I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
(Ozymandias, Percy Shelly)
As a generation we stand closer than any other to the shores of eternity. We are in the period where eternity is fast bearing down on us.
Our generation is one that is confronted more than any other generation before – with the desires for fame and greatness and significance. This is because we are such a connected, global society from the advent of the internet and social media and etc. I believe the deep human longings for fame, greatness and significance all hint at a yearning inside of us – for eternity.
And yet, we must be clear on the reality that the world does not and cannot ever provide the answer to our longings for eternity. Deep down we all know this to be true, despite the way we actually think or act or work. The answers are not found in fame, in money and power as the oft-displayed canvasses of history and celebrity-life remind us. CS Lewis observes: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
1. Zooming out
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, this is the constant throughout the ages, man is fickle and his existence is but for a moment, as we zoom out and realise the insignificance of our existence, there is something deep inside us that cries out for significance. Perhaps it is for eternity. Eternity is set deep in the heart of man. Deep inside we were created for it. There is a craving deep inside that nothing this world can fulfil or satisfy.
He has also set eternity in the human heart
The problem that confronts us, when we take a step back is the fragility and temporality of our existence. There is a real fear of insignificance and death. I am but alive for maybe 80 years, a breath in the span of things, and a blink of an eye. And I am but one person out of 7 billion other individuals walking on the face of this planet all trying to make a living, or find riches, find happiness and significance. A natural response happens when confronted with eternity and it is to numb the stark facts of reality with the superficial, and the pleasurable.
So there is a huge mismatch between the deep yearnings for function and meaning and our actions which then become a vicious cycle. The weight of self-condemnation is added to the weight of eternity. And we find ourselves in a place of continually seeking an escape, and we attempt to distract ourselves with mindless entertainment and games, toys and pleasure-pursuits that have no real constructive end-goals other than to fill our lives for a moment with something, anything.
2. A fresh set of glasses
“No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point.”
This ‘world’ is turned on its head in the kingdom of God. IF there is such a thing and IF what Jesus said was true – what began as meaningless molecules by chance coming together to form cells, to form organs and incredibly complex human beings become hugely significant when there is a creator. Suddenly there is a plan for our lives, there is purpose, and it goes beyond this breath of a life. It provides SO MUCH rightness for the human heart – for e.g. it provides someone to be grateful to, for ALL things! The benefits of gratefulness for a human being alone are incredible. If you are a skeptic, please don’t look at the church, there is perhaps as much unbelief and ungratefulness and brokenness in the so called church than outside it. My plea is to look at the very words of Jesus recorded for us in the most historically accurate document of ancient times, and consider the way he painted a picture of what reality and human nature should look like.
Back on topic – somehow in the kingdom of God, the weight of eternity is not a crushing force, but it becomes an impetus. instead of being a weight, it is our jetpack and foundation. And this must be released upon a generation for what was once the reason for laziness, sin and selfishness, insignificance and meaninglessness, hopelessness, mindless pursuit for destructive pleasure BECOMES productivity, change, life and hope, meaning and significance and constructiveness. Instead of a downwards force that crushes eternity is turned upside down to an upwards thrust and a platform.
Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God. Nothing can be wasted, and everything that was once a weight and a regret, becomes strength and filled with purpose. What “A Beautiful Alternative”.
3. The lie that you can be “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use”
I would argue that the people that have had the most impact on this world, had their minds and hearts set most on eternity. This is a dynamic we need to understand afresh. As Christians, if we live for this world alone, then we risk finding ourselves needing to make meaning out of what is essentially meaningless and temporal (finiteness without an infinite reference point). We will find a dichotomy in our minds and in our behaviours that trivialises the small and insignificant. We will find a condemnation of the small and insignificant. A putting down of seemingly useless behaviours, and also, ‘seemingly useless’ people. Such perspective is cancer.
Yet if we live for eternity and the age to come, we will find that the smallest and most insignificant things on this filled with meaning. A sunrise, a cloudy day, a leaf, or a blade of grass are reasons for wonder and worship and be grateful. Cleaning up after someone or yourself is a beautiful act of servanthood and deemed greatness in this perspective. People are accepted and loved for who they are, not what they do or what they can produce. The list goes on, but this post is already too long. If we live for eternity, the preciousness of now, the preciousness of every moment of time suddenly becomes filled with significance and meaning.
It is but as a moment to eternity. Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it never can be done; and it is found to be a work of great difficulty and labor, and therefore that for which time is the more requisite.
(Jonathan Edwards – The Preciousness of Time)
So every morning and 2-3 times a day i should remind myself: this day, this minute. my thoughts, my attitudes, my actions, my influence – counts. There is meaning and significance is every little movement/twitch/quark conscious and unconscious. It counts for my life, and it counts for my family, it counts for my friends, it counts for this city, and this nation and the ends of the earth and it counts for nature, it counts for the world and the solar system and the galaxy and the universe, it counts for eternity.
And every day I will set to remind myself of my true home, and find all my treasure, find all my hope, all my meaning on that place, and in doing so find purpose and meaning and joy for that day in every moment in every activity I find myself in.
I will remind myself that everything that has occurred is not wasted, and nothing can be wasted. Nothing can be wasted in the economy of the kingdom of God. This is the freedom in which we live and the freedom that is set before us as a generation that seeks the kingdom first, and seeks the face of God.