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The Christadelphian | April 2017

In the magazine this month:

A sample article from this edition:

An A-Z of discipleship

‘V’ for Vision

“We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) [1]

In the mind and imagination of every happy, successful, motivated person is a vision. It is a vision of hope for the future; the grand culmination of their hard labour. This vision gives them purpose, drive and a reason to get up in the morning. It gives them the motivation to push through difficulties, to remain focussed when distractions abound, and to finish what they have begun.

For the disciple of Christ, a vision of where we are headed – of future glory in God’s kingdom – is vital. It gives our lives meaning and it helps us to avoid temptation. When difficulties arise, those with a strong vision of what lies ahead will not lose heart, but will cling still tighter to their faith and their hope, and will not give up.

A vision of the invisible

We know well the proverb: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). Though today we do not receive new revelations from God, we have sixty-six books of inspired writings to fuel our vision, give meaning and purpose to our lives, and keep us strengthened along the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Those who are ignorant of these clear visions of warning, encouragement and hope – or who choose to ignore them, pursuing rather the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – have no hope of eternal life but will surely perish. Without vision, the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) would seem so much more appealing as we sought to live for today, having no sure hope for tomorrow. For this reason, it is of vital importance that we do not allow our vision to dim, but rather seek to strengthen and renew it daily.

In Hebrews 11 we read about many great men and women of faith, each with a vision which sustained them through times of trials and temptation. Moses “was looking to the reward” (verse 26) and Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (verse 10). Not only did they believe that God exists; they were confident too that He would fulfil His promises and reward their faith. They looked to a time and a place that they could neither see nor fully comprehend, yet this future vision of God’s kingdom on earth was powerfully real to them.

Though none of them had ever seen God, they nevertheless “endured as seeing him who is invisible” (verse 27), for, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (verse 1) and “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our vision – and theirs too – is a vision of the invisible!

Our vision

We share the vision of these faithful men and women: the “hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). But how real is it to us? How can we truly comprehend something about which the scriptures say –

“no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”? (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We cannot expect ever fully to know what eternal life in God’s kingdom will be like, and when God will be all in all (15:28), but the scriptures provide us with a rich store of verses and passages to strengthen our vision and get us excited about the future. The more often we immerse ourselves in God’s word and meditate on its powerful message, the stronger and clearer our vision will become.

Consider these verses in Revelation, written to the seven ecclesias, which tell of the wonderful rewards for those who overcome – for those who conquer:

2:7 Granted to eat of the tree of life, in the paradise of God.
2:11 Not hurt by the second death.
2:17 Given hidden manna, and a white stone bearing a new name.
2:26-28 Authority over the nations; given the morning star.
3:5 Clothed in white garments; name never blotted out of the book of life; Jesus will confess their name before the Father and His angels.
3:12 Pillars in the temple of God forever; they will bear the name of God and of New Jerusalem, and the new name of Jesus Christ.
3:21 Granted to sit with Christ on his throne.

Can you picture yourself in white garments, bearing a new name, granted to sit on the throne with Christ? Do you believe that these things will be your reward, if you remain faithful to the end? This is our hope and our vision, and we must hold it close. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1,2).

Although our vision is of things unseen, it is important that we try to focus our minds on what lies ahead. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” wrote Paul, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14). It is only too easy to become wrapped up in the cares of this life, distracted by today and anxious about tomorrow, but we must strain forward to what lies ahead and leave all other cares behind. Eternal life in God’s kingdom must be our focus in life.

But how do we make it our focus, when so many other cares and distractions run through our minds?

Strengthening the vision

Just as the children of Israel had to collect manna each day of their wilderness journey, so we too need daily to immerse ourselves in the word of God. Except on the Sabbath, the manna did not last a second day, but went rotten. Our minds are like this. Can you remember what the exhortation was about two Sundays ago, or what you read in the Old Testament reading last Tuesday? Can you remember the wonderful comment made by a brother at Bible Class earlier in the week? Can you still feel the peace which you felt when you meditated on the Psalms reading yesterday? If you are anything like me, the honest answer will be ‘no’. It is so easy to forget what we have heard or read, and unless we regularly replenish the store of scripture running through our minds, we soon run out of fuel.

Daily Bible reading should never, therefore, be seen as a chore, but as the only sure way of replenishing the store of God’s word in our hearts. The more time we spend reading it, the more we shall grow to delight in it. Sitting down to immerse ourselves in the pages of scripture will bring us a profound sense of peace and joy, and we shall be sorry when we have to stop.

Sitting down and doing the daily readings is not the only way to fill our minds with the word of God and strengthen our faith and vision. We can listen to an audio Bible, listen to talks or scripture-based songs, read one of the many books written by our brothers and sisters, or do our own Bible study. We can also endeavour to surround ourselves with like-minded people, making an effort to keep in touch with our brothers and sisters and to spend time with them as often as we are able. The more we talk about the scriptures, the stronger will be our vision, and our resolve to follow our Master.

If it is a vision we want to cultivate, then it is not enough just to read or talk about the scriptures: we also have to visualise the things we read and really make them come alive. Spending just a few minutes each day visualising not only the future, but really sensing God at work in our lives and strengthening our conviction that He is ever present, is endlessly beneficial. We might choose a Bible passage and spend time thinking about how it applies to us and what it means for the future, or we might just close our eyes and imagine what it will be like to be called away to meet our Master, to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21, KJV), and to stand with thousands upon thousands of men and women, clothed in white garments, singing praises to God and to the Lamb.

Live for the future

The stronger our conviction that God is working with us right here, right now, and is preparing something wonderful for the future, the easier it will be to live the kind of life to which we have been called. Knowing that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12), the pleasures of this life suddenly seem so unimportant and temporary. To pursue a hedonistic lifestyle, living for ourselves rather than for God, might once have appealed; but now, knowing what the future holds, we have a far better perspective on today. No longer do we view it as an end to itself, but as a stepping stone to glory and immortality in the kingdom of God.

And so we are motivated to live for God now, even though we know this will not be easy. For we have been promised that “there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29,30).

Most of us will probably never be called to leave behind our homes or our families, but we are certainly called to a life of sacrifice, “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12,13).

Choosing to do the right thing is rarely easy and often painful. We battle against the carnal mind, fed by the “all things are lawful”, “anything goes” mentality so prevalent in the world. But if we are armed with a vision of greater things to come, knowing what God requires of us now and fixing our eyes on our future reward, we can stand strong and choose light over darkness – God’s ways over man’s ways – “work[ing] heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord … [we] will receive the inheritance as [our] reward” (Colossians 3:23,24).

When trials inevitably come along, our vision becomes all the more important to us. It keeps us grounded, even when the earth beneath us appears to give way. It shows us that there is a purpose to our pain. It reminds us that God will never leave us or forsake us, but will always provide us with a way of escape. And it tells us that the best is yet to come.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:16,17)

Amy Parkin

[1] All quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise noted.

 

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