We naturally live our lives forwards. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Our past is bound up inside us and it defines us. Our experiences shape our identity. And so the past is often the foundation from which we live, respond to situations and make decisions.
But God doesn’t live like that. God is the great I AM, and His perspective is all perspectives at once. He is timeless. Time and space sit in the palm of His hand and for Him our future is as fixed as what we call the present. Needless to say we can’t see the future with our own eyes, so for us the future is an unfixed and uncertain fog unless Someone in the future decides to turn on a light, revealing things to us. And to some degree, that is what He has done.
God wants us to live our lives from the future backwards. This is Christian hope. Our hope is founded on who He is, what He has done, and crucially, what He will do.
Jesus spoke of the coming kingdom of heaven and applied it to here and now, to his disciples trudging with him along the dirt roads of Israel.
He looked forward to the day God’s big act of new creation would transform this dark, bruised and sick world.
He looked forward to everything being made right at the throne of judgement, with the poor and oppressed lifted up and the rich and mighty humbled.
It was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Peter marvelled at the ‘living hope’ we have been born into through faith and the unfading inheritance we can look forward to (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Paul knew God’s plan all along had hope woven deep into its fabric (Romans 8:20-25). He wrote to one church:
Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
And to another church he wrote:
Christ in you [is] the hope of glory
And finally, John looked forward to the day when:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
C.S Lewis put it so richly in his noteworthy book Mere Christianity:
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.
May your identity be wrapped up in Jesus and in who he is making you. May you live in deep peace, knowing the battle is ultimately already won.
May you be filled with hope, and therefore joy. May you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus who is both the founder and finisher of our faith.
He is making everything new. These words are trustworthy and true.