Eternity over history: a communion meditation

Several US Presidents have been credited with employing the phrase “the right side of history.” The context varies, but the message always communicates the speaker’s absolute certainty that he would always be remembered for being right.

No matter your political persuasion, I say Christians should be less concerned about history and more concerned with landing on the right side of eternity. That’s where believers should drop the proverbial mic.

Chew on that statement while I ask you some questions.

In the scope of eternity, does it really matter if:

  • Your favorite athlete retires?
  • A major road construction project makes your commute significantly longer?
  • Democrats or Republicans are governing our city, state or nation?
  • We win a trade war?

Let’s direct the questions closer to church. In the scope of eternity, does it really matter if:

  • The latest, Christian-themed motion picture wins an Oscar?
  • Your church boasts a large congregation with several campuses and multiple weekend services?
  • Your minister’s sermons are heard by millions across the world on radio, television and the Internet?
  • Some churches include music in their worship service while others don’t?
  • Some believers speak in tongues while others do not?
  • You were baptized yesterday or several decades ago?
  • You read the King James Version of the Bible, but I read the NIV?
  • God can create a rock even He cannot lift?

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His Apostles to focus on eternity rather than history:

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)
  • Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.(Matthew 6:33)
  • “…do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more…Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.” (Luke 12:4-5)

As a result, they walked away from their jobs to follow Him and willingly opened themselves up for abuse and incarceration. Ironically, one of the primary reasons their testimony has stood the test of history is their willingness to endure beatings and prison for preaching in His name. Why would anyone endure that to support a hoax?

When it comes right down to it, the only thing that truly matters is what we celebrate during communion time every Sunday; the belief that God the Father sent His only Son, Jesus, down to Earth to live among us, teach us, die on the cross for our sins and then triumph over sin and death by rising again. The historical fact of Christ’s death and resurrection is all that really matters in the scope of eternity, and that’s what I’m asking you to focus on right now as we go to the Lord in prayer.

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Putting our faith to the marshmallow test: an offering meditation

In the late 1960s and early 1970s at Stanford University, Austrian-born American psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments now referred to as the “marshmallow tests.”

The experiments went like this: he put a single marshmallow on a plate in front of a child. He then told the child that they could either eat the one marshmallow now, or they could wait ten minutes and get two marshmallows.

Some waited, while others ate the marshmallow right away. Then Mischel tracked each child’s success in life through factors like SAT scores, educational attainment and body mass index (BMI).

What he found was striking. The children who could wait the ten minutes to get the two marshmallows led significantly more successful lives—even when accounting for other factors like IQ score.

The implication? Self-control really matters. If you have the self-discipline to delay your gratification—like some of the kids did by not eating the marshmallow right away—chances are good you will have a more successful life.

What can this experiment teach us about giving?

In the midst of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers this jewel in Matthew 6:19-21:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I wonder if our Lord had the future Doctor Mischel at least partly in mind when he said those words almost 2000 years ago. Like the children in the experiments, Jesus implores us to wait for the future in heaven rather than indulging in what the world has to offer today. It’s not much of a stretch to apply the same teaching to giving.

We can certainly choose to spend all of our income on fancy automobiles, palatial houses, exotic vacations and sumptuous meals; but cars and homes require constant maintenance, travel is fleeting and you can only eat so much caviar. On the other hand, giving a small portion of our income back to God on a regular basis is an investment in His everlasting kingdom. We won’t receive a reward today or even in our lifetime, but, as Jesus indicates in the passage, our hearts will be in the right place. The fact is our regular demonstration of self-control— including self-control with money—is a symbol of our trust in God’s holy provision for the future. Besides, as King Solomon discovered, without discipline, our pursuit of worldly treasures is a chasing after the wind.

In case you’re wondering—like I was as I was researching this meditation, the end result of the “marshmallow test” was the same with other delicious treats like Oreo cookies or M&Ms. What a relief!

I guess the Apostle Paul was really on to something when he penned Galatians 5:22-23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

As we strive each day to cultivate these fruits in our own lives, let us not forget to apply self-control to our finances, too. Think of an offering as a contribution to your future retirement…in heavenly eternity!