At some point in our life, each of us has to learn the necessity of taking the long view. Deferred gratification causes us to live differently. We continue our education now so that we’ll have more opportunities after we graduate. We save today so we can have financial security later in life. We exercise now so that we might be healthier as we age. Our perspective on the future impacts our decisions in the present.
This is a truth taught throughout the Bible. Paul, drawing from his experience as a tentmaker, writes: “We know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1). Paul reminds us of a reality we must acknowledge: Our physical lives are fleeting. To have the proper perspective, he says we should focus instead on what comes after this life, the eternal dwelling that is the future. From Paul’s perspective, when we consider the long view, our future state actually undergirds our current faith.
By contrast, the spirit of this age encourages you to take the short view. The Ashley Madison hack last year opened the world’s eyes to a website for people seeking to cheat on their spouse. They told visitors, “Life is short; have an affair.” The implication is “the long view doesn’t matter.”
But that’s the exact opposite of the perspective we see in the Scriptures. Instead the Bible says that life is eternal; therefore, live your brief time on this earth in light of the eternal realities. It’s about taking the long view.
No matter what culture — or even some in the church — says, the Christian life is fundamentally not about our best life now. To follow Jesus faithfully is, in part, an acknowledgment that our best life comes later and our lives right now should reflect this reality. To do that requires four shifts in the way we view life.
We need to have an eternal perspective.
This idea saturates Scripture. The biblical emphasis on keeping eternity in our view reminds us of the brevity of our existence. The Bible compares life to a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Having this fixed in our mind points us to a reality that goes far beyond the years we may have on this earth. Wisdom would have us remain focused on what happens after this life is over.
We need to continue to live in this contrast between now and not yet.
Paul says we “groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are” (2 Cor. 5:4). We groan because we are in this imperfect, broken, struggling reality, but we look forward to the time when that reality is replaced with something better, something greater.
We know this to be true because of our own experiences and the experiences of those around us. We groan when we hear of the hurt of our friends and family. We groan in our own bodies because of the physical challenges we have. We all groan sometimes, but this groan is for heaven, for an eternal and better place. As we groan, we should remind ourselves and others these groans are temporary. They are momentary echoes of a future truth. Our best life is yet to come.
We need a confident hope that should permeate our lives.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Paul’s point is that currently we live our lives based on faith; we’re holding fast to things we cannot see. Then we’ll walk by sight because we can actually see the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. But for today, in a life characterized by our stumbling attempts at walking without sight, we rest our hope in our currently unseen Savior. One day that hope will be realized into full sight, but for today a confident hope should shape you.
We can see an example of what this looked like in Scripture. In describing great faith leaders in Hebrews 11:38, the writer says, “The world was not worthy of them.” But, it’s important to note that the world was not worthy of them because they were not focused on this world. Their confident hope focused them on what is to come.
We need a proper understanding of the realities that are before us.
In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul writes, “Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.” Herein is the truth that we cannot miss. Paul says we make it our aim to please God both now when we are in our physical bodies and later when we see rightly and live for eternity. For Paul, the promise of the resurrection leads to a current life shaped around resurrection values. We want to please Jesus in our brief time here so that we might worship Jesus for an eternal time there. The hope of personal presence later leads to the desire of personal actions now.
This is not my best life now. There are good moments for which we should praise God, but we know there are challenges, difficulties, struggles, physical ailments, hurt, and pain. The world is indeed broken. But the good news is Jesus will make all things right, including you and me. For those who follow Christ, we will be in right, perfect-sighted relationship with Him for eternity, and that should cause us to live differently now. It should cause us to take the long view.