In Light of Eternity
Every morning and evening, the sun rises and sets like clockwork, set in motion by a sovereign, purposeful, and life-sustaining God. The world He created interacts with our human experience in undeniable ways; we may awaken to sunlight streaming in through our window and move about our daily routines, tragically unaware of the glorious mystery that affects us. It is time for us as believers to realize who we are in Christ, and to understand our inherent significance as eternal creations uniquely suited to His purposes on the earth in our day. Surrounded by the comforts of visible reality to which we may grow accustomed, we are capable of frivolously consuming entire lifetimes, remaining woefully oblivious to the reality of a vastly superior realm, one which penetrates our own in tangible ways. When we fall out of touch with Christ and His divine perspective, this parallel realm of reality can seem almost imaginary and elusive, precisely because it remains, naturally speaking, unseen.
Our lives in the twenty-first century are often characterized by chronic busyness and distraction. Yet even the busiest of us is forced in the occasional quiet moment to confront the universal mystery lurking in our consciousness, behind the familiar façade the external world temporarily provides. In the stillness of our hearts, certain haunting questions visit us, causing us to ponder the meaning of our lives and to wonder if our existence contributes to any lasting purpose in a larger scheme. Most of us would like to believe that our lives truly matter, but it seems rather grandiose and arrogant to presume so, in light of the fact that billions of other people coexist on the planet alongside us. Rarely does it really occur to our finite minds that we may indeed be every bit as significant as we imagine, and that our lives as individuals really can affect important outcomes in the grand design of God’s plan for the world in our day.
While our minds often stagger at the possibility that we as individuals can wield a defining influence on the outcomes of real-world events, the Word of God assures us it is true. Our stories as unique individuals, created in God’s image, are better and more significant than we comprehend. They are written and directed by a Master Storyteller, One who weaves a plot for our lives more adventurous and exciting than our favorite action movies, and Who delights to surprise us with new twists and turns we could neither predict nor expect. This plot revolves around His glory above all else, and so holds appeal only to those whose wills remain truly submitted to His Purpose.
Each victorious outcome God achieves for His people in Scripture can invariably be traced back to a remnant, at times consisting of one lone individual, who understands His eternal purposes and who longs for His desires to be accomplished on earth even more fervently than their own. The conflicts these human beings experience in the pages of God’s Word reveal to us an all-too-familiar battle of human surrender to God’s divine will. In the accounts of their struggles we find cause for hope anew; since their conflicts are comparable to our own, so might their victories also be!
God uses Hannah’s tearful and poignant struggle with Himself over her inability to bear a child to cause her to desire His far grander purpose, for which He had predestined her son Samuel’s life. Under the dual pressures of elapsed time and relentless provocation, Hannah chooses to adorn herself with a spirit of genuine humility yielded to God’s will at the expense of her own. She offers to give back to God the son He gives her, if only He will hear and grant her this heartfelt request. At this personal turning point in Hannah’s life, her initial desire to avoid the reproach of perpetual childlessness amends into a godly and wholesome desire to see God’s infinitely greater purpose accomplished instead. Her son Samuel’s birth results not only in her personal blessing, but in unprecedented blessing for the entire nation of Israel as well. A sovereign God, always and only wise in His dealings with humanity, benevolently waits to open her womb until she reaches the point of personal sacrifice for God’s glory. Thus dedicated by Hannah’s soulful surrender, Samuel’s godly life single-handedly revolutionizes the spiritual condition of God’s people in his own generation. His ministry faithfully fulfills God’s promise to “raise up a faithful priest who will do according to what is in [God’s own] heart and in [God’s own] soul” (1 Samuel 2:35) and foreshadows the long-awaited Messiah Himself.
As we confront our own earthly longings and struggle to surrender our most fervent heart’s desires to His everlasting purposes, let us remember that the God of all eternity is still searching for individuals, motivated by an intimate knowledge of His character and purposes, who will humbly yield their own desires to His, in order to help accomplish His everlasting plan for their own time in history. Rather than chasing our own ever-changing and elusive desires, may we emulate the sons of Issachar, becoming men and women “who [understand] the times, with knowledge of what God’s people should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32)! Like King David, we can be men and women after His own heart, resulting in fruitful service to our own generation (Acts 13:22,36). We have truly been chosen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)!
The LORD of all the earth seeks to cultivate in each of His children a life-altering perspective firmly fixed on eternal reality that can be trusted to endure. Eternal reality is not intended to be a someday prospect, reserved for an ambiguous afterlife and relegated to minimum awareness in our earthly experience. Eternity is happening NOW! Will we miss the adventure of enjoying it because we refused to resist the whining, pitiful pull of our own temporary desires? Or will we embrace the opportunities He provides to play the part He so purposefully assigns us? The Psalmist implores God to “teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We know that God freely offers this wisdom to all who will listen and be changed (James 1:5)…and it is ours for the taking!
As we face the otherwise mundane events of life that confront us daily, how will we respond? When we wash our dishes, does it cause us to exult in the soul-cleansing power of His Blood, or do we trudge through the motions of an empty experience? Do we change a flat tire with complaints and “why me’s?” or do we look past the obvious and thank God specifically for the purposes He intends in allowing it? Perhaps He may surprise us with an eternally significant conversation with a helpful passer-by whom we would never have encountered, had our tire remained intact. God’s blessing often abounds where we least expect to find it!
A powerful choice now lies before us. We may choose to limit ourselves to the mundane and the earthly, or we may liberally expand the limits of our experience by fixing our hearts on His purposes instead. On the one hand, we face a continual struggle with self-will and frustration born of a shallow and earthly perspective; on the other hand, we may embrace a heavenly perspective abounding with His fullness of life. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sums up His mission to earth with these words: “I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)! His message to us is clear…choose life!
September 18, 2003