Recognize Eternity’s Gift
By God’s design we are value-oriented, goal-oriented, purpose-oriented, and importance-oriented beings. We are all living for something, in pursuit of something, or in the service of something. There are things in our lives that we value, and things that have little value to us. There are things that we say we value, but that we don’t invest in in the way that you would expect if we valued them as much as we say we do. There are things in our lives that rise in levels of value way more than their true value, and when they do, they begin to control our thoughts, desires, words, and actions. Your life is shaped by what you value. If you want to know what you truly value, consider where you tend to invest your time, energy, gifts, and money.
The doctrine of eternity is an enormous help when it comes to our struggle of values, because it teaches us what is truly valuable and worth living for. Eternity blesses us with ultimate values clarification. Go to Revelation, and listen to the voices that are on the other side. What is the subject of their celebration? It’s not wealth, power, grand palaces, people’s acclaim, success, or achievement. No, the constant focus of the celebration is the Savior and his faithful and victorious grace. We need the values clarification of eternity because we so easily lose our sense of what’s important. For some of us this means that we spend way too much time, energy, money, and worry on our lawn. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours are invested fighting weeds and producing the green that has become so important to us. Is your lawn more important to you than it should be?
Or maybe you’re the husband who has invested too much on your man toys. You don’t need to invest any more in guns, tennis rackets, fly rods, or golf clubs. Have you spent so much time using your collections of toys that you don’t have the time you should to spend with your wife and children? Do you spend too much time and energy on your appearance? Perhaps you have too much makeup and too many outfits in your closet. Are your true values revealed by the fact that you spend more time on your appearance than you do on your daily personal time of worship? Maybe you’re a university student and keeping up with social media has become far too important. Having a voice in the endless conversation means too much to you, and scrolling to the next site eats too much of your time. Yes, we all can benefit from the values clarification that the doctrine of eternity blesses us with.
How is it that the doctrine of eternity clarifies our values? I suggest eight ways.
The existence of eternity immediately tells me that I have been designed with bigger concerns than a right-here, right-now focus on my wants, needs, and feelings. If there is a such thing as eternity, then whatever I want, whatever it is that I think I need, and my feeling of the moment must be understood and evaluated in light of what is to come.
The existence of eternity tells me that since this is not a destination but a preparation for a final destination, the goal of this moment is not to use my resources to turn now into as much of paradise as I can afford. If there is no such thing as eternity, then it makes sense to grab as much personal pleasure and comfort as you can get, because this life is all you have. But if there is an eternity, then it means that my life is not about just the pleasures of the moment, but more significantly about the destination that is to come.
The existence of eternity tells me where and when my only true satisfaction will be found. Eternity confronts us with the fact that the ultimate in personal happiness, joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction will never be found in the created world of people and things. Eternity invites us to understand that the highest of human pleasures are found in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. When he is at the center, when he is my reason for everything and I am living in complete surrender to him, then I will know unfettered joy and contentment of heart. The doctrine of eternity exposes the lie of materialism for the deceit that it is. It constantly reminds me that material things will not satisfy the longings of my heart, because whether I realize it or not, those deep longings are really for God.
The existence of eternity tells me what I should be investing my resources in. It tells me what will bring me the greatest return. Jesus told his followers to invest in a purse that would not wear out. Paul pleaded with his readers to “seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1). Some things provide temporary pleasure but soon fade away. But there are investments you can make with your time, energy, and money that will last for all of eternity. The doctrine of eternity calls for us to have long-term values and to invest in things that have more than quickly fading fruit.
The existence of eternity clarifies my values by alerting me to what is truly important. As I said earlier, our lives are always shaped by naming some things as important and other things as unimportant. It is vital to get this function right. How sad it would be to invest your life in things that turned out to be not so important after all.
If God has graced me with a place with him in eternity, then he will also give me all the grace that I need
along the way.
The existence of eternity tells me the danger of giving way to the temptation to worship the creation and not the Creator. We all live in the middle of a daily worship battle. There is a constant battle for what will rule our hearts, and in so doing, control the way we live. Our hearts are either being ruled by love for and worship of the Creator or by something in the creation. The glory of our final home will be that finally the Creator will be in his rightful place in our hearts, never to be replaced by anything ever again. The highest joys of the human existence are found when the Creator is in his rightful place as King in our hearts.
The existence of eternity assures me of the grace I need to fight the values battles that will wage in my heart. In this struggle of values, we are never alone, because the King of kings has invaded our lives by his grace. He never sends us into battle without going with us. He never calls us into battle without providing us with the right weapons. And he fights for us even in those moments when we are too discouraged, too weak, or too foolish to fight for ourselves. If God has graced me with a place with him in eternity, then he will also give me all the grace that I need along the way. The doctrine of eternity reminds me that embedded in the promise of future grace is the guarantee of present grace.
The existence of eternity gives me hope when I get my values completely wrong. It is a hope not based on my track record, but on the grace and goodness of my Lord. There will be moments when you and I will lose sight of what’s important. Our hearts won’t always love what is best. But eternity reminds me that my ultimate hope is not in my getting it right, but in the one who always got it right and always did what is right. My ticket into the glory of eternity was not purchased by my right values and obedience, but by Jesus’s perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection. Because this is true, I can run to him now with my values failures and know I will find his mercy and grace. The doctrine of eternity reminds me that with all of my wanderings, he will keep me to the end and welcome me into my final home to live with him forever.
This article is adapted from Do You Believe?: 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life by Paul David Tripp.
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