Perspective on Eternity
Why should Christians act differently from the world? What would give Christians a heart to bear through trials, tribulations, and persecutions? Why should we not fret over the world’s current circumstances, whether it be disease, violence, politics, wars, or a perfect storm of all the various problems that can plague the world?
How can Christians be united during a time that is filled with divisions and strife? I’m not saying we should we not care about what is going on in the world. There is a difference between caring and fretting, worrying, and continually being anxious about the next bad thing that will happen. Care is a natural part of who we are, but worry and anxiety rob us of the peace and hope that we both desire and are promised by God if we will trust Him. God’s will is that we not worry (Phil 4:6-7).
The following is not a magical formula for overcoming just one particular problem that we face today. Rather, this is what will give us perspective on everything. This is about a worldview, a focus, a foundation that changes the way we see everything and everyone. This perspective revitalizes our purpose and gives us courage in a harsh world.
Paul spoke in the context of his ministry, and he said that the afflictions he faced came so that he would learn not to trust self, but to trust God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8-9). Through it all, he did not lose heart because he looked beyond the temporal to the eternal (2 Cor 4:1). This perspective is found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CSB):
“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Difficulties and problems should be seen against the backdrop of what is most valuable. Paul was facing opposition from those who were trying to damage his reputation. He had deep concerns about the well-being of the Corinthian church. They were in danger of listening to the wrong voices, of being double-minded and accepting a false gospel. They were guilty of placing worldly wisdom above God’s wisdom, of putting too much stock in what worldly people consider to be successful.
Even so, Paul could say, “We do not give up. Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth” (2 Cor 4:2, CSB). The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, and the gospel is not about selfish proclamation: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake” (v. 5).
God conquers by taking what is weak and making it strong. Paul said, “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (v. 7). Paul may have looked beaten down, crushed, and driven to despair, but in reality He was not forsaken or destroyed. “We do not lose heart.” Paul set the problems he faced into the context of the eternal, and he knew that what appeared outwardly was not always a good indicator of the reality that went beyond the visible, temporal things he could see.
From an earthly perspective, life is tough then you die. But life is more than what it may seem to be on the surface. In the same context, Paul points out why he was able to deal with the difficulties and affliction. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-11, he describes what happens at death and how that motivates the child of God. This earthly tent, the body, will be changed and renewed—ultimately in the resurrection (1 Cor 15). In the meantime, we groan in our current situation. We are burdened. But God has guaranteed through His Spirit that the mortal will be swallowed up by life. The eternal will prevail. This puts everything in perspective, for physical death is not the end (vv. 6-10).
The practical outcome is found where we place ultimate value. Because we walk by faith, though the outer self perishes, the inner self is continually renewed, refreshed in Christ and encouraged by the knowledge that what is mortal and temporary will be swallowed up by life. True life. Eternal life. Because of this we can be courageous and not fear the judgment of God. And, “since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people” (v. 11). The eternal perspective changes our view of this world and informs our mission to reach out to a world that only knows what is temporary. Your worldview changes everything. Your knowledge of the eternal changes how you live now. The question we need to answer is, are we looking at the seen or the unseen?