Traveler_623

Just Passing Through

Shortly after moving from Chicago to Louisville in 2012, I was back in Chicago for a short visit. It was so good to be back in the city I love so much. I love the family and friends I have there, the architecture, the lakefront, the grittiness, character and beauty of the city, and so much more.

On the last day of my visit, still drinking in my surroundings, I was shocked by the sudden realization that I don’t live there anymore. It’s no longer my home. In an instant, my mood shifted from a deep sense of joy to a profound sense of sadness and loss.

As I drove out of town and the city became smaller in my rearview mirror, I sensed God telling me, “I have good plans for you and your family in Louisville.” And I sensed him reminding me that whether I live in Chicago or Louisville or Timbuktu, this is not my home. The Bible says, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

Within that truth, is the power to completely transform — to radically improve — our relationship with money.

Looks are deceiving

So often, when someone has a ton of debt and a financial situation that generally doesn’t work, the common assumption is they need to cut back, tighten the belt, rein themselves in. But in many such cases, the real answer is far less intuitive. It isn’t that they need to stop stretching themselves so far, it’s that they need to stop settling for so little.

When we believe this world is all there is, and when we fall for the lie that our self-worth and satisfaction depend on the brands we wear and drive, it’s no wonder so many people live paycheck to paycheck. Life is short. If this is our one and only shot at happiness, we better get all we can as soon as we can.

That’s the misguided mindset the apostle Paul highlighted when he said, “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

A little taste of heaven

Of course, Paul knew that this is not all there is. And he said the Holy Spirit helps all believers experience that truth in very profound ways.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. – Romans 8:22-25

Incredibly, “the firstfruits of the Spirit” means the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life gives us the ability to experience a little taste of heaven here and now. And Paul said that naturally leads to two responses: A yearning for all of heaven (we “groan inwardly as we wait…”) and also the patience to wait.

Is this as good as it gets?

So let me ask you: Do you yearn for heaven?

I’ve heard people say they do, but when I first thought about it, I had to admit that I don’t. At least, I didn’t think so. I believe heaven is real. I’m just not in any hurry to get there!

If it seems that you don’t yearn for heaven either, consider this: Maybe, just maybe, you — and I — actually do.

Think about some of the most powerful, deeply enjoyable experiences you’ve ever had—meaningful time with a special friend, an incredible vacation, a memorable time engaging in your favorite hobby, watching your kids do something they love.

C.S. Lewis said that in our enjoyment of such things there is something more going on than meets the eye.

…it (is) not in them. It only comes through them and what (comes) through them (is) longing…For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.

Mistaking them for the thing itself is where we go wrong. It’s especially when we mistake material things for the thing itself that we can find ourselves running on an exhausting and chronically disappointing treadmill of wanting, buying, enjoying, but then wanting again.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience of this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. – C.S. Lewis

The realization that the things of this world will never completely satisfy our deepest longings is not bad news; it’s helpful news. It’s a signpost pointing us to a path on which the greatest experiences of this world are but little, wonderful glimpses of a far greater joy yet to come.

A patient yearning

Living from that perspective frees us to stop looking to the things of this world for the level of joy they’re incapable of delivering. And it actually enables us to enjoy them more.

Seeing them as good gifts from God, little tastes of heaven, but not the basis of our identity, security, or ultimate joy, is the foundation of a healthy, satisfying relationship with money and what it can buy.

I like how John Eldredge summed up the patient yearning Paul spoke of: We express our longing for God best when we “enjoy what there is now to enjoy, while waiting with eager anticipation for the feast to come.”

How do you think your use of money would change if you were clearer about the level of joy the things of this world can deliver and the ultimate joy only heaven can deliver?

Take it to heart: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

Take action: Think of one of the most wonderful experiences you’ve had over the past year. Take a minute to reflect on it and to pray about it, thanking God for that little glimpse of heaven.

Read more: The Priceless Joy of a Little Impracticality

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5 Responses to Just Passing Through

  1. Karen Howard June 26, 2020 at 11:17 AM #

    Hi Matt. I heard a saying not long ago that really struck me: For the believer, this world is as close as we will ever get to hell. For the unbeliever, it is as close as they will ever get to heaven.

  2. Debra June 25, 2020 at 9:07 AM #

    Thanks for the long view reminder while the short view is screaming at us from all sides. Calm in the midst of chaos.

    • Matt Bell June 25, 2020 at 3:32 PM #

      You’re welcome, Debra. The short view is screaming, indeed, with some people intent on day-trading their way through the crisis! While the long view doesn’t make for very compelling headlines, it sure works well.

  3. Wayne Riendeau June 24, 2020 at 1:48 PM #

    Love this post, Matt. Thanks for the reminder. In light of all the chaos going on in our world right now, I need to cultivate this kind of perspective on a regular, nay, DAILY basis.

    Wayne

    • Matt Bell June 25, 2020 at 3:36 PM #

      I appreciate your feedback, Wayne. The hope of heaven is the ultimate form of delayed gratification. The financial implications, while a mere side benefit, run deep.

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