Perspective can be thought of as the way we think about life. Think about life in terms of its brevity. If eternity were a string of yarn wrapped all the way around the world, our life is briefer than a single dot placed anywhere along that yarn with a marker. We can live with just that black dot on the yarn as our understanding about life, or we can form our understanding of our black dot of life considering the rest of the miles of string.
Viewing this life in light of eternity will ultimately bring more joy in the present.
How do we gain an eternal perspective? It starts with knowing Scripture. Michael and I are both passionate advocates for biblical literacy, which is why our first co-authorship was a book on that subject titled Not What You Think: Why the Bible Might Be Nothing We Expected Yet Everything We Need. We know the power of God’s Word. We don’t point people to Scripture for the sake of knowledge alone but for the sake of seeing their lives transformed as they strengthen their relationship and deepen their intimacy with God.
Our current culture, Christians included, has the lowest biblical literacy score ever recorded in the United States.1 According to the American Bible Society’s annual report, Bible engagement in America has been mostly trending downward since 2014. Every year it has maintained or gone down by one or two percentage points until 2021, when engagement increased by 2 percent. Most interestingly, in 2022 the percentage of Americans engaging in the Bible decreased by 10 percent. That means roughly twenty-six million Americans reduced or discontinued their engagement with the Bible in one year.2
Bible engagement matters. If people of faith don’t know what the Bible says, they can’t apply its truth as the foundation that shapes their ability to have an eternal perspective.
- A Christian’s belief about God matters because with proper theology, our hearts can respond to God and our lives can be shaped by truth.3
There is a significant misunderstanding in our biblically illiterate culture about what the Bible teaches. Consider a recent report from Ligonier Ministries on the state of theology, which shows that in a broad survey of Americans, 67 percent of people agree that God accepts the worship of all religions, 53 percent say that Jesus was a great teacher but not God, 71 percent agree that “everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God,” and only 51 percent agree that “the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.”4
According to research from 2022, 63–69 percent of Americans identify as Christian.5 While this means that nearly three out of four claim Christianity as their religious preference, that statistic represents a significant decline from the early 1990s, when 90 percent of Americans identified as Christian.6
The Top of Our Heart’s Desire
For believers, having an eternal perspective comes from knowing what God says through His Word, the Bible; knowing what it teaches; and identifying how that is relevant for your life. When we are left with only an earthly perspective, then we live life trying to get all we can out of that tiny “black dot” of life, and the ups and downs in this short life are the only thing we have to affect how we feel.
Living with only the black dot in mind will move our hearts to become more desperate for what we can hold on to and control in this world.
Whenever I think about the loss of the son I expected to adopt, if I am in the mindset of the black dot — meaning that I’m stuck in my earthly circumstances alone — the pain of the here and now is all I can see. I question God. I want to find happiness in this life, and having my son would have brought that. So why did God take him away?
On the flip side, when I’m able to step back to consider things in light of eternity, I view the situation differently, taking into account what God might be doing in my son’s life that I’m not privy to because I don’t see all that God sees. I can also see my pain in light of the hopeful future that is mine, knowing God will use it and work it together for His good. Developing my trust in God’s providence is the key to finding peace in this life because we have more to live for than our earthly circumstances.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples about this earthly and heavenly divide, He said,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. — Matthew 6:19–21
In verse 24 Jesus reminded us that ultimately
no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
The word “money” is translated from the Greek word for mammon, which can mean riches, money, possessions, or property.7 The passage teaches us that we can’t have our heart devoted to two masters simultaneously, for one master will always trump the other.
We may have many different things we love and serve to varying degrees in life, but only one can take top spot. If that sole master is earthly — money, power, pleasure... and also family, parenting, ministry work, serving others — then our hearts can’t focus on our treasures being found in heaven. In claiming our best time and energy, they also take our hearts.
Our identity is not made for an earthly gaze. Saint Augustine touched on this concept long before I did when he wrote, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”8 As image bearers created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), our heart’s very identity and desire is for our Creator, not the created. We are made to reflect God so that we can bring His glory into our world. Doing anything less than that will never bring us fulfillment and purpose.
- God requires the whole heart, not our split attention.
Focusing on earthly things as ultimate will bring anxiety; centering our hearts on the eternal will bring not only treasures in Heaven someday but also greater peace and enjoyment in life here and now.
CENTERING OUR HEARTS ON THE ETERNAL WILL BRING NOT ONLY TREASURES IN HEAVEN BUT GREATER PEACE AND ENJOYMENT RIGHT NOW.
Maybe your life isn’t centered on possessions and money but instead revolves around your relationships. Relationships aren’t possessions and wealth, but even so, they can become idols when we value them more than we value God. To value the relationships in our lives is good and right, but when those relationships, like possessions and money, take our gaze off God and onto worldly things, we are idolizing something we are not meant to worship.
Shifting our perspective from the temporal to the eternal is a daily practice that changes everything. Ultimately the perspective shift to the eternal is a shift that focuses on Jesus, our greatest treasure. In his letter to the Philippian church, the apostle Paul wrote,
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. — Philippians 3:8
Paul certainly had his fair share of suffering and hardship. He had faced death, been beaten and shipwrecked, and endured a variety of other hardships in his life — yet he still maintained his posture of gratitude (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). Paul’s hope was in Christ. He was looking to eternity and finding intimacy with God through the hardships and pain he faced in life.
Paul knew we would be wrestling between this earthly and heavenly perspective, admitting that
for we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling.
He then made this acknowledgment:
We must walk in what we believe about eternity, not by what we see on this earth.
I don’t mean to sound trite or to imply that we should brush off the very real grief and hardships we will experience in this life. They are real and ridiculously tough. But while we acknowledge them, we must not forget to direct our hearts toward the hope we have in God and in His promises.
1.State of the Bible 2023, American Bible Society, accessed May 4, 2023, PDF, https://sotb.research.bible.
2.State of the Bible 2023, x.
3.Matt Capps, “Why Theology Matters,” Lifeway Research, August 3, 2015. https://research.lifeway.com/2015/08/03/why-theology-matters/
4.Ligonier Ministries, Ligonier State of Theology 2022, Lifeway Research, September 2022, PDF, https://research.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Ligonier-State-of-Theology-2022-Full-Report.pdf
5.Gregory A. Smith, “About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated,” Pew Research Center, December 14, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/ ; Jeffrey M. Jones, “How Religious Are Americans?,” Gallup, December 23, 2021, https://news.gallup.com/poll/358364/religious-americans.aspx.
6.“How U.S. Religion Composition Has Changed in Recent Decades,” Pew Research Center, September 13, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/09/13/how-u-s-religious-composition-has-changed-in-recent-decades/
7.Strong’s Greek Concordance, s.v. “3126. mamónas,” BibleHub, accessed May 4, 2023, https://biblehub.com/greek/3126.htm
8.Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 1, 1.5, archived on The Holy See, accessed May 4, 2023, https://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20020821_agostino_en.html
Excerpted with permission from Beyond Our Control by Lauren & Michael McAfee, copyright Lauren and Michael McAfee.
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It’s hard to think about a different perspective when we’re in pain or struggling, but that’s what will help us! Shifting from that black dot (which includes suffering, loss, waiting, and longing) to viewing circumstances in light of eternity is vital to our faith walk. Remember the faithfulness of God and how much He loves you and wait on Him in hope. ~ Devotionals Daily