I remember Sunday drives when my parents took me out for a ride with no particular destination in mind. I know many today still spontaneously go wherever their car takes them.
The journey of our lives as followers of Jesus, however, is far different. We are not subject to the whims of wherever life takes us. We have a destination, which adds significance to whatever comes our way.
The apostle Paul describes this hopeful outlook in this way, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (3:19-21).
The sense of “wait” in the Greek here is that of “eager anticipation,” a longing of the heart for something to happen. Notice that Paul is not commanding his readers to do this, but reminding them of their ultimate “citizenship” and characterizing them as a people longing for the end of their journey when they will experience the joy of being with their Savior throughout eternity.
Can you imagine living forever in immortal bodies like Jesus’ glorious body? Can you envision experiencing total wholeness throughout your entire being? This is the glorious ending for all who trust Jesus as their Savior. This is what gives both hope and meaning to our journeys through life.
The benefits of such a two-world outlook are not limited to the apostle and the early saints. Here are just a few ways that living with such a perspective adds value to our lives as well:
1. Our Struggles Have Eternal Significance
Our glorious hope signifies that our experiences in this life have eternal implications. We may not understand all of God’s purposes for allowing times of testing to come our way. In eternity, however, we will see how each struggle prepared us to rule with Jesus in His Kingdom and how our suffering shaped us specifically for the roles He had in mind for us.
Additionally, the Bible speaks often of rewards for our faithfulness, endurance, and service. We will likely experience God’s favor many times in this life, but those times will be dwarfed but what is coming once we are forever with the Savior.
Our lives have eternal significance and value because of God's promises to us.
2. Our Hope Motivates Us
When I read Philippians 3:12-21, I see an apostle fiercely motivated to live for Christ. Although not everyone agrees with me, I believe that “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” in verse 14 refers to the rapture.
Regardless, verses 20-21 identify Paul’s ultimate hope as the return of his Savior. This helps explain how he could willingly endure unimaginable affliction and suffering for the cause of Christ (2 Cor. 11:22-29). Paul looked at the glory ahead for him, which enabled him to endure such persecution. In Romans 8:18, he explains how his hope motivated him; “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” He compared his circumstances with the eternal glory that awaited him, not with the lot of people around him.
As a result, this two-world perspective enabled the apostle to look upon great suffering as “light momentary affliction” (see 2 Cor. 4:16-18). He lived with his eyes set on the joy before him.
3. We Look Forward to Unending Joy
Over and over again, God promises us that a better day is coming. In eternity we will experience the end to all suffering, tears, death, and pain. Revelation 21: 4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. . . .”
It’s the destination that adds meaning and brings joy to our journey. Imagine enduring a long car ride to get to a great vacation spot. Or, perhaps you see yourself standing in long lines at an airport that end with you rapidly putting all your belongings, and shoes, on a conveyer belt. You endure these things, although not always without complaint, because of the laughter and good times you anticipate happening once you reach your destination.
The prophet Isaiah described a great feast at our destination in eternity (Isa. 25:6-9). At that time, the Lord will prepare banquet with the best food and wine imaginable to celebrate His kingdom. Consider the joyful response of those in attendance (which I believe will include us), “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (25:9).
Don't these words just drip happiness, the unending joy that awaits us in eternity?
I know the things of this world so often direct our focus to the temporal things of this life. However, it’s an eternal outlook that brings purpose to our struggles and motivates us to live for the Savior. A much better day is coming for all who know Jesus.