Cultivating Eternal Perspective in Daily Life
By THE SET APART GIRL TEAM
And whatever you do,
Do it heartily, as to the Lord…
Have you ever wondered how to escape the frivolous undertow of the 21st-century lifestyle? Have you ever had the longing to live for “something more” than the trending tides of our here-today, gone-tomorrow world? Do you desire to live a life that truly brings glory to God?
We are presented daily with the persistent message that our best life is now. And if we don’t snatch our chance to live it — and quick — we are going to miss it altogether… Resort commercials boast exquisite gourmet food, happy couples hand-in-hand, and silhouettes of palm trees bordering the sandy shores. So-and-so’s Instagram account showcases a stylish modern farmhouse, glowing family portraits, and a blossoming career on top of it all. And then in reflection upon our own lives, we reel with discontentment as we observe the sands of time quickly rising to our waist, while our hands yet grasp for the dusty things of this earth.
Whether it’s the luxurious comforts, so-and-so living our dream, or something else dangled in front of us — our focus can very quickly be swayed from the things of eternity to the things of this earth in a disproportionate way. While a refreshing vacation or beautiful family portraits can certainly have their place, if we honestly evaluate our day-to-day lives we might just discover that our hearts are prone to losing balance and leaning into things of this world, rather than leaning upon the strong arm of our Savior.
In June of 1963, C.S. Lewis received surprising news from an acquaintance in America — sickness had befallen her and death loomed on the horizon. He wrote a compassionate letter to encourage her and included this enlightening perspective: “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” And thus it is for any follower of Christ.
The Apostle Paul exemplified this heavenly perspective as he lived straddling the threshold of eternity. He longed to depart and dwell with his Lord — and yet because he knew the eternal value of his work on earth — he also desired to remain in the flesh to labor for the Church and pour out his life on their behalf: “…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil. 1:20-24 ESV).
Paul’s example is one for us to esteem, ponder, and prayerfully pattern our lives after. May we also have a deep love for Christ that counts departing to be with Christ as “far better,” while also living our days on this earth with passion and intentionality for God’s eternal glory!
As new creations in Christ, may we remember that the truest rendition of life has been made available to us: a life that outshines the tropical sun and satisfies the longing heart. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and His triumphant resurrection have freed us from the tyranny of the flesh and the chains of this world, with all the riches of His Life now made available to us. And now, through His Spirit empowering our lives, it is quite possible to spend our days on earth as an investment in His Everlasting Kingdom and as a tribute to His glory. All the while practically demonstrating to the world around us that our best life is yet to be.
In this issue, we’ve asked our set apart team to expound on the topic of living with an eternal perspective in various practical aspects of life — from relationships to the day-to-day decisions we make. As you’ll see in the following pages, each woman shares from the overflow of her own heart and walk with Christ, including practical applications that have helped her live with an eternal focus, in hopes of helping you too.
We pray that this article will give you a fresh perspective on what it means to live everyday life with eternity’s values in view, and ultimately inspire you to wholeheartedly seek Jesus Christ and the things which are above. (See Colossians 3:1-17.)
From our hearts to yours,
How do you resist the pull towards idleness and live in light of eternity instead?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been very adept at finding the “easy way out” and if given the chance that was the route I would take. When it came to chores, mundane tasks, or anything I deemed “boring,” I would have always preferred to be idle instead of engaged. As they say, “old habits die hard,” and I often still struggle with wanting to relax and disengage instead of doing that hard, irritating, or simply boring task facing me.
Idleness is always a bait, and I’m often tempted to do something partway, to put it off for another time, or to delay it inevitably until the right “mood” hits! The past few months I have been dealing with sickness. The flu, then strep throat, bronchitis, and then a terrible sinus cold. With waning energy levels and a desire for rest, it has been very tempting for me to take the bait and play the “woe is me” card.
Opportunities for idleness — to put myself and my feelings first and let other things fall to the wayside — exist each day: such as sleeping when I need to be feeding my family, taking a bath when I should be doing the laundry, zoning out on my iPhone, or pulling the covers over my head when I should be working. To combat my desire to just “take it easy,” I ask the Lord for needed opportunities to rest and recuperate, but also ask for strength when I know I am needed to serve my family or others, do my work with diligence, or push through the temptation to lay on the couch and watch back-to-back movies and “check-out” of a hard season. When my heart’s desire is first to be given to the Lord and to His priorities, He so often gives me sweet rest just when I need it. He also gives me the strength and gumption I need to do the work I’m called to as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, church member, worker, etc.
I have spent the last few months slowly reading the biography of Oswald Chambers, and he has a quote about this that I just love! He says “A grave defect in much work of today … is that men do not follow Solomon’s admonition, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’ The tendency is to argue, ‘It’s only for so short a time, why trouble?’ If it is only for five minutes, let it be well done.” This is something I am learning slowly and which challenges me at a very deep level. I long to be faithful in whatever God puts before me, and do it with all my might, closing the door on the attitude of idleness.
How do you weigh your words in light of eternity and seek to avoid idle chatter?
Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (ESV).
I have found this to be true so many times; the words that come out of my mouth are an overflow of what is in my heart. Those of us who love Jesus and call ourselves by His Name don’t usually intentionally use our words in ways that dishonor the Lord. No, most of the time it’s much more subtle than that — so subtle, in fact, that we may not even realize we are doing it. That is why it is so important that we are continually submitting ourselves to God’s Spirit to reveal the wrong that is in our hearts and allow Him to sanctify us — so that the words we speak point others back to Him.
I often ask the Lord, in essence, to “set a guard over my mouth” and “keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3) in my face-to-face and online interactions with others. This usually comes through questions I ask myself (and God often brings to mind) in those moments when I am faced with a decision about the words that are about to come out of my mouth. (Similar to those Leslie has shared in past articles.) Here are a few examples:
Will these words point others to me or to Jesus? (See Psalm 115:1.)
Will these words encourage and build up, or tear down? (See 1 Thessalonians 5:11.)
Are these words gracious and seasoned with salt? (See Colossians 4:6.)
Are these words filled with what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise? (See Philippians 4:8.)
Another helpful guideline I use is “when in doubt, don’t say it.” If I am unsure whether something I’m about to say is going to be the best, wisest, kindest, or point to Jesus, I’ve learned through experience that staying quiet is the best rule of thumb. There are very few times I’ve regretted not saying something in those circumstances, and plenty of times I’ve chosen to ignore that little check in my heart and regretted it later on. I’ve found that when my heart is purposeful and intent on glorifying the Lord in my words, even conversations about the best shampoo to use or sharing a funny story can become avenues to point to Him.
How do you maintain eternal priorities in your relationships?
One theme that I feel has been highlighted in my own life over the past year is that, as believers, we aren’t meant to follow Christ as isolated individuals that are detached from other Christians. The Bible is full of examples of the early church meeting together often with the purpose of edifying one another, as well as commandments for us to do the same. Just take a look at these two verses:
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13 NIV, emphasis added).
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22, emphasis added).
Through these verses, we can see that the overarching pattern of our lives should be to encourage those around us and pursue the Lord together. In light of these commands, here are some practical ways we can edify those around us. (Some of these don’t even involve leaving home — remember that encouraging our families is just as important as other believers!)
Study a book or chapter of the Bible with another woman either in person, or via the Internet or phone. When living at home a number of years ago, a new friend I had only talked to a few times contacted me asking if I’d like to study Proverbs 31 together. Because we didn’t live extremely close to one another, each week we took a verse or two and messaged one another about what it was saying and how it applied to our lives. What a focused way to start a friendship! It was thoroughly enjoyable to hear how she was applying the verses of Proverbs 31 to her life and also to be held accountable for applying it to my life.
If you are part of a ministry within your church, seek to have a weekly prayer time with your team members. Remember to pray for each other in addition to those you are ministering to. I have found that consistently spending time in prayer with those who you minister with not only gives you a shared focus but also protects against the enemy’s attacks.
At social gatherings, be purposeful in striking up meaningful conversations with those around you. Ask others how their life is going, what has been standing out to them lately in their Bible reading, if there is anything they are struggling with, etc.
When at home, mention things that are standing out to you in your Bible reading. It doesn’t have to be something incredibly deep or profound, even the little things can cause those around you to be edified. For instance, “Wow, this is interesting, I just noticed that ‘Be strong and of good courage’ is mentioned three times in the first eight verses of the book of Joshua!”
These are just a few examples, but I encourage you to be creative and think of your own fun ways to edify those around you! I can guarantee that as you pray about it, you will smile with delight at the ideas that God gives you.
What are some practical ways that you seek to align your habits with eternal priorities?
According to Google, the average adult makes approximately 35,000 decisions per day. That’s a lot of decisions! In light of this, we have 35,000 opportunities to live on purpose in what we think, speak, and do … each and every day. And furthermore, if even small tasks like eating and drinking can be done in such a way that brings glory to God, then there is no decision too insignificant, no detail too small that isn’t begging for us to manifest Him to this world. What a glorious invitation we have been given in Christ: to enliven this color-drained world with His beauty, perspective, and truth — one decision at a time!
I agree it seems an almost insurmountable task. How can we expect to make a dent in the face of 35,000 courses of action, if not for grace — marvelous, matchless grace!
Moses knew the value of a day and prayed accordingly, saying, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12, emphasis added). Look at the man behind the Psalm: the leader of an unruly nation sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 long years. If anyone felt the weight of missed opportunity, it was Moses.
Moses emphasized the importance of gaining a heart of wisdom. Wise hearts are eternally-minded hearts. They reach past the here and now — the trivial, the temporal -— and dip into the everlasting. Aligning my day-to-day activities with a lifestyle that is rooted in things above begins with numbering my days. Not so much in a mathematical sense, but by realizing that my life is a vapor (Jms. 4:14) and I am here to redeem the time. (See Ephesians 5:15-16 and Colossians 4:5.)
A principle that speaks to this subject is, “Splurge on the sacred, skimp on the secular, and starve the profane.” If I invest the majority of my time, focus, and finances on the sacred — that which promotes and sustains the life of Christ within me — I will be oriented after the things of Heaven and the things of this world will remain balanced rather than all-consuming or bordering on unhealthy.
When I take responsibility for the time I have been entrusted, I am more intentional with how I invest it. The outflow is ordering my habits, activities, schedule, and to-do list around what God says is important. What are the non-negotiables in your walk with Christ? What core spiritual disciplines are absolutely necessary in order for fruit to abound and remain in your life? (See John 15:16.) Determine those things and cement them into your lifestyle. What are the responsibilities He has entrusted to your care? Those go next! Write them in permanent marker in your planner.
As you identify where God has you and what He is asking of you in this season, clarity will define your daily decisions and your path will be ordered according to His unique plan for your life. Start big and work your way down to the small details of life. How can the smallest of tasks be carried out with excellence and diligence that points to your great God? With a little bit of thought, you will be well on your way to making 35,000 decisions that truly matter in light of King and Kingdom.