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Perspectives

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Eternal Perspectives

It has been a great day today.  I hope you have enjoyed some rest and some special time with your family.  Memorial Day is a special holiday.  It is a time when, as a nation, we remember those who have served this country by giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.  We also remember other loved ones from our families who have passed on.  Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of summer:  Vacations, cook-outs, fishing, hiking, biking, ball games, crops and hay, gardens and lawn work, and all kinds of summer activities.

I don’t know about you, but it is pretty easy to get focused on the job, the kids, the house, vacation plans, and all of the other things that are going on.  Maybe life has been especially hectic and stressful for you with perhaps a move in the works, serious health concerns, or the loss of someone very dear to you.  Things may have grown to the point where they may seem completely overwhelming to you.

A friend of mine was having a particularly difficult week recently.  It almost seemed like he was a magnet for problems.  When I visited with him late in that difficult week, he was edgy and distracted and obviously stressed with the problems he was facing.  I shared with him the same passage I will share with you as we begin our lesson this evening.  Let’s take a few moments, not to remember and reflect on those who have gone on before us, or the problems or activities that we are facing or about to face.  Let’s refresh ourselves with thoughts of home and what our Father has waiting for us.  This evening, let’s take an eternal perspective.

The first passage we will study together this evening, and the passage I shared with my friend, is
2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.[1]

We may be thinking that Paul might have been having some light and momentary troubles, but our troubles are anything but light and momentary.  But, if we think about what Paul went through in his life, it might be hard for us to call his troubles light and momentary.  In fact, just seven chapters from our first reading, we can find a list of the struggles that Paul had in his life.  Please turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11:23, as we read of Paul’s life struggles:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.[2]

These troubles that Paul faced through his life were light because he knew that a bright new life, and a bright new body were waiting for him.  He knew he would no longer be beaten or shipwrecked or imprisoned – that he would be free from all of the troubles he had faced.  Paul knew that in the grand scheme of things, taking an eternal perspective, all this really did not amount to much.  And, Paul recognized that these troubles were only momentary – they would only last a short while.  From an eternal perspective they would not last long at all.

In 1982, Amy Grant released her album entitled Age to Age – some of you may remember that album.  One of my favorite songs on that album was a song entitled “In a Little While”. 

In a little while,

We’ll be with the father;

Can’t you see him smile?

In a little while,

We’ll be home forever,

In a while....

We’re just here to learn to love him;

We’ll be home in just a little while.

So the first eternal perspective I want to share with you this evening is simply this:  Hold on, we’ll be home soon.

I appreciated Terry’s good lesson this morning on the importance each of us developing a personal relationship with God through a study of His word.  The Bible is clear that the road that leads to eternal life is narrow.  Make no mistake, those that are following after Jesus, who care for the church and serve diligently, who find some way to use their skills and talents to share Jesus, these folks are on that narrow path.  Let’s read Colossians 1:10-14:

10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified youb to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption,c the forgiveness of sins.[3]

It is because of Jesus that we have the promise of an eternal life in heaven.  I really like verses 11 and 12:  “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified youb to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”  God’s power will strengthen us, giving us the patience and endurance that we need.  But I want us to look at that last phrase, “we will share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”  Who will be in heaven?  Those faithful to God – those faithful and obedient servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Abraham will be there, and you can ask him about his talks with God and the day he nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.  Moses will be there, you can ask him what it was like to cross on dry land through the parted Red Sea.  Peter will be there, and you know he will want to talk about walking on water, his time with Jesus on earth, and what it was like to deliver that first gospel sermon in Jerusalem.  Paul will be there, brimming with stories of his adventures and trials in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles.  We will have grandparents, parents, friends there – former members of this church family who have gone on home – all the faithful to God.  All will be praising God, worshipping the Lord Jesus, and sharing stories of God’s goodness.  It will be like nothing we have ever experienced, more joy than we have ever known, more to do and see that we could ever imagine.  In
1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4 when he writes:

“No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him”[4]

So, in addition to the first eternal perspective “Hold on, we will be there soon”, the second eternal perspective is this:  It is going to be great!

Well, it is good for us to take these eternal perspectives, but there is an additional perspective that I want us to consider this evening, and then the lesson will be yours.  When Paul wrote the church at Ephesus, he put the argument about good works to rest.  Let’s look at what he wrote this church in Ephesians 2:8-10:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.[5]

Here, Paul makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith.  We don’t work or earn our way to heaven.  If that was the case then folks would be saying, “Hey, look how much I did to serve God!”  Humility, a servant heart, and faith would be eroded by self-sufficiency, arrogance, and a sense of merit and obligation.  Paul goes on to tell these Christians, and us, that if you want to talk about works, then talk about God’s workmanship.  We are God’s workmanship, we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works to help others, and God created the list of jobs for us long ago.  In addition to the eternal perspectives “Hold on, we will be there soon” and “It’s going to be great!”, our third eternal perspective is this:  “We have much to do in the meantime.” 

As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the weather.  Maybe you are that way too.  People have always been fascinated by the weather and trying to forecast the weather.  It was no different in Jesus’ time on earth.  In fact, he once used weather forecasting to explain a spiritual truth.  Let’s turn to Luke 12:54-56 and read there together:

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? [6]

Jesus told his disciples that they did not have any trouble figuring out when it was about to rain, and they seemed to be observant enough to know that when the south wind blows, the weather is going to turn hot.  Yet they had trouble understanding what was going on around them from a spiritual context.  Do we struggle with this today?  Do we talk about the signs of the weather, the political situation in our nation and other countries, problems with our environment, fuel shortages, unemployment rates, Dow Jones averages, and on and on, and forget the spiritual context around us?  Does our knowledge of our first two eternal perspectives create within us an awareness of those who are not prepared to meet God, those who need to hear about Jesus, those who are struggling in their lives right now?  Do we see Satan attacks and work and pray to defend those whose lives are impacted? 

I do think that as a congregation, we recognize the spiritual context around us.  When Paul wrote the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, he told them to grow in their love “more and more”, to grow in their faith “more and more.”  My prayer for each of us is that we grow “more and more” in our awareness and commitment to the good works that God has prepared for us to do, and that we remain keenly aware of the spiritual context of our world.

In case you haven’t noticed, song leaders are sometimes given to selecting their favorite songs.  We do try to mix them up and select songs that everyone enjoys singing.  There is one song that we sang this morning that I had not heard until I went to school at Harding.  That song is “Be Still, My Soul”, number 689 in our books.  I love the song, not only because of the beautiful melody and harmonies, but because of the strong sense of reassurance it provides – the eternal perspective that is found in its verses.  Let me share the words with you again as we close this evening.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as he has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord;

When disappointment, grief and fear are gone;

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.

Our hope is that these eternal perspectives are an encouragement to you, and that they spur you on to good works as we work and serve together. 

·        Hold on, we will be there soon

·        It is going to be great

·        We have much to do in the meantime

As we have focused on these eternal perspectives, we understand that these are perspectives that are only valid for those who are in Christ Jesus.  To those outside of Christ, the thought that we will be there soon is a fearful thought.  It will not be great for those who have not obeyed God.  And the time that passes in the meantime is not filled with work for the kingdom, but is rather just a simple passing of the years.  Where are you in your relationship with Jesus this evening?  Are you right with him?  Do these eternal perspectives bring you hope and joy and purpose?  Please don’t leave without making sure your eternity is right with God.  If we can serve you or help you in any way, won’t you come as we stand and sing.


----

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Co 4:16-5:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Co 11:23-28). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

b Some manuscripts us

c A few late manuscripts redemption through his blood

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Col 1:10-14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

b Some manuscripts us

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Co 2:9). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Eph 2:8-10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[6]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 12:54-56). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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