Our concerns are most frequently on this life. Our thoughts are frequently here, in this place and in this time. Our prayers are most frequently focused on the problems of today.
But I’ve been struck recently by how different this is from the perspective that we see in the Scriptures, from the narrative that we see in the Bible.
I’ve written recently about Jesus being given as a ransom. He certainly wasn’t concerned about his life of today. He was living his life for the sake of others from eternity past into eternity future. He knew the stakes of his life and of the decisions that he made in that time and chose eternity over the here and now.
I wrote recently about Paul telling the Philippians to not be anxious but instead to rejoice. A very natural, human condition is to have anxiety, to be nervous about the future. To have fear and be concerned over one thing or another. And yet Paul says not to do this but instead to look beyond those things that would worry us and instead to rejoice in what God has done for us.
And in one last example, I read Paul again to say that for him to live is Christ for the world, but to die, for him, would be gain.
Who says that?
Who today takes the point of view that the Kingdom of God is more important that the world surrounding us? Who actually thinks and acts as if there is something more important going on than what is affecting us right here and right now.
This morning, I read another example. Paul tells Timothy that slaves should consider their masters worthy of full respect. I wrote recently on the issue of slavery in the Bible as it was bugging me to have not spoken of it despite the topic having come up pretty frequently, so I won’t necessarily rehash that here. Instead, the point that struck me this morning was once again the issue of the contrast between how we view our situation in the present vs. how we view our position in the Kingdom from now into eternity.
Paul tells Timothy:
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.1 Timothy 6:1
Again, I ask: Who says that?
Who would ever tell slaves that they should respect their masters?
Only in the context of giving glory to God and living for the future can words like these even begin to be uttered.
I’m reminded of movies that I have seen before where one man is beating and hurting another man, but the man who is being beaten is smiling. Why? Because he knows something that the man who is beating him doesn’t. He knows that the man who is beating him is about to meet his end. Or he knows that his plan is being carried out even while he is being beaten, maybe precisely because he is being beaten. He is looking beyond his present circumstance with the knowledge of something greater that is happening. He is thinking about the rest of the story.
This is the only way that I can explain these types of statements above. To live in humility, submitting yourself to punishment? To not be anxious over situations that should clearly cause anxiety? To be willing to die, and you would consider that to actually be a good thing? That is not only living counter-culturally, but what is more, cuts against the grain of humanity. These people are living for something more, something beyond themselves today. They are living for what is yet to come. They know something that the rest of us don’t know. They know the rest of the story.
And this is how we are called to live. I remember thinking about Matthew 10 as Jesus sends his disciples out to announce the Kingdom of God to all of the towns in the area. Jesus already knew that the disciples might be beaten, mistreated, or even killed. He already knew that! And yet he sends them. In fact, you might even argue that he sent them because he knew that.
Jesus is doing it because he knows the rest of the story. He is acting in the light of eternity, not in view of today, but forever.
And this is how we are also to live. The fact that this perspective is raised over and over throughout the Scriptures is an indication of God’s desire for us to look up, to look beyond our present situation. He wants us, instead, to look to Him. To look to His glory, to live for Him, and if we can truly grasp what that means, we can start the process to understand how Jesus lived. We can start to understand how Paul would be able to say that to die is gain. And we can begin to look beyond this life.