There’s something about anticipation.
When I know a vacation is coming shortly, I attempt to get as much accomplished in my home as humanly possible. I do not enjoy coming home from vacation to a disorganized and dirty house. And when we know that summer is coming, the frequency of our exercising often increases. When we are about to move into a new home, we don’t typically wait until the last minute to think through the details and pack; there are planning and packing involved far ahead of the actual move date.
For the Christian, there is something to look forward to. Something we should feel great eagerness for. We are anticipating a time when all sorrows will be wiped away. We are anticipating a time when the kingdom will be consummated. We are anticipating the unity of all tribes, tongues, and nations. We are anticipating being with the Lord forever. In remembering that this earth is not our home, that we truly do have a citizenship in heaven, we instruct our hearts and minds as we interact with the world around us.
So we wait. And we wait—with anticipation.
The Apostle Paul waited well and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he gives us a vision for how we, too, can wait well. Paul’s story is told and retold, and for good reason. Early in his life, he terrorized the church. He describes himself during that period of his life as a Hebrews of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church, and blameless according to the law (Phil 3:1–6). Paul’s conversion took away his worldly status among the Jews—he counted it all as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (v. 7). He suffered, was imprisoned, and even was slandered in the church. But it was all nothing compared to gaining Christ. He looked toward heaven and the age to come, knowing that resurrection from the dead in the new creation is worth any suffering in the here and now (vv. 8–11).
Paul understood that fixing our eyes on eternity helps us daily fight for joy. We don’t deny the struggles of the present, but we also do not lose heart. We can enjoy today because the Lord is at hand. This is the day that He has made, and we know there’s a perfect eternity to look forward to, that the troubles of today won’t have the last word (2 Cor. 4:16–18). Yet while all of this is true, we can also still marvel at what God is doing in the present, knowing that in time He will make all things new. Eternity has everything to do with our enjoyment today.
Even with the security of knowing that our future is one of everlasting peace and joy, it is difficult to wait and maintain that eternal perspective. Regardless of our situation in life—rich or poor, young or old—it can be difficult to fix our eyes on the yet-to-be-seen. I’ve found that there are three ways to fix our eyes daily on eternity with anticipation that will affect the way we live today.
Preach the Gospel to Yourself
This is not a phrase I created. It’s one that I’ve heard over the years and has stuck with me. To preach the gospel to ourselves is doing exactly as it sounds—we need to remind ourselves of the truth found in the gospel. We need to remind ourselves that there is a real battle we fight with sin and that there is great forgiveness in Christ. We need to remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And we also need to remember that Jesus is the risen King and is interceding for us. All that Jesus has accomplished in the gospel frees us to enjoy God’s good gifts. All good things come from the Father. When we forget the truth of the gospel, we often find ourselves mired in guilt, condemnation, legalism, and idolatry, which keep us from truly enjoying life today as we wait for our future glory.