3 Tips for Living with Eternity in Mind
When you wake up in the morning, what’s the thing that has you jumping out of bed?
I love mornings. It’s when I feel most energetic and focused so my alarm is almost always set for around 6AM … I really want to get it back to 5:15AM at some point. Yet most days I still hit snooze for 15 mins or so. This past season, the exceptions have been a) if I overslept and am going to be late for something or b) when I need God and can’t wait to spend time with him.
Between May and September or so, I needed God more than I’ve ever needed God before. It was the biggest valley I’ve ever been though but I don’t look back at it as a bad thing. Not at all. It was during this season that I wholly surrendered for the first time in my life. Back then it was so easy to run to God with everything and drop anything for the joy of being in his presence. Now that I’m not in that valley season anymore, I find myself fighting old sins like pride and self-centeredness again and find myself more tempted to put things before him. But I refuse to accept such sins as just part of my life or personality. Day by day, I’m asking God to please show me how I can live life in a new way … in a way that is desperate for him above all, in all seasons of life.
I think there are seasons where we need God to love on us but ultimately he didn’t create us just to be loved … he also created us to work.
We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10).
This truth, that God has prepared works for us / has a good plan for us, gets me so excited but this week I’ve also been reminded that as imperfect humans living in a sinful world, it’s not always easy to keep our eyes here. To push past legitimate emotions, anxieties, stress, pressures that seek to distract us from God’s best. But I pray that we remember that Jesus is the lamb AND the lion. He’s gentle with us but he also has more than enough strength to help us fight for our purpose.
I’m not sure when I heard that life on Earth is basically preparation for eternity but I’ve known this for a long time. Like since I was a child. Yet I didn’t used to live with this in mind. When I graduated from university and started working, I had a huge desire to succeed. Because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, I wanted to be good at something, anything to establish value and identity for myself. So I looked in a lot of wrong places and of course nothing satisfied. It wasn’t until my valley season, in literally the first six months of being 30, that I changed. At the time, I was hurt and confused because I felt I was literally days, weeks, months away from stepping into a life stage I’d wanted for some time … only to have the bottom fall out. And I felt I had a choice … would I still believe God is good? I chose yes, jumped into Jesus’s arms, and day by day he showed me more of his wonderful face.
And in seeing more of his wonderful face, I began to see the error of my old ways.
When I turned 20, I was already pumped to turn 30. I hadn’t even graduated yet but my mind was filled with a million things that I wanted to do and experience in the decade ahead. Sure I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life in terms of my purpose but what I did know was that I wanted to live in a city, eat at review-worthy restaurants, own luxury handbags, travel a lot, one day write a book, etc. Then at 29, in preparation for turning 30, I read through some of my old journals and was AMAZED at how amazingly faithful God had been. I’d been able to live out almost all of my single girl dreams and then some … and was in a long-term relationship and about to get engaged, get married, and settle into life as a wife, mother, and hopefully start my own Christian kids press.
Even at 29.9, like at 20, I had God on my mind but really I was living for me. I assumed blessings = my purpose. But that's only ever part of the story.
Sometimes I can’t wait to see why God allowed my situation to play out like it did. But even if I never understand, I know he is always right and always good. I don’t need to understand because I know the author of my story and he is my sovereign Father. He > me. The more I understand God’s nature, the deeper I fall in love with him and want to serve him. And the more I know I can fight back with God’s authority, with his Word when the enemy tries to distract me or even keep my eyes on me instead of God and his purposes. I’m back to realizing the importance of living with eternity in mind and actually wanting to live this way.
So how exactly do we live with eternity in mind?
1. Study up
Recently I read John Bevere’s Driven by Eternity and thought it was awesome. I think John and his wife Lisa are super cool in that they live their lives unabashedly for God. For me, I grew up in charismatic churches and believe that God does still speak to his children through the mind, a still small voice, audible voice, visions, prophecy, and more. The Bevere’s also believe they hear from God, and John wrote the book because he felt God told him to write about the Judgement Seat of Christ. Though he felt unqualified at first, he made a list of every scripture in the Bible that had to do with judgement, eternity, rewards, losses, Heaven and hell from 7 different translations and then did nothing but meditate on it for a month (see him talk about it here). In the process, he realized that God had a lot to say and then wrote this super unique book that is part standard Christian non-fiction and part ‘story’ (like parables) of what it’s like for Christians on Judgement Day.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
The book really fired me up to be more conscious of how to spend my time. And after reading it, I feel God continues to show me this in my quiet time, to not get distracted but focus on the things he’s shown me he wants me to do. God has already set aside works for us to do … to me that sounds like the God of all creation has a ‘to do’ list for us (and I love a ‘to do’ list). Oh man, even the thought of getting to work alongside God and live out a plan he designed, to experience more of his love and please him… yes, please.
I definitely recommend this book but while books can definitely help us understand God’s truths, they should ultimately they point us back to God and the Bible. We also need to have a real relationship with God and study / meditate on the scriptures for ourselves.
2. Know who you are
Driven by Eternity reminded me that we’re not judged for our sins at the Judgement Seat. Jesus has paid for our sins. We’re judged for how we lived our lives as Christians. Here our works, motives, thoughts, words and intentions will be examined.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Sometimes I think we can take God’s promptings too lightly. Have you ever had the experience where you feel like God is telling you to do something but you don’t do it? Maybe he asked you to reconnect with an old friend who hurt you or extend an olive branch in the thick of your anger? (Both examples from my own life.) In retrospect, when I look back on the times I know I’ve disobeyed willingly, it’s been me basically saying with my actions that disobeying God is no big deal. What a mistake. The book reminded me that:
When we fear Him, we will tremble at His word, which means we obey Him instantly - when it doesn’t make sense, when it hurts, when we don’t see the benefits. And we obey to completion. (p. 140)
Sometimes we don’t see the results of our disobedience immediately but let’s not use that as an excuse to obey slowly. Let’s keep God as OUR GOD, elevated above all. He is a good God and always has a plan, we can trust that 100%. Let’s show him we love him back by being willing vessels for him and having joyful attitudes in becoming all he wants us to be and doing all he wants us to do (even when there is refining involved!).
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21)
And also let’s remember that we’re not to judge others. This section from Driven by Eternity reminded me of why we should especially pray for non-Christians who hurt us rather than judging them:
It is complete ignorance for a Christian to disdain an individual who has not received Jesus as their Master because of their lifestyle. This person’s spiritual DNA is to sin, and that is just what they do. What is freaky and completely unnatural is a “believer” who habitually or willfully sins. The reason I put believer in quotation marks is that a person who practices sin may declare Jesus as their Savior and Lord, but in reality, He is not. If He truly were, that person would manifest a godly nature in their life. Jesus made this clear by saying: Different kinds of fruit trees can quickly be identified by examining their fruit. A variety that produces delicious fruit never produces an inedible kind. And a tree producing an inedible kind can’t produce what is good. So the trees having the inedible fruit are chopped down and thrown on the fire. Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit produced. (Matthew 7:17-20 TLB, p. 86)
The book also reminds us that as stewards of the Gospel, we have no greater call than to prepare others for eternity with grace and truth. The mission is the same but I think God has a unique path on how to do this for each of us.
3. Walk in God’s path for you
Two ways we can know God’s path for us are reading the Bible and asking him.
There are general truths that apply to all Christians and these are laid out in the Bible. I really like 1 John 2:4-6 which is a sobering reminder that if we call ourselves Christians we need to act like it.
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2: 4-6)
Our God is love. We love him not by taking his love for granted but by obeying. It’s a great blessing that he’s showing us how to ‘live our best lives’ as the world says nowadays only for real.
Lately I feel God has been showing me the importance of a godly lifestyle. Sometimes I feel like I have a particularly sensitive spirit but I feel affected when I watch, read, listen, and otherwise consume ungodly influences. I don’t want to feel like I'm taking a break from Christianity by enjoying culture that glorifies sin. At the very least, it was time I thought I could take back and use to rest, pray, and study about / hear from God. Because only by spending enough time with God can we grow our relationship with him and I think learn to hear him more accurately.
When it comes to walking in God’s path for me, I trust God but I also know my human mind can mishear things. So I wait for confirmation and sometimes, for some things, I feel like I must ask for it 100+ times. But God doesn’t mind too much, I think, because he knows where we’re at and will help us grow when we earnestly desire to do so. We can always be better than we were yesterday and continue to grow from there. The more we walk with him, the greater our faith in him will grow, the more we will trust that his will for us is best … and act quickly when we hear him say it’s time.
Sometimes God also gives us vision for a future goal and in these periods we also need to prepare. This is where I’m at currently … I’m not sure what the end goal is (of course, do we ever haha but God knows) but I feel God has shown me areas, and confirmed this through other people, where he wants me to grow in him and so I feel like I’m still constantly practicing steps 1 and 2 (maybe we always are). And this is God’s gift to us, no? Life on Earth might be preparation for Heaven but we’re not sheep without a shepherd. Heaven and life with God will be amazing … let’s ensure we prepare ourselves the right way while on Earth. Hold on to how you feel God is leading you even if others don’t understand your change in personality or lifestyle (and perhaps pray for community who will pray for you and encourage you too!).
This past week I was also listening to a Joyce Meyer podcast where she said:
When Christ comes back again, everything is going to be brought out into the open and made plain and clear, and everything is going to be disclosed … We need to think a lot more about the second coming of Christ and I think we need to think more about Judgement Day because it is going to happen. We are all, everyone of us, going to some day stand before God and give an account of our lives. And that’s not meant to frighten anyone. That’s meant to sober us up and let us be more serious about what we’re doing with our lives here and what we’re doing with our time. What are you doing with your life? (My Favourite Scriptures - Part 3 (Enjoying Everyday Life podcast), 11 Dec 2019)
What are we doing with our lives? As we go into a new year and new decade (!), I pray we live with eternity in mind. Let’s chase after God with all our hearts, get rid of things that are keeping us from God’s best, and live our lives with Him firmly at the centre.