Thinking (really) long term

Thinking (really) long term

Every now and again, a newspaper will remind us that Australians are very poor at saving. Compared to the rest of the world, Australians tend to spend what they earn, with very little set apart for later. Younger people, in particular, don’t want to invest money for the future but would prefer to make the most of it now. In a sense, that’s perfectly understandable. If you could choose fun now over saving for some undefined future, the fun looks pretty attractive.

We always have a tendency to focus on whatever is in front of us. There is a famous parable in English: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In other words, having something now, something you possess and can enjoy, is worth more to us than some greater promise way off into the future.

Which brings us to the topic of heaven. The truth is that Christians don’t have an undefined, vague future, but one that the Bible speaks of a great deal. When was the last time you thought about heaven, or what happens after you die? You would think this would be something people think about, but unless you are actually at a funeral or by the bedside of someone who is dying, it can slip our minds. All Christians could tell you that they look forward to being with God forever, but it does seem a long way away.

I am currently preaching through Isaiah at church. The prophet Isaiah ministered to the people of Judah about 700 years before Jesus, and the people he spoke to had all kinds of problems. The majority had turned from the true God and worshipped all kinds of other gods. They didn’t live as God wanted them to but were guilty of living in luxury while the poor suffered. You would expect a prophet in those circumstances to be harsh in warning of judgement and calling them back, and indeed that is what you see. However, you also see Isaiah speaking of God’s eternal future, the place God is leading world history. He does this in 2:1-4, for example, speaking of God’s perfect rule, a world with no war, and a people who want to learn God’s word to serve him well.

Why would Isaiah do this? Because if the people are to change their behaviour in the present, they need to know where God is going with the world. The end game is perfection with God as the king and the people worshipping him and striving to learn his ways. If that’s where we are heading, then that impacts what we do now. We want to do things now that prepare us for that, while not spending all our time and effort on things that have no eternal value.

We in the modern world need to hear this too. God has a plan for the world, where all those who trust in Jesus will live forever in peace with God himself. That’s the long-term plan. It makes no sense to live only for today and not think about that. If we do, we will undoubtedly focus on the wrong things. We will fritter away our money and time on the things that catch our attention today.

Isaiah ends his section on God’s glorious future in chapter 2 with a simple call: “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:5 ESV).” If this is where we are heading, live like that now. Seek God’s word, so we know how to live as God wants. Seek God’s ways now and reject just a life full of self-indulgence.

Think about heaven more. Maybe sing some of the great songs based on Revelation, or some of the marvellous hymns that tended to have our eternal future in the last verse. Pray for Jesus to return. Talk about heaven with other Christians, and to your kids. Make sure we end up with the same attitude Paul does in Philippians 1:23, that this life is good, but being with God is better. It truly will be. Let’s invest in the right things now and live intentionally now, lest we fritter all our effort on things that have no part in God’s eternal future.