A few weeks ago during a particularly powerful worship experience, God put a picture similar to this one in my mind:
I asked God, what does this picture mean, and he told me that this is what the world is like right now. Like the bullet that passed through this water balloon, Jesus has entered the world, died, and was resurrected, leaving the world so he could be with the Father. This has drastically changed the natural and trajectory of the world’s future, but in this moment, this freeze framed slice of eternity, the world looks almost like nothing has happened.
I am living in an age when I have never physically seen Jesus, and he has not yet returned to the Earth as the Bible prophesies. When I look around, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the reality of my current circumstances and be blinded to the truth.
Not Just a Christian Truth
Our planet recently had a reminder of the temporary nature of our world as an asteroid roughly the size of half of a football field passed so close to the earth that it was actually closer to the planet’s surface than some of the satellites that we’ve placed in orbit. If the asteroid would have hit the earth, this particular chunk of space rock wouldn’t have amounted to an extinction event, but it would have done some severe damage.
The morning before this asteroid passed by Earth, a smaller meteorite actually entered our atmosphere and exploded above Asia, injuring roughly 500 people in Russia and Kazakhstan. All of this has prompted governments around the world to take a serious look at what the nations should do to protect the planet from annihilation by rogue asteroids.
While the minuscule nature of our existence isn’t something that is constantly on the mind of many people, astrophysicists and science enthusiasts (including yours truly) love to learn about the nature of our universe. They look at the surrounding galaxies and stars and are constantly amazed at how old the universe appears to be and what it took to create our planet and for life to form.
Even from an atheistic standpoint, when we measure our personal problems in this moment, or even our entire lifespan against the length of the universe’s past and future, they don’t really even amount to a blip. Even if we lived 120 years, that amount of time is so infinitesimal compared to the 13.77 billion years that the universe has been in existence according to NASA.
I don’t mean to belittle the problems that you may be personally facing. I’ve got issues too. Loss, heartache, illness, whatever it might be, all of it can be so overwhelming and can consume us, but if we are realistic about the universal ramifications of some of these things, we begin to realize that if the universe is that old and that there is no reason to believe that it will cease to exist any time soon, then our problems maybe don’t matter as much as the world says they do.
Whether we’re able to pay our mortgages/rents or not, our homes are probably not going to be around in 1,000 years, much less one million years, nor will the banks or landlords. A house is just bricks and sticks that will eventually be reduced to dust. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pay our bills, but the level of distress that financial matters frequently cause can be disproportionate to their eternal significance.
You don’t have to have faith in God to know that in the eternal (or infinite if you prefer) scheme of things, we shouldn’t take our current circumstances as the end all, be all of the meaning of life. If you’re an atheist, you might argue that there is no meaning to our existence, but I doubt that you would argue that the meaning of life is to suffer in disease or to stress about work.
I remember a t-shirt that was popular in the 90s that said, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” What good are “toys” to you once you’re gone? Are you going to have your surviving relatives bury your BMW with you? What good would that even do if you don’t believe in an afterlife?
Back to Life, Back to Reality
The other day, I got in my car, started it up, and went to put the car in reverse. I grabbed for the gear shift by the steering column only to realize that my current car’s gear shift is in the console between the driver and passenger seats by my knee. I haven’t driven a car that has a gear shift by the steering column with any regularity since I graduated high school fifteen years ago, and yet here I was grabbing for it. My brain had momentarily lapsed back to an old paradigm in my driving routine.
As Christians, we do this all the time. We’re presented with a set of circumstances and, instead of reacting out of the new paradigm of God’s Kingdom having come through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we react out of the world’s old paradigm.
To be fair, we’re constantly bumping into the world’s paradigm. Like the majority of the water molecules and even the rubber of the balloon in the above picture, the world is still momentarily holding its old shape. The next beat of eternity hasn’t arrived yet.
For my atheist friends and fellow science-lovers, the Earth is still happily basking in the pleasant warmth of our yellow sun, but in about 5.4 billion years, things will change dramatically as our sun becomes a red giant. Our planet’s future is so bright, that life as we know it will be vaporized along with all of the oceans of the world. I also recently heard that the Earth is leaking atmosphere, so perhaps we’ll run out of breathable atmosphere before all life on the planet is blasted into oblivion. Who knows?
If, in the cosmic scheme of things, life on Earth is already toast or, from a Christian’s perspective, we’re going to enjoy eternity with God in a newly perfected life, then why should we let a fit of road rage ruin our day? Why does road rage even exist? The answer is that we get caught up in the reality of our current circumstances and lose sight of the greater reality of our existence. If the here and now is all that we get to enjoy, why waste it on things that have no significance after we’re gone? Let’s get real about what is really important in the “real world”.
And now…Soul II Soul…
Why Religion Seems Irrelevant Despite The Balloon Being Popped
If the sun is just going to gobble us up anyway, then why does society even bother? In Romans, Paul tackles the problem of some people saying, “Hey, if Jesus died and rose again to cover my past, present, and future sins, then shouldn’t I just let the good times roll and get my sinnin’ on?”
He explains that once we have a true, personal encounter with the love of Jesus, we’re never the same. We would have to make a purposeful choice to reject the new nature that Christ died for if we wanted to just live a life of evil and self-indulgence. We would also lose out on the abundant life filled with joy and peace that comes when we live in the new freedom that Jesus paid for us to have. We have access to that abundant life right now!
Going back to the scenario in which you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior, why doesn’t the world devolve into a mass-murdering mess of Mad Max proportions? I mean, if the world is doomed to eventually being swallowed by a star, and long before that, any legacy that I hoped to leave will be forgotten, what does it matter if I stop paying taxes, stop bathing, and take up cannibalism?
To be clear: I don’t find this hypothetical scenario appealing, nor do I think morality is exclusively a Christian concept, but it seems to me that societies around the world spend a lot of energy on holding themselves together considering how many people profess that life has no greater meaning.
There’s a saying: to whom much is given, much is expected. We have an opportunity to live in the here and now that no other generation, past or future, has had or will ever have. I’m hearing Cory Feldman in the movie Goonies, saying, “It’s our time. It’s our time down here.” You get one shot (oh boy, now I’m hearing Eminem), so why would you throw away your chance to live well?
By living well, I don’t just mean enjoying yourself. Of course, everyone should live a great life, but you’ll live an even more enjoyable life if you make life about more than that house, car, boat, watch, jewelry, designer clothing, etc, etc, that the guy/girl on television has. If you devote your life to truly living well; to making an impact on the here and now that you share with your fellow “Goonies”, knowing that your physical circumstances are quite pointless, you’ll find that your life has more meaning than maybe you ever thought possible.
Stretching Your Spiritual Boundaries
When I am able to look at my life from an eternal perspective, I can see how the apostle Paul was able to say that he’s learned to live life “abased and in abundance”. Because I’m a Christian, and I know that when I die, I get a life upgrade. It’s like flying coach (or economy class I guess is what it’s called now) and arguing for the best coach experience when you know that you have an upgrade to first class available. Who care’s about how good your coach experience is? It’s not going to be anywhere as cushy as First Class. Well, I have a first class upgrade on the way, Baby!
Don’t let the trials of life, or even the wondrous things in life, distract you from the reality that you are called to live a victorious life that is centered on spreading Christ’s love (the hope of glory) with the world. Live well! Live a love-focused, Christ-like life in the Real World.
Here are some bonus scriptures that I didn’t have time to work into this message. Enjoy!