Living in the 'Eternal Now'
by Jim Denison
A robot dog with a rocket-propelled grenade strapped to its back has been unveiled at a Russian arms fair. Two high school students in California have identified two new scorpion species (as though we needed any more).
First Lady Jill Biden presumably receives the best medical care available in the US and is double-vaccinated and double-boosted against COVID-19. However, she recently tested positive for the virus and will quarantine in South Carolina, where she and the president are vacationing. Of course, President Biden recently contracted the virus twice as well.
And a new study warns that a disastrous megaflood causing more than $1 trillion in losses could be on the way in California. The chances of such a crisis have doubled in recent years, according to the report.
These stories all illustrate our mortality, whether from warfare, disease, or natural disasters. This moment is the only moment any of us is promised. Jesus could return later today, or we could go to him.
However, my purpose is not to depress us but to encourage us. Since we have only this day, we are free to focus fully on this day. When we do that, we experience the eternal significance of present faithfulness.
LIVING IN THE "ETERNAL NOW"
Western culture from the ancient Greeks to today has viewed history as a line on a page. We have a past, a present, and presumably a future. By contrast, an Eastern mindset has historically been more cyclical, following a reincarnation motif. Contemporary secular society is intensely existentialist, picturing our lives as random, chaotic dots on a white board.
But there’s a fourth option.
Theologian Paul Tillich spoke of the “eternal now.” He pointed to the fact that God is present in each moment of our lives. In fact, we might say, all of God there is, is in this moment.
That’s because he is the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14), not the “I Was” or the “I Will Be.” He created time and he transcends it. As C. S. Lewis noted, if we think of time as a line on a page, God is the page.
As a result, we can live fully for God today in the knowledge that every moment we spend serving God is a moment that will echo in heaven forever. Our lives will be “gold, silver, [and] precious stones” leading to “reward” (1 Corinthians 3:12-14).
"THE WORLD PASSED AWAY"
Then, when we die, we don’t. Jesus was adamant: “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26). When we take our last breath here, we take our first breath there. We close our eyes here and open them there. We step from death into life, from time into eternity.
No wonder the Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
Paul wrote 2 Timothy in the clear knowledge that he would soon be martyred for his faith. In fact, he stated that “the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6). But later in the epistle he testified, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (v. 18).
Note that the apostle saw death as “rescue” from the present evil world. We should see it the same way. Death does not win—we do. The sea does not win when the sailor is rescued from it and brought safely to shore. Those still on the sea cannot see him on land, but that makes him no less alive.
Someone said of a loved one that they “passed away.”
A friend corrected them: “Actually, for them, the world passed away.”
"THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANOTHER DAY JUST LIKE TODAY"
So, let us embrace this day with conviction and courage. Let us see the cultural challenges we face as opportunities to serve Jesus faithfully. Let us remember that the highest price we may one day pay for our faith is worth its cost and so much more.
Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers and theologians, stepped from time into eternity last Monday. He described the relationship of death to eternal life this way: “What’s lost is nothing compared to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
As a result, he encouraged us: “In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”