Because of our natural human fixation on “the seen,” we tend to think only of the impact of our story in this brief season of our existence: the here and now.
Although that impact is not unimportant, as immortal beings we should be far more concerned with how our story will sound when it is told there and then, in that next season of existence that will extend through all eternity.
Unfortunately, for many Christians, the goal is simply to get across the finish line after surviving this earthly life. Having been steeped in the Christian church culture for decades, I know it’s challenging to break out of this finish-line mentality. Our fixation on that moment of passing from this life to the next is partly due to the reality that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10 nkjv). It’s also partly due to our emphasis on the metaphorical language the biblical writers used to describe our time on earth, the language of running a race:
- “Let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
- “I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
- “Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize? So run to win. Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
Such wording makes it easy to focus on the finish line, because races always have distinct endings. And once they’re over, you get to take a break. So we focus on getting across that finish line with little thought as to what happens next and how that might affect our story now. We think that if we can just get to heaven, we can collapse onto streets of gold, sporting custom-fitted robes and a plug-n-play harp.
Frankly, if all we are going to do there and then is lounge around in robes on precious metals while taking harp lessons, I’m not all that eager to participate. And I fail to see how that could be much of a prize. I’m sure we’ll be singing praises as well, but for an introvert like me, being incessantly surrounded by billions of beings endlessly shouting and chanting doesn’t sound much like a heavenly experience.
What if, in addition to some robust singing on occasion, we’ll be glorifying God in other ways? And what if how we live here and now will position us to best glorify him there and then?
We’d do better to think of this earthly race, not as our final tour de force, but as more of a preliminary warm-up or a qualifying heat, with implications for the highest experience yet to come.
Remember that the writer of Philippians tells us we do receive an eternal reward for living a life of abundant faith. But what is this crown we receive that can never fade?
It’s not a conversion experience of saving faith. That’s already done for the believer. It’s not a restored relationship with God—that’s already been restored for the believer.
Other passages describe the faithful being rewarded with a “crown of righteousness” that they then offer back to God to more fully glorify him (2 Timothy 4:8 nkjv; see Revelation 4:10). But physical crowns are temporary things, hardly worthy of the eternal God. So what is it that we could “receive” by living a life of abundant faith that could be offered to God as a way of more fully glorifying him?
Here’s a crazy thought: what if the greatest prize you receive is the story you will tell of God’s abundant provision for you as you lived a life of abundant faith in him? Now that would be something worth offering back to him! There certainly would be no mistaking who would get the credit. We would tell it everywhere, for eternity. And every time we told it to yet another of his children, we would more fully reveal the majesty of God.
The story would not even end when we arrive; it would be only just beginning.
I’m not saying that there won’t be other rewards for a life full of faith in him, but consider just how valuable your story of abundant faith in the here and now will be when you reach the there and then.
Is your faith writing a story here and now that will be worth telling where it matters most?
My book A Story Worth Telling is a field guide for living an authentic life.
Life is short. Take control of your story. Start now. Click here to discover more.
Jeff Goins: “Now here’s a book that will help you make your story matter. Don’t miss this!“