If you read the Apostle Paul much you will soon realize that he was very focused. It seemed that no matter what Paul was facing he took the long view. He knew what his mission was and no circumstance could shake him from taking an eternal perspective.
One of my favorite examples of this is found in Acts 20. Paul, while making one of his stops en route to Jerusalem, takes time to meet with the elders of the Ephesian church. In this very emotional exchange, Paul is speaking to these elders as if he will never see them again. He is on his way to Jerusalem and there have been many warnings that things could go badly for him there. Yet, that doesn’t stop him. That doesn’t even slow him down, because he has one goal, one mission. Life nor death could distract him from that mission.
What was that mission? What was the thing that kept Paul so focused even in the midst of such circumstances? “…Testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Regardless of what happened in life. Regardless if there was threat of death. Paul took an eternal view. He kept focused on one thing: testifying to the gospel!
I want to be like Paul. I want to, in the midst of distracting circumstances (sickness, pain, financial uncertainty, doubt, affluence, comfort, apathy, etc) keep focused on the mission. I want to have an eternal view. I want to understand, like Paul did that, “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:17) As a follower of Christ, my life is not all about the here and now. I need to live my life in view of eternity.
I have been thinking recently about the implications of this on parenting. Sometimes, disciplining my son can be hard. Okay, all of the time it’s hard. I don’t think any parent enjoys watching their children cry and protest discipline. But as a parent I know that I need to have the long view. I need to realize that, though my son may be in distress now, it is preparing him for days ahead. Sure, it would be easier to avoid those moments when he protests discipline. But I know that in the end, in the long run, it will be worth it. Someday he is not going to be two years old. Someday not everything he does will be ‘cute.’ Someday he will be an adult. Someday he will be a husband, a father, an employee, and what I do now matters in each of those. Ultimately, I want to raise him up to cherish Christ above all else. It’s going to take work and effort now, but nothing matters more in the scope of eternity.
So, I want to begin to evaluate my own life by that view, the long view. I want to ask the question, Will the things that I spend my time doing matter in the end? Do they contribute to the mission of God? Sure, things like brushing your teeth may have no eternal impact (though your spouse, and dentist, will appreciate it). But there are many more things that I spend my time, money, energy, resources on. Will those things matter in the end? It’s a difficult, but worthwhile evaluation to make. By God’s grace I want to be able to say, in the end, that what I spent my life doing was all about testifying to the gospel of the grace of God.