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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Was It All For?

Future Talk

In the U.S., anyway, I've noticed a trend toward thinking of Christianity only in terms of our lives now--our marriages, our finances, and our work, for instance. Perhaps that isn't a bad thing, but I'm missing the old future-focus of Christianity. We rarely discuss how someday, at some time, all of the mundane things we worry about are going away. Someday, Christ is coming back to take us away from here, and the world as we know it will be judged and destroyed.

We aren't talking about that. Why? Are we afraid to believe that the same God who fulfilled His promises before will do it again? Maybe we're feeling self-conscious in front of all the mockers out there who think it's crazy to talk about the end of the world. Whatever the reason for the silence, I believe it's time to start talking about biblical prophecies and the Second Coming again. It's just better for our spiritual health.

We're missing something vital if we think that Christianity is only about laboring in the trenches, resisting sin, and wishing there was some reward for doing good. Unfortunately, that's fast becoming the general view of Christianity. What's the use of enduring persecution or denying ourselves when there is no reward in sight? At day's end, what is there? All that pain without a reward is enough to make anyone want to give up.

Is that you today?

Good News Brings Health to the Bones

I've got some good news for you. That isn't all that Christianity has to offer. It really would be a dead kind of religion if it only involved this life, which we sooner or later leave behind.

The good news is that our reward is not a temporary one, so that it passes away with this life. Nor is it a small one, which doesn't equal all the trouble we endured to reach it. Christians have a great reward coming if we hold on until the end, and we will get to enjoy it, too.

If we think only of this present life and our troubles in it, our perspective will become skewed and we will feel depressed. I speak from experience. For the sake of our faith, we need to be constantly reminded that our lives are just a short prelude to eternal life.

Our reward is so much more than merely living forever, though. We get to live in victory. When the end comes, whether to this life or to this whole world, our past troubles are not going to be left unresolved. God will give us victory--over ourselves and those things that used to tempt us, and over our enemies.

God has said in His Word, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them" (Deuteronomy 32: 35 NIV). And in many, many other places, the Bible says that God will repay everyone "according to what they have done." For the obedient, a blessing of eternal life, but for the wicked, there will be wrath (Romans 2: 6-8). "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded," the author of Hebrews notes. "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" (Hebrews 10: 35-36 NIV). In Proverbs, it is also written, "The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing" (Proverbs 10: 28 NIV). When Christians talk about the future, they are remembering with joy that one day, the sun will set on their troubles for the last time.

Therefore, when we gather together, we should not only talk about what God is doing in our lives now, but also talk about everything He is going to do. It will lift us. We have a future to look forward to; a future full of hope and the certainty of justice. There's no reason to feel discouraged or ashamed. As for those who say Christians are crazy for talking about the end of the world, let them take it up with God, whose power to judge they have refused to acknowledge. Meanwhile, let us hold on to our hope, and feel our strength renewed.

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40: 30-31 NIV).