a Christian, you know all about God's promises of eternal life with Him. But the challenge is to believe those truths with every fiber of our being and then to apply that belief to every priority, every thought, every action in our daily lives. A full implementation of this can literally be life-changing.

I'm told there are three huge gates that lead into the Cathedral of Milan, Italy. Over one gate there is an inscription in marble under a beautiful floral bouquet that says, "The things that please are temporary." Over the second gate there is pictured a cross with this inscription: "The things that disturb us are temporary." But over the central gate there is a large inscription that says, "Eternal [things] are the important ones."

There's an old quatrain that expresses the truth of all this in a simple yet powerful form:

Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past;
Only what's done
For Christ will last.

Now, that's putting it all in an eternal perspective!

- Paul

Note: This column first appeared here June 15, 2004.
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