An Earnest And Urgent Pursuit Of Heaven
Because the focus of some is only on earthly things, they have no concept of the greater value of eternity.
The Christian is defined by his purpose in life. It is not to get wealthy, not to get famous, not to “go for the gusto”, it is to serve the Lord. Few people live for this purpose. “…narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).
The Bible reveals clearly two truths. First, men ought to have service to the Lord as their primary purpose in life. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Second, if a man lives his life without serving God, his life is ultimately empty of meaning. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). (Note: the phrase “under the sun” indicates works that are done without an acknowledgment of God’s existence). Stated simply, the only way to have a meaningful life is to put God first.
Some may object, saying their life has meaning without God. However, their perspective is skewed. Because their focus is only on earthly things, they have no concept of the greater value of eternity! They are profane like Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Consider our Lord’s words on the matter, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In addition to purpose, the Christian’s perspective also leads to a sense of urgency. There are two reasons for this. First, life is fragile. While we fully expect to enjoy our fourscore years (or thereabouts) upon the earth, the reality is that anything from disease, to accident, to malice could bring our earthly existence to an end. James wrote, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14). Since our eternal standing depends upon our serving the Lord during our lives on earth, we understand the importance of starting today, lest tomorrow be too late.
Second, judgment is coming. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The day of judgment is inevitable. Jesus will come, and will judge every man “according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The Christian knows judgment is coming, but he also knows that there is no way of predicting when it will happen. Our Lord said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13). Both Peter (2 Peter 3:10) and Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2) describes the “day of the Lord” as coming as “a thief in the night.” Both our own mortality and the imminent judgment of all mankind elicit a sense of purpose and urgency in our service to our Master.
Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5 are worth examining. Since we do not know when Christ will come to judge the world (vs. 2), it is important to be prepared. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (vs. 4-6). However, the nature of the Christian’s preparation may not be what some think. Some have had the idea that preparation means seeking to determine the “times and the seasons.” This despite the fact that Paul made clear such efforts are fruitless. Again and again men have tried to predict when the Lord would come. Such predictions are always in vain, and instantly mark the predictor, regardless of his methods or math, as a false prophet.
Instead, preparation is found in living a sober, righteous life. This way, no matter the hour or the day, the Lord’s return will find His people in an acceptable state. Consider Paul’s exhortation in this context, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (vs. 8). In living in this way, we not only ensure our standing with the Lord, we also “comfort each other and edify one another” (vs. 11).
In fact, the church was established by God for this purpose. By coming together to work and worship in a local congregation, we both fulfill our responsibilities to God and build up our fellow disciples. “From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
The only thing that precludes Christ’s coming is His longsuffering (cf. 2 Peter 8-9). No one knows when His patience will come to an end. Peter makes clear, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (vs. 10). Knowing this is the case, he asks the question, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (vs. 11).
The goal of every faithful Christian is to enjoy an eternal existence in the presence of God. This leads us to an earnest and urgent pursuit of service to Him. We wish to prepare ourselves and encourage others. It is the goal of every faithful Christian. Is it your goal?