Unfortunately, one of the promises Jesus gave us was written in John 16:33. He said that we would have trouble in this world. Yet somehow we always seemed surprised when we encounter troubles and set backs. I’m one of the biggest offenders. I like things to happen on schedule, the way I planned them, with no disruptions or issues. When things happen that mess up my plans, or I run into a period when nothing seems to go right, I lose my calm demeanor. I complain, and I let people and God know I’m not happy. My focus switches from long term to immediate, and in doing that, I lose my eternal perspective as well. In those times, I allow my troubles to block my view of God.
Consider Abraham. Hebrews 11:8 reminds us that God called him to leave his home where he had grown up and where his family was. God didn’t even tell him where he was going. He just said that He would show it to him. He and his wife Sarah lived in the land God promised him as a foreigner all his life. There was even a famine in the land that God took him to which forced him to leave for a period. Verse 10 says, “Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (NLT). Even when things didn’t happen the way he thought they should or in his timing, he kept looking past his troubles to God’s promises.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul starts out by saying they were pressed on every side by troubles, but they were not crushed. He continues talking about how constant his troubles are and that he keeps going and pushing forward. Then in the final verse of the chapter he writes, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” He is teaching us to keep an eternal perspective by looking past our current situation. We must rely on God’s promises when things are going wrong. Our faith in what God says should give us the strength to persist even in times of trouble. Don’t allow today’s issues cause you to lose sight of tomorrow’s fulfilled promises.
We recently cleaned out our garage. I threw a lot of things away that I had held onto for years. I kept thinking, “At some point, I valued these things enough to spend money on them. Then later, I valued them enough to store them.” The next week, my mother in law did the same thing. I helped her throw away a couple of truck loads. On the road, she said, “It’s better for me to do this now. I don’t want my kids having to go through all this one day when I die.” We spend a lifetime working so we can buy things, most of which devalue over time. Then what? Someone has to go through them and determine whether to keep them, donate them or throw them away. Did what we mattered to us in this lifetime matter for eternity?
The psalmist who wrote Psalm 39 started thinking about the end of their life. In verse 6, they wrote, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it” (NLT). They stated wondering if what they had been pursuing had been worth it. If you back up a couple of verses, they prayed, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.” What a great prayer. We forget that this life isn’t all there is. We spend so much time in this life preparing for it, trying to live well and live as comfortably as possible that we forget to think about eternity. It’s like the couple getting married spending all their time preparing for a wedding when they should be preparing for a marriage.
What are you preparing for in this life? Are you keeping eternity in focus? I admit that it’s hard to do. The pressures of this life are so real and present that I spend a lot of time thinking about them. It was the daily pressures that got this psalmist to turn their attention to eternity though. Are we allowing the pressures of the temporary things to take our mind off of the eternal? Are we spending too much time and money on things that others will throw away or donate? I used to have a small poem up that said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It was my daily reminder to pursue the eternal things and to not get so caught up in the affairs of this life that I fail to prepare for the next. Where is your focus today? What’s distracting you from looking at eternity? It’s good to ask God to remind you how brief this life is.
A few years back, I was a general manager of a store for a Fortune 15 company. The company had hundreds of stores across the U.S. and almost 100,000 employees. To give you an idea of the size of this company, every quarter they had revenues in the billions of dollars. They were so concerned about how the little things affected the company as a whole, that they sent me and other general managers to a business acumen class. They wanted us to understand how the CEO and other C level employees thought as well as how our decisions affected the bottom line.
Until then, I had mainly thought of my store as a silo. I had never really considered the role I played in how profitable the company was. The conglomerate of stores like mine were what was driving the billions in revenue. If I made poor decisions each day, the company as a whole took a hit. Suddenly, I quit making decisions based on the temporary circumstance of my store and started making them based on how it affected the company as a whole. I quit comparing my store versus other stores around me and started comparing to the company average. Either I was helping the company or I was hurting it.
The same can be said of our Christian life. There are decisions you and I make each day that are based on our temporary circumstances and not on our eternal goals. We look at how things will affect our near future instead of our eternal future. When we do that, we slow our growth down and affect our life as a whole. We create problems in the future that can be life altering because we don’t have the spiritual acumen to see how our decisions affect everything in our life.
Zig Ziglar once said, “If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” He understood acumen. He understood how each decision that is made sends a wave that gets bigger into our future. If each of us could grasp that, we’d have a lot fewer issues and more spiritual growth. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and the sun that so readily clings to and entangles us.” We can strip those off by making better decisions regarding our spirit man based on our whole life.
What decisions have you made lately based on convenience instead of eternity? What can you do to help you remember that the decisions you make today will echo throughout eternity? When we change to an eternal perspective on how we look at our decisions, we begin to make better ones. We will begin to realize what really matters and what doesn’t. Those weights will begin to fall off and we will be free to run the race we were made to run without any self placed obstacles.