Have you ever sat under a tree and gazed upward into the canopy of branches and leaves? Sometimes, I place a chair from the patio under the broad oak tree in my backyard and rest my head back, while looking way up into the tree. Observing the tree from this perspective gives me a different view and a new appreciation for it. The sunlight dances in and out through the multitude of green leaves. A nest is hidden and tucked away securely in the thick branches. The shades of green are varied and fresh; like the range of colors on a palette of a great painter. Almost every day I see this tree, yet it wasn’t until I stopped and looked upward that my perspective changed.
In the last post, we discussed how daily we can find pieces and parts of God’s overall bigger purposes and plans. Having an eternal perspective is viewing life from God’s overall plan and ways, and aligning our life alongside these as we abide in Him. It is valuing things that last, and living our lives in light of these things. It is similar to the perspective of an athlete, who trains hard, forgetting the pain of the moment for the greater goal. It is laying aside the temporal and choosing the eternal. An eternal perspective can shape anything and everything I do, but I do need to be encouraged in maintaining it. Otherwise, my perspective begins to shift as I lose sight, all too easy, of what is important. My gaze turns downward to what is right in front of me, instead of upward. I can find myself aligning myself more with the world’s view of life, people, purpose, death and God.
Shift and Slide
This reminds me of my fickleness after being overseas for the summer with my family. In the places I lived, I spent much time walking and carrying home groceries with the help of the kids. There was only so much we could carry, on a hot day, while walking several blocks. For a family of six, shopping was done a little bit every day. The most difficult part was shopping in the midst of “mystery” food — food I was not able to identify or communicate with the workers about. Since the time overseas was temporary, I persevered knowing I would soon be home in my big American grocery store.
Upon returning, I found myself very thankful for my clean spacious store, my favorite cereal, and even being able to read the items. I then would think to myself, “I will never complain about grocery shopping ever again!” Within a few weeks, I began to feel acclimated and forgetful of my proclamation, but still enjoying my favorite cereal with blueberries. Then, after about a month, I dreaded making a list, overloading the grocery cart, hauling and unloading groceries for my family with 4 growing boys!
If I don’t hit “refresh” with my perspective, it will usually shift and slide to what is natural and easy. In life it is easy to shift our gaze downward, instead of keeping it upward. It will naturally slide slowly away from eternal things and onto temporal and more worldly things.
An Eternal Perspective
Here are just a few ideas and verses on eternal perspective from time I spent lately in 1 and 2 Corinthians. Having an eternal perspective has something to do with:
Our existence and purpose coming from our Maker and Creator. He gives us meaning. He is the center of life.
Living for things that last forever: God, His word, and the souls of people.
Centering our lives around Christ and the gospel. The gospel really is the good news that everyone needs to hear.>
So, here are the ten things that encourage me in an eternal perspective. These will help our gaze from shifting and sliding, to aligning and maintaining it alongside God and His ways. I am a little surprised by my list and I know there are so many more ideas out there!
1- Spending time regularly in God’s word
This is the most obvious, but also the most necessary. I must look to the Author and Creator continually to keep refreshed in my perspective. As I am spending time in the word, I can keep my eyes open for phrases and words which point me to the eternal, the lasting, and valuable. This time, more than anything else, keeps me focused
This can mean just cleaning out closets or letting go of the “bigger and better” for something smaller and simpler. I attempt to regularly get rid of “stuff.” If I buy a shirt, I like to put one in the garage sale pile. The answer to my overflowing stuff is not in bigger closets, more room, or a bigger home, but in downsizing. I continually add to a pile in my garage which gets moved to the attic for the purpose of giving away and for a garage sale. This reminds me to live “lighter,” since this is not my true home. Having an eternal perspective can radically affect the size of home I have, the neighborhood I live in, and the attention I give to these things for maintaining them. Downsizing reminds me that my stuff is temporal.
3. Giving away my stuff
Often we can think we need more money to be a generous person with our resources. Next time you earn or come up some extra money or have an item you don’t need, think about who you could surprise and bless. The quicker you let go of it the better. One of my friends gave me cute pink ipod she won. She could have sold it at that time and made some money, but she chose to give it to me. I had a garage sale with my bible study in order to have money to give away. Recently, I had an extra $20 and I asked the Lord what I should do with it. It wasn’t much, but I wanted to practice being generous. I was so happy when I could help with a need that came up. “Giving stuff away” reminds us of who things really belong to. It also increase our joy.
4. Time invested not just spent
What is one small change you can make in how you spend your time? In more recent years, I made a change by beginning to take a Sabbath. Is much of your time and energy spent towards getting ahead, or reaching the next goal? Look back and notice if this has always been a trend. If so, it will probably continue until radical changes are made. Our time is one of our greatest commodities. An eternal perspective will change our time from being spent to invested.
5. Taking a Sabbath
Taking a Sabbath reminds me that God is the maker and giver of time and that all my days are in His hands. It also helps me to slow down and reflect. A Sabbath is a gift from God, which helps refresh our perspective.
6. Learning how to share the gospel with others.
Can you communicate with others what is true about Christ, their need for Him, and lead them to a relationship with God? Take opportunities to become better equipped and explore with your friends their thoughts on Christ. When I have opportunities to talk about the gospel, it reminds my heart of what is close to God’s heart– people’s lives and their destiny. Sharing the gospel increases the value of the gospel in our hearts.
7. Small steps among the poor, widows, orphans, or strangers.
In our town their are lots of “strangers” from different countries. How can I open up my home to them? Can I make it a habit to share a meal with a friend who adopted a child, or is a single parent? Our life is altered as we take steps toward these individuals and share our homes and resources. These steps align us with things God cares deeply about.
8. Take advantage of a chance to serve overseas or among people who do not have a chance normally to hear the gospel
If this is not possible for you, help someone to go. Listen and hear about their time when they return. This can help grow our compassion and be a reminder of the preciousness of the gospel.
9. Recycle and simplify
Having an eternal perspective affects everything. And even the simplest of things can help maintain it. We need things to remind us that our lives and plans are not the center of the universe, and that we are stewards of the life and gifts God has entrusted to us. I think recycling and choosing more simple ways can encourage good stewardship. There are so many ways to recycle. One friend bought a beautiful wedding dress at a thrift store for $30. Even the cars we drive can be an choice for living out an eternal perspective. Does every driver in your home need to have a car? Can they ride a bike to school or carpool? Do all my cars have to have huge tanks? (I may be stepping on some toes here in Texas!) My decisions do affect others. As I take these steps to simplify, it keeps this all in perspective. It also keeps others needs before me. Even when I plant a tree or put my cans on the curb, I am reminded that life is more than the moment. The choices I make, affect the future. Recycling and simplifying remind me that my choices impact others and trains me not to just live for the moment.
10- An implication pause and realignment
So, ask yourself this:
- What are things that God values?
- What are things that God says lasts forever?
- What type of things are temporal and what happens to them when we die?
These are big questions. In light of this, what adjustments should I make in my time, my work, my money, my major, or in my relationships with people? The implications are great, and life changing. I also need encouragement to keep this perspective. In a room in my house I have a print I call, “Looking Upward,” that reminds me of these things. Which of these 10 things would I like to put into practice? Hopefully these practices can encourage my gaze upward, and onto things close to God’s heart.