The Eternal Horizon
Some time ago I took a walk up to the corner store with my oldest daughter. She was holding my hand and telling me one of her stories. I don’t remember if it was spring, summer, or fall, but I know that it was not winter because this is a happy memory. I do remember, though, that before we reached the store, I was overcome by a sense of God’s goodness to me. It was one of those times where the feeling of God’s grace is like a great weight upon your shoulders. A weight because you feel, in a very real sense, that you do not deserve his kindness. But this weight doesn’t crush you like you would imagine a burden would. You feel it upon your shoulders, but it somehow makes you stand up straighter. I became more aware of the light of the sun. I remember looking up and marveling at a tree. I began to thank God with everything within me and I worshiped him.
Almost as soon as I began to worship, I felt a sense of urgency. I suddenly felt like I needed to try and trap the moment somehow. I needed to bottle it for later. This was going to be a fleeting moment before the regular cares and stresses and sorrows and longings of life crashed back into place. The sun would disappear behind the clouds once again any moment and this feeling, this aberrant experience, would be gone. Who knew how long before the next one would come?
As I thought about that worship experience and my reaction to it, I realized that I had it all backwards. The way I thought about the time was all wrong. I looked at that experience like an anomaly, a brief, happy interruption in the endless struggle of life in this world. I thought about it that way because my eyes were fixed only on this life. My gaze had dropped from the eternal horizon.
For those who trust in Jesus, that moment of worship is really a foretaste of our eternal state. An eternity where we fully worship God and his glory is seen in all of its perfection. One day our perspective will be such that all of the suffering and brokenness and anxieties will seem to us the aberrations. No matter how severe, our suffering will become as Paul said, “a light and momentary affliction.”
How do we keep our eyes on that eternal horizon? It seems too far out to be of any use to us in the here and now. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. Certainly the joy was not in the cross. The joy set before him was beyond that in the eternity secured by his death and resurrection. So we use the cross and the empty tomb as the two lenses of our telescope to look past the hardships of this life to see that distant shore. (That distant shore that we may reach at any moment, just in case you needed another paradox.)
Keeping our eyes on that eternal horizon with Jesus at the center seems to be a clear way to help us endure suffering, but it is interesting that the passage I just mentioned about Jesus in Hebrews occurs in an exhortation to avoid sin. I think that might be because sin becomes so appealing when we lose sight of that eternal horizon. When our eyes drop and we lose our bearings in the brokenness of this world, sin appears in all of its ugly and evil forms as a way to cope with the fallen world; a way to make a little peace with the darkness so that it might leave us alone for a bit.
Having our eyes fixed on our eternity with Christ reveals how truly fleeting and artificial the pleasures of sin are. In view of eternity, the cost of sin is seen as too high and the payoff too small.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins.
Prayer of Confession
Father, we do not deserve your grace. The wages of our sin is death, but your free gift to us in Jesus is eternal life. Our eyesight is far too dim, though, and we often stumble through this world unable to see the gift you have given us. We begin to act as though the gift isn’t there.
Father, this is a great evil. And we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now.
Father, we thank you for Jesus. He did not drop his gaze and lose sight of eternity. He set his face toward Jerusalem knowing the cross was before him but looking beyond it he could see glory. When tempted by Satan, he clung to the eternal truth of your word. Help us, Lord, to do the same.
Today we mark Father’s Day and we are so thankful for all of the dads at Cities Church. We want to be joyful fathers as you are, God. Oh how many opportunities to worship you are woven into walks with our kids? However, we are aware of the many responsibilities and pressures that come with fatherhood, as well. Help us, by your Spirit, to keep our heads up and our eyes forward toward the horizon. Help us fight the temptation to sin by reminding us that the cost of sin to our families is too great and in view of eternity will never be worth it. By your Spirit now, be pleased to align our thoughts, desires, and loves with your own, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.