By Richard Lim
Life goes by so quickly. Many of us live our lives without thinking much of eternity. We are so focused on this life, determined to accumulate all the wealth, power and fame we possibly can. We are so engaged in this world that we thought we will live forever here on earth.
A preacher once asked a congregation if they want to go to heaven and all of them said, “Yes.” But then when he asked if they want to die, there was silence. The truth of the matter is in order for us to go to heaven, we will have to die and leave this world.
Have we given any thoughts to eternity? Do we have an eternal perspective? A perspective is a point of view, a way of thinking about a matter. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
The Greek word used here for look is “skopeo” which means “to look at, consider” (English, “scope”) which implies mental consideration. Paul had an eternal perspective. He was looking or considering “things unseen” or “eternal.”
James said that our lives are like a vapour: here one moment, gone the next. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:13-15). Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
The question for us is “are we preparing for eternity?” The heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 had an eternal perspective in mind. Abraham left his country and relatives for a land God would show him. Why? Because “he desired a better country, that is a heavenly one.” Moses, “seeing Him who is unseen,” turned his back on the wealth of Egypt to lead a nation of grumblers and complainers to the promised land. He preferred God’s eternal purposes rather than “the passing pleasures of Egypt.” Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV). But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Hebrews 11:27 (NASB).
What’s our perspective towards the world? Stop for a moment and think. Are you enthusiastic about it? Or do you feel uncomfortable with it? Do you love the world? Or do you often feel alienated from it? Are you at home in this world? Or do you feel like a stranger?
There’s a hymn that we often sing titled “This world is not my home” which challenges us to examine our attitude toward the world. How we feel about the world is one thing but more importantly what does the Bible say about the attitude that we need to have towards the world?
Let’s first look at Jesus’ perspective. He said in John 12:25 — “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.” These are strong words. They are the kind that would cause us to wince and think, “Surely He did not mean what He said.” But the context indicates that Jesus meant exactly what He said.
He further said in Matthew 16:26 (NKJV): “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” So, what about it? Do you hate your life in this world or do you love it?
Let us now see the apostles’ view point. John said in 1 Jn 2:15-17 (ESV): “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
James said, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4).
Having an eternal perspective means evaluating the events, decisions and actions of life from God’s point of view. It is using God’s values as the measuring stick as opposed to ours. Human perspective is like being in a submarine; our vision is limited. Being underwater, all you see is blackness when you look out the window.
God’s perspective sees beyond what we see: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9).
Do we really understand Rom. 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
We will understand God’s purpose if we see things from an eternal perspective, God’s perspective. Just like Joseph in the Old Testament, although he was mistreated and jailed, yet he eventually realized the purpose God put him through the sufferings. It was to preserve lives.
In Mark 12:1-12, we read of the paralytic who was let down from the roof in order to be healed. After he was placed before Jesus to be healed, what he received was forgiveness of his sins first, then the healing of his body.
As a paralytic, his most pressing desire would be the need to be healed. Being forgiven was not what he, or the four men who let him down from the roof, wanted or expected! In fact, everyone in the room except for Christ was thinking about his physical need. When Jesus was confronted with the needs of the paralytic man, He did something no one expected. He saved him from his sins. The crowd was disappointed.
We may not receive everything we want in this life, but there is one thing that we must possess, that is the forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness, we will never make it to heaven. Often times our most pressing need is not our most important need. Just like the paralytic man, even though being healed was his most pressing need, but from God’s perspective, forgiveness of sins was the most important.
In John 11, Lazarus was very sick and about to die. But Jesus delayed his going to see Lazarus. When Mary and Martha met Jesus, Lazarus had already died. Jesus said, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (Jn 11:14-15).
Jesus was glad that Lazarus was dead because it was the perfect context for Him to magnify the works of His Father. But from our human perspective, we would expect Jesus to have arrived earlier so that Lazarus would not die!!
Often times we do not see the big picture. Have you ever felt disappointed when your expectations were not met by the Lord? God often works in unsuspecting ways, in ways our human minds cannot perceive.
Paul further encourages the Christians in Corinth to do things that are pleasing to God, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
When we have an eternal perspective, we will always do things to please God. What we do affect eternity. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, he aimed to please God: “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him”(John 8:29).
Jesus said “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Are we doing things to please Christ our Lord?
Let us remember that our citizenship is in heaven; let us live our lives with an eternal perspective.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” Philippians 3:20-21 (NKJV).