Follow Me: Fixing Our Eyes on Eternity

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Fixing Our Eyes on Eternity

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On the evening of Jesus’ betrayal, hours before He would be brutally scourged and mercilessly crucified, He huddled with His followers and encouraged them by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 John 14:1Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
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Later that evening, even though He knew what was about to occur, He amplified His message of hope beyond the moment by proclaiming: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 John 16:33These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
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How could He say that then? As some might remark today: “Was He on something? C’mon!” And yet on the next afternoon as He was dying while horrifically nailed to a piece of wood, He was able to declare, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46 Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
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). How could this be? How could assured peace be His? Is there truly a cure for human despair? Is there hope beyond the moment?

Let’s consider what we’re told in Hebrews 12: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (verses 1-2, New Living Translation).

It’s here that we discover two keys to moving beyond our humanly troubling moments to glorify God and bless other people: 1) we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, and 2) we keep the same focus and develop the same inner joy He had by looking beyond our human moments. We might say we need to keep the eyes of our heart fixed on eternity. This is vital to living by Christ’s example in heeding His invitation of “Follow Me.”

But how do we do this?

Survival based on vision

While none of us is likely bearing the weight of a literal cross, inwardly it can sure feel that way. Some of us right now are bearing heavy challenges, and making it through seems all uphill—such as living with a threatening disease, the loss of a loved one, a child who won’t respond to our love, the loss of a cherished job, a business deal gone bad, a marriage gone sour, a friend who continually disappoints us and, yes, a God who for the moment seems far away. How do we move beyond our current dilemmas?

Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, wrote a landmark work in 1946 titled Man’s Search for Meaning. It relates his firsthand observations on life and death molded by personal experience at the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. He carefully considered why some captives survived while others died. He pondered why some with good health, intelligence and survival skills didn’t make it while others who lacked these attributes endured and lived.

He concluded that the single most significant factor for survival was people envisioning a future for themselves, holding on to a conviction that they had a mission to perform, some important work yet to do.

Frankl’s analysis was long before crystallized in God’s admonition in Proverbs 29:18 Proverbs 29:18Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
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: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). The 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes further developed and broadened this concept in stating, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Sadly, but humanly, even people called to serve the living God can at times travel through life like the living dead. How then do we live in the light of eternity and see beyond the moment in a darkened and cluttered world of time and space?

Seeing by God’s Spirit

Remarkably, God empowers us to look to the future He has in store for us. Notice the apostle Paul’s emphasis on the giftedness of the spiritual lens afforded us in stating: “ But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 9 But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
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). So it comes through the Holy Spirit, which we receive following repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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).

Seeing the wonderful life to come is much more than ultimately realizing it as a final destination. Rather, it’s a wayof traveling, here and now, with gifted spiritual vision fixed on God and fixed on eternity. And yet, perhaps we didn’t realize that such eyes granting such vision are part of our spiritually converted existence in Christ today. Perhaps we have placed them in storage due to being overwhelmed by the stuff of life.

But consider for just a moment the upside of what God has placed inside us through His Spirit—vision to discern consequences ahead of time, and freedom from “the urgency of now” that allows us to properly prioritize our life in surrender to God’s will.

Let’s take a closer look and truly see how these new eyes can more fully serve God and bless those around us.

This life in proper perspective

We only live a certain number of days as human beings on this earth. God does promise that His faithful followers will have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13 1 John 5:11-13 11 And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life. 13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
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). But for now, we’re locked into beginnings and endings, clocks, schedules and deadlines. Our human reality is that our days are numbered for each of us, and each of us has a different number, and we don’t know when our number is up. Yet, with this said, most of us live as if our number goes on forever. Younger people think they are immortal, and older people think of “old age” as being 15 years older than whatever age they happen to be at the time.

The psalmist proscribes this kind of math: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12 Psalms 90:12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
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). The focus is not on what is behind, but on what lies ahead. This will affect how we use time—how much time we waste, our priorities and how often we say yes or no to matters that are not worthy of our total life’s devotions. Perhaps that’s why God inspired Paul to further teach us to number our days and nudge our hearts by telling us, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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, to look beyond the self-reflecting mirrors of our current struggles and see our future with God in His Kingdom with the new eyes God has given us.

Paul writes here, “Therefore we do not lose heart …” (verse 16). Why? Spiritual heart failure can affect even converted Christians—even you! He continues, “… Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (same verse). Yes, God is steadily and lovingly at work. We are not alone! Paul is systematically leading us to the greatest spiritual outcome in a Christian’s life—to, as the Lord says, “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10 Psalms 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
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Continuing in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul then moves through a series of contrasting elements to bring us to sharp focus in stating, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory …” (verse 17). Have you ever talked to anyone (name one!) who thought their individual troubles or challenges of this world were only light or momentary? They’ve probably been more along the lines of “Oh no, this is off the charts!” And yet Paul says the weight to measure everything in light of is not the present moment but the boundless realm of eternity.

He then provides one final lens of contrast by assuring us that God’s purpose is being accomplished in us “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Oh yes, the vision thing again! Our hearts need eyes!

Eyes on loan!

So, a question: What side of the ledger are we on? Light or heavy? Momentary or endless? Visible or unseen? Trapped in time and space or focusing on eternity? We can’t always choose what comes our way, but we can choose how to respond to it by what pair of eyes we select. Once God gives us the gift of these eyes, He expects us to hold on to them and use them—now and always. They’re not ours to stow away, give away or lose. For they are God’s eyes given on loan to us—the same eyes used by Jesus when He endured the cross for the joy He looked forward to.

The great equalizer that frames our calling from God through Jesus Christ is that, like Jesus, before we bear a crown (2 Timothy 4:8 2 Timothy 4:8From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.
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) we must bear a cross (Luke 14:27 Luke 14:27And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
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). Jesus was always brutally honest as to what the invitation of “Follow Me” entailed. He never said it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it. It must be. After all, He suffered and died that we might be with Him in God’s Kingdom.

Next time in this column we’ll explore what eternity will be like through the revelatory words of the ascended and exalted Christ. He now waits in heaven to fulfill His promise to those who accept the great invitation of “Follow Me,” assuring us, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may also be” (John 14:3 John 14:3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
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May we all continue to look eagerly to that future, the wonderful joy set before us, to endure the trials of today, as Jesus set the example for us.

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