For 15 years I traveled with a team to Vandalia, Missouri, every Monday night. The 150-mile round trip took us past thousands of acres of farmland each week.
A lifelong city boy, I was fascinated by the seasonal changes. I watched farmers preparing the fields for planting, sowing the seeds, tending to the growing plants, and harvesting the crop. They worked in all kinds of weather, often well past sunset.
I witnessed the agricultural year one week at a time, in quick snapshots as we drove past.
But those farmers live and breathe the farm. Like everyone else, they read the newspaper, follow the local sports teams, and share in the small talk at the local diner. But the better part of their hearts and minds are always in the soil.
I can only imagine what that sort of life would be like.
The Scriptures tell us we have one foot in this world and the other foot in Heaven, that there is another reality besides the physical world in which we all live our days. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul repeatedly reminds us of the “heavenly places” and their impact on our daily existence.
If you are a Christian, you believe this to be true. But do you live and breathe it?
Many are content to be reminded of the eternal just one day a week, when the Sunday worship and sermon remind them to “fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). They can only imagine what Heaven will be like.
Others train themselves to live and breathe eternity in every moment, knowing they are farmers of heavenly soil. We recognize such people by the fruit they bear. There’s an obvious difference in their lives, caused by their eternal perspective.
The Difference It Makes
Keeping Heaven on your mind will change your attitude toward work. If my mind was only on making ends meet, I could easily become a workaholic, to the detriment of everything else in my life. Instead, I focus my attention on the greater eternal mission the Lord called me to. I work three jobs to get out of debt, but also as a means to discover opportunities to be salt and light in all three workplaces.
Staying aware of the greater events constantly going on in the heavenly places
can strengthen your self-control and energize your spiritual growth. God, the angels, and a cloud of spiritual ancestors are watching your life and cheering you on (Ephesians 3:2-6; 1 Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 12:1-3). Your personal struggle for holiness takes on a greater significance when considered as part of God’s grand plan.
Fixing your eyes on unseen treasures in Heaven will drastically alter your attachment to money and possessions. Your desire for bigger and better stuff gives way to a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Your bank balance becomes a tool for accomplishing eternal goals.
A firm faith in life after death will drastically reform your life before death. Living with the daily awareness of the temporary nature of this world will cause a complete turnaround in your reaction when death does loom close. When people joke about having yet another birthday being “better than the alternative,” you’ll kindly disagree, knowing the best thing that could possibly happen is either death or Christ’s return, resulting in eternal life with the Father.
Eagerly awaiting the Savior’s return from Heaven will change your perspective on the daily news. No more obsession with each day’s viral outrage. No more preoccupation with the latest hot button arguments.
An active citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:10) keeps politics in perspective. Why get wrapped up in worries about which party or candidate is going to win an election if you’re absolutely certain that “the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us” (Isaiah 33:22)? Why be alarmed about threats from other countries if you’re devoted to a Lord who laughs at them (Psalm 2:1-4)?
An eternal perspective will infuse your life with peace and joy in the midst of temporary trials and troubles. Like Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11, you’ll find inexplicable joy in suffering for the sake of God’s grand plan and the most sublime peace in knowing God’s purpose is fulfilled through your weakness.
A Different Approach
So how can you train yourself to have an eternal perspective that affects your daily life? It requires not only a change of mind but a change of habits.
Prayer: Many people find it difficult to pray to a God they can’t see. What they don’t understand is that praying regularly to the heavenly Father is the best way to maintain an eternal perspective. As your prayers shift from your momentary personal concerns to God’s eternal priorities, you’ll begin to see everything through his eyes.
Theology: The study of doctrine may seem dry and theoretical, but diving deep into the Scriptures’ teachings about Heaven and eternity will help center your thoughts on the tension between this world and Heaven. Begin with Paul’s detailed exposition in Ephesians of the relationship between the Christian’s daily life and the ever-present reality of the heavenly realms.
Worship: Resist the modern temptation to reduce the Sunday worship to nothing more than a concert. Revel in that fantastic music as an opportunity to address your praise directly to the eternal, invisible God of the universe. Plan how to use specific cues in the Sunday assembly as reminders that you and your fellow worshipers are not the only ones present in that place.
Investing in Eternity: To most people, investing in the future means saving for a rainy day or for retirement. If you’re serious about training yourself to think eternally, include in your budget specific ways to invest in eternity. Give generously to the church and to missions. Set aside a fund for helping friends and strangers in times of need. Spend your money for the ministry opportunities God brings your way.
Being Salt and Light: Look for daily opportunities to speak up and help others taste and see the bigger picture of how God is working in nature, in world events, and in the lives of individuals.
Being Different: Don’t settle for the kind of boring Christian lifestyle that simply paints a religious veneer over the American Dream. When God says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16), it means to be different, because God is different. Be set apart for the same purpose he’s set apart. The more you learn how to be “odd like God,” the more you’ll become a walking and talking advertisement for God’s greater eternal purpose.
Practicing spiritual disciplines: Engage in disciplines like study, meditation, prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, and confession, with an eye toward becoming a spiritual athlete for eternity. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25).
T. R. Robertson is a freelance writer living in Columbia, Missouri.