Eyes on the Permanent Prize

Facing the future

It’s too easy to pass through life focused on the here and now. Or maybe the “over there” and “next week.” But how often do we take our eyes off this moment in time and focus on our eternal fate?

Today we have in our hand, but tomorrow is a question mark. Do we too often lock our focus on today because we fear what might happen when we reach the last of our “tomorrows?”

Where do we go when we die, and why?

Where our body goes is easy enough to answer, but that’s only hardware.

What about the software part of us, the spirit that makes us a unique being distinct from any other that ever lived? What will happen to the real me when this physical body known as Carol Ashby dies?

If there’s one fear common to all people across the length and breadth of human history, it’s the fear of death. But do we need to be afraid?

That depends.

And it depends on one thing.

That one thing is best summed up by the question Jesus asked his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, as reported in Matthew 16:13-16 (ESV):

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

That’s the ultimate question we all must face, and Easter provides the clearest answer.

Jesus wasn’t just a man or even a prophet. He was the one with the power to lay down his life, leave his dead body behind, and restore life to that body when he chose to. We could never have been sure the sacrifice on Friday did anything if the resurrection on Sunday hadn’t proved beyond doubt that his death did everything Jesus claimed it would.

The gospel of John is my favorite because it includes so many of Jesus’s conversations with his disciples that explain who he is, what he did, and what that means.

Not what it means in some broad philosophical sense, but for ME, personally.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” — John 6:35 (NKJV)

He tells me what that belief will mean for my future:

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” — John 6:40 (NIV)

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” -– John 11:25-26 (ESV)

There it is: the promise I can count on because Jesus proved he had power over death and life when he died and rose himself.

The real me has eternal life, and my physical death is just the first step in a hardware upgrade from my current body to something better suited to eternity.

That day in Caesarea Philippi, Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

When Peter said it, he didn’t fully understand what it meant to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, because Jesus hadn’t yet sacrificed himself for our sins. He hadn’t yet risen from the dead to prove he had the power to do everything he ever claimed he would.

I’ll never fully understand what Jesus went through on the cross for me, but I can revel in the certainty that I don’t have to fear what lies beyond the death of my body.

I know what awaits me: eternity with Jesus and everyone who’s ever decided to believe in him and accept his gift of salvation. When I keep my eyes on the permanent prize, I don’t have to be afraid.

I can’t suppress the grin as I write this, and my heart cries out “Hallelujah! The Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

Who do YOU say Jesus is? Have you accepted his ultimate gift?

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