REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of August 1, 2021
Maintain an Eternal Perspective: 2 Cor. 4:16-18
We are in Week 26 of our examination of Benedict Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we’ll look at Rules 4.44-46: Maintain an Eternal Perspective. At the time Paul wrote his second epistle to the Corinthians, he had already endured so much hardship. He had been threatened, beaten, and even stoned and left for dead. Yet, he persevered and continued in his mission to reach the lost with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. What motivates someone to be as determined as Paul was? So often, if I am faced with any measure of resistance, I take that as a sign from God that whatever I am pursuing is not meant to be. But that certainly wasn’t Paul’s perspective on difficulty and resistance. What was the key to Paul’s perseverance, and how do I develop the same attitude?
When I was growing up, I attended a small Christian school from kindergarten to high school. I remember as a child watching the varsity soccer team play and dreaming of being on that team one day. I would put on my best imitation of the school uniform and dribble my soccer ball around the back yard, shooting at the “goal”, which was my mother’s metal clothesline holders (some of you older folks may remember having such things). I endured years of practice in the central Florida sun, working on my skills and looking forward to that day when I could wear that uniform for real. Eventually, the day came when I was old enough to try out for the varsity team. I don’t know that I have ever endured something more mentally, emotionally, and physically challenging than those weeks of two-a-day practices that August. We ran until we puked. Our coaches derided us and challenged our toughness. We moved around like tinmen because our muscles were so stiff and sore. But none of that mattered that day when the coach called me into the decision room and told me, “You’ve got work to do, but you work too hard to cut. You make everyone around you work harder. Welcome to the team.” Though that pain and difficulty was all very real, it was nothing compared to being on the team. And on that day when they called my name and handed me my state champion plaque, the glory of that moment far outweighed the pain of getting there.
In the moment, all pain is difficult to endure, especially if we focus on that pain. Be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, pain or difficulty draws our attention to the moment. We become myopic in our perspective, unable to focus on anything other than the source of our troubles. At best we are distracted. At worst we lose hope, which is the power source for our endurance and healing. That’s why Paul admonishes us to maintain an eternal perspective, for it is in what is eternal that our hope lies. When we focus on the pain, all that matters is alleviating that pain. The difficulty dominates our thoughts and plans. But when we focus on the eternal, when we look to our hope, all that matters is the glory that awaits us. All that matters is fulfilling the mission. All that matters is hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
- Look back at your life. Were there times when you endured hardship to achieve a goal? What was the hardship and what was the goal? Was achieving the goal worth it?
- Why is hope so important? Google “the importance of hope in healing.” What do you find? Consider the importance of hope to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
- Consider some of the difficulties we might face as followers of Christ. Honestly assess what you might be willing to endure to see the gospel spread. What does this tell you about your perspective? Would you consider your perspective temporal or eternal?
- What are some practical steps you can take to develop or maintain an eternal perspective? What are the tools with which we’ve been equipped to develop this spiritual discipline?