|Photo be Maxime Raynal 2015|
We tend to think of reality as the sum of our physical existence, past experiences, and future plans. In humanistic and philosophical terms, this is reasonable, for we are to a large extent shaped by our past experiences. Educators speak of “nurture plus nature,” or how our environment and genetics interact to predict our behavior, health, achievement, success, and a variety of other outcomes. And, as the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
And there is no denying that our future plans have a dramatic effect on our present actions. Our goals influence what studies, training, and work opportunities we are likely to pursue, and even what relationships we are likely to seek. Our anticipation of what lies in store, whether good or bad, greatly affects how we spend our time and resources in the present.
Announcements of life-changing events in the near future have a profound impact on our priorities, whether we learn that we are about to have a grandchild or that we are likely to die in six months from a terminal illness.
But as born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) who have placed our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), there are truly only two realities in the time spectrum: this very moment, and all of eternity. And the same goes for all of us, saved or unsaved.
The past is not something we can change nor a place we can inhabit. We can get caught up in memories of good times or guilt-ridden over prior mistakes, but we can only change their impact in the present moment by adjusting our emotional response and asking God to release their hold on our life through His peace (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3). Once we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and His compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
If we are in Christian or other service, we cannot rest on our laurels and point to how we used to serve God in the past. In theatre, the adage is that you’re only as good as your last performance. Conversely, our faith in the shed blood of Christ has removed us from our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) as far as the East is removed from the West (Psalm 103:12). If He has forgotten our transgressions once we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10), why should we dwell in them? It is a lie of the devil (John 8:44) to confront us with past sins and convince us that we are therefore of no use to God and His kingdom.
The future should have no more hold on us than should the past. How many people stop enjoying the present, refusing to take vacations or to spend more time with their family now because they are working to secure their retirement and enjoy these experiences then? But sadly, they often find that an unexpected illness or loss of a loved one deprives them of fulfilling that dream.
In the Scripture example of the wealthy man who planned to build more barns to hoard his accumulated possessions, so that he could live comfortably for many years, Jesus called him a fool for not realizing that he would lose his life and his soul the very same night (Luke 12:16-20). James warns us that our life is but a vapor, vanishing like the exhaled breath before our face on a cold day, and that what happens tomorrow depends totally on the will of God (James 4:14-15) and not on our own plans (Proverbs 16:9).
In contrast, many worry about future threats at the expense of enjoying the present. The world is increasingly overflowing with chaos, confusion, persecution, natural disasters, wars, and rumors of wars, as Jesus warned us would happen as we draw closer to the End Times (Matthew 24:3-14). Perhaps we are living under a Damocles’sword of potentially bad news with our next doctor’s appointment, bank statement, or work memo.
But Jesus said that worry accomplishes nothing. In fact, it is actually a sin because it demonstrates our lack of trust that God is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus told us not to fret over our physical needs such as food or clothing, for he will provide all these if we seek Him first (Luke 12:22-32; Matthew 6:25-33), and He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).
As our former pastor used to say, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” For each of us, the only reality along the continuum of time is the present moment. We can’t relive the past, and we are not promised tomorrow, or even our next breath (James 4:14-15). All could change in an instant, as it did for Job despite his exemplary obedience to God (Job 1).
But praise God, we do have this very moment to honor, glorify and commune with Him! In all that we do, let us do it heartily, as unto the Lord! (Colossians 3:23). Let us redeem the time, for the days are evil (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16). Let us give thanks in all things, for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning us. Let us pray without ceasing by making our life a living prayer, being constantly attuned to God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24).
For those who have not yet trusted Jesus Christ, today is the day of salvation! Put it off no longer, for even moments from now may be too late! (2 Corinthians 6:2).
But in addition to the reality of this present moment, we must face the reality of all eternity. God’s Word and man’s soul are eternal (1 John 2:17). Those who trust Christ will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ and their loved ones in Him (John 3:16; Luke 18:30; 1 Corinthians 15:22-57); those who reject Christ face eternal damnation and torment in hell (Mark 3:29; 9:43-48). Time as we now know it will have no meaning, for time will be no more.
For God, eternity stretches back infinitely and reaches forward infinitely (Revelation 1:8), yet “back” and “forward” are not appropriate terms once we are removed from the timeline as we now know it. Time will stand still rather than marching on. Before time began, God designed each of us to be His unique workmanship, to fulfill His specific purpose (2 Timothy 1:9). He knew and knows all things, including who would accept and who would reject His freely given gift of salvation (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29-30).
And once Jesus returns for us at the Rapture, earthly time will cease for each of His children. We shall live forever with Him and each other in glorified bodies that will never age, sin, or experience sickness, sorrow or pain (1 Corinthians 15:22-57). In the meantime, may we live in the reality of this present moment – our only opportunity to fulfill His will for our life – and in the reality of all eternity.
God had a plan for each of us since eternity past. Knowing that we will spend eternity future with Him, may we use each moment to store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20) and to bring others with us!
© 2018 Laurie Collett