Friday, May 15, 2009

An Eternal Perspective

As I have been preparing for this week's lesson from James 5:7-12, I can't help but feel a sense of deja vu. Over the past several years, it seems that in nearly every study I've taught, we come across a passage with a similar theme. Live with an eternal perspective. Hmm... could it be this is a significant theme to the New Testament authors? Likely so.

Peter, in chapter 1 of his first epistle, told his readers to rejoice in their inheritance. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, writes on and on about the vanity of vanities in a life lived without eternal perspective. In a lesson that even predates my blogging archives, I distinctly recall Paul's emphasis on the eternal perspective in his discussion on Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and of course even more directly in chapter 15.

What's this all amount to? We're living in a temporary state. James has already told his readers, "You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). And, while I can say this and most who read it think to themselves, yes, we already know that. But do we live as though we know it?

There are a small handful of examples James points out in our text for this week. First, have the patience of a farmer. Now, we aren't the landowners, so we don't reap the harvest. We are, as Jesus put it, the workers for the field. But we must be patient. And why is that so hard? Because there's no fun all summer long until the harvest in the fall.

The festival is only when the work is over. Right now, we're sowing and plowing with little immediate payout for our work today--when, oh when, can we finally enjoy the feast of firstfruits that the Church has been awaiting for nearly 2000 years? When Christ returns we will celebrate with unbridled joy. But until that day the sun beats down, weeds keep popping up, and we must live entirely by faith while our wages we await in heaven.

James gives a great example of this sort of delayed gratification--one that we are to take as a model for our ministry on earth. "Take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord," James says (5:10). It's the same thing we read in 1 Peter which I commented on in an earlier article called, "Theopneustos."
They weren't serving themselves at all... ever thought about that? Get a message from God, have no idea what it means, and you're pretty sure nobody in your lifetime ever will, but you record it anyways for the benefit of people to come centuries after you. What a task!
It's impossible for us to fully grasp the notion of eternal life. We're told, however, to live as though we do... or at least try. Why? It's simple: because there is no higher hope. There is no better solace for the suffering servant of God than the hope for things yet unseen. In what has become on of my most often quoted passages, Paul writes: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor. 15:19).

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  • If we do not have hope of heaven, we are of all men most miserable. I think that this is why we have so many miserable Christians. We do not long for heaven so much, as we have an insatiable appetite for God to meet our needs-NOW! Where as our hunger should be is to be in God's presence, unrestricted by the world, self, and the enemy. Our longing should be as Paul wrote, We see through a glass darkly, but someday we will see him as he sees us. We may not see heaven as clearly as we would like, but we should be looking for it, longing for it, and believing we will soon be there.

    By Blogger shanchere, At May 20, 2009 at 12:36 AM  

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