Living Currently while Thinking Eternally
There once were two men in a local church. One was a man of prayer and the other a man of action. The man of prayer would pray all day long about every thing he desired God to do and asked God to speak to him. He spent much time in worship of His king. The other man saw the needs of the poor, broken and lost around him and sought to help them in their need by offering his money, his time and his skills to help them rebuild their lives so they could start anew. Both men were honored for their work by their church, but when asked to put his hand to the plow and serve the Lord, the man of prayer said no, because he hadn’t the time due to his prayer life. When asked to pray, the man of action said he hadn’t time because of his service. The man of prayer was too heavenly minded that he was no earthly good and the man of action was too earthly minded to give time to think of heaven and eternal things. Both men were missing half of the equation when it comes to being a part of a church that thrives. We need to be people who live here and now while having our minds on eternity.
The problem is that this balance is difficult to find. It is hard to be both at the same time. A church and her individuals can do great things here and now but those things may have little eternal impact and the opposite is true. I believe this portion of Scripture inspired by the Spirit and written by Paul helps to answer the question: How can we live in the now while thinking eternally?
The beginning of living now and thinking eternally is to see if our living is being established on the right thing, so:
We Must Determine if we’re building on the right foundation (vs. 9-11)
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul isn’t shy about repeating himself. Earlier on, he stated the deep importance of the role that Jesus must play in the life of the church and how He should not only be important but central. The life of the church flows out of the life of Christ. His death and resurrection are the epicenter from which the church should derive her life and the people of the church should as well. Here, he repeats this in stating that Christ is the foundation of the church. You cannot begin building without first having a foundation and if the foundation is shaky or broken, no matter what is built upon it, it will not last. As we look at our life as a church and we look at our lives individually, is Christ the foundation? We cannot have eternal impact otherwise. If He is not the foundation of what we do and how we live, then no matter how hard we try, our efforts and buildings will be temporal and not long lasting. Yet, if he is the foundation we have started on that which is eternal. I’ve said this before and I say it again, I desire to lead you as a church towards Christ and nothing else. My heart is that corporately and individually we will build upon the foundation of Jesus- His death and resurrections, which are the heart of the Gospel, should be the place at which we begin all of our building. Without the base of Christ, our time is wasted. This means that the focus of our church and our individual lives should be founded upon Christ and his mission. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, but he also spent a lot of time with those his religious society deemed inappropriate. Yet, Jesus didn’t do that to simply make a statement and help them here and now, he did it to lead them to life eternal. The elements of both were at play constantly in His life. Jesus prayed to be empowered by the Spirit of God to live life among the dead, not to simply assist them in their death but to awaken them to life.
The foundation of our life (both corporately and individually) is the most important thing to live here and now as well as think eternally, yet what we build upon it and how we build upon are also important. So then, we must then:
Seek to build upon our foundation in unity with the Spirit (vs. 12-17)
Paul in this letter wrote to the Corinthians about building materials. It seemed brief and almost of little consequence, but I don’t think that it was. He states in verse 12: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…”. He gave the Corinthian church a view of great building materials and of poor ones. He gave them an image of lasting materials and those that burn up quickly. In verse 16 then he reminds us that we have the indwelling Spirit of God within us. I believe that these materials are the things we believe about God as well as the way in which we live our lives here on earth. Do we believe substantial things about Him, or unsubstantial things? When we think of God in daily life, what does that look like? As we discussed briefly last week, many Christians simply live Sunday to Sunday and God has no real role in their life outside of church. This comes because either a lack of knowledge about Who He really is, or simply from a desire to control one’s own life. The thing is: God permeates all of life. He is not just a Sunday fad. When we seek to know Him, we find out the truth on how He is there to assist us in building our whole life, not just a few hours a week. Is He simply our foundation and our fire insurance, or do we allow His Spirit to guide us regularly? Do we live our lives seeking to build a house for ourselves, one that will only be temporal, or are we seeking to build a longer lasting house, one that will be eternal? I truly believe that when we consult God on what to do here and now and seek to see what His Spirit would have us do in life, we are building with the long lasting materials. When we simply venture out on our own and do not consult Him, we are building with the easily destroyed materials. When we don’t consult God and the fire of life comes, sometimes things get burned. We may try to blame God but it’s because we built it with straw, hay and wood instead of gold, silver and precious stones. We didn’t consult him first, yet when we get burned we blame if as if we did.
Joshua, a great leader of the Israelites learned this lesson. There was a tribe that tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them. God had told Joshua to deal with the local tribes in the land, to which he obeyed. Yet one tribe came pretending as if they came from a long way off. The Gibeonites purposefully wore ragged clothes and had moldy bread as if they travelled a far distance. Here’s what it says of Joshua and the men who saw this: “ So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.” (Joshua 9:14-15 ESV). This tribe ended up being a huge thorn in the side of the entire nation, all because Joshua did not seek the Lord.
It was a moment of building with straw and hay and wood in the life of Joshua. We have the Holy Spirit within us so we can live life building with long lasting materials. Living each day and consulting with the Lord on how to build for that day is the best way to live life.
I’m not talking about praying before you choose which soda to drink in a day; I’m talking about truly seeking God to lead our day-to-day lives. When we seek God in our service, rather than simply doing it, we invite Him into the midst of our work and when He touches things it takes on eternal ramifications, rather than temporal ones. Everything in life can be turned into mission; our work, our recreation and our church life can all be honed towards one goal. It is great to give food to the hungry, but they also need to eat the eternal Bread of Life, which is Christ Himself. Seeking to be led by the Spirit of God will bring this about naturally. If, when we pray, we are seeking to listen, God will call us to act, he won’t keep us locked up in a prayer closet forever because God has designed us to bring restoration to this world, we can’t do that huddled away doing nothing. Faith has action and action has faith.
Much of this again comes down to one word that this letter to the church in the city of Corinth boils down to: surrender. We have to stop trying to build our life on our own and seek to ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the building. Our doing needs His guidance and His guidance will lead us to doing. This takes us out of the drivers seat. The design upon the foundation is no longer going to be out renderings alone, but His as well. However, I promise you this is the only way you and I can live currently while thinking eternally.