As Paul David Tripp writes in his latest book Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It, we're hardwired for forever but "Most people live in a constant state of eternity amnesia."
What does eternity amnesia look like? Tripp says major symptoms include disappointment ("we look to people to give us what only God can give"); addiction ("Physical things have become more important than spiritual things"); and fear ("Needing to be right and in control in order to make my world safe). If you experience any of these symptoms, it might be that you've forgotten the plot of God's long-term plan.
I love the following excerpt from Forever because it shows how God can use eternity to start changing us today.
Six Forever Guarantees for the Present
1. The future grace of eternity guarantees me present grace.
If God has promised that I will live with him forever, then implicit in that promise is the reality of all the grace I need to face what I will face in this fallen world until forever is my home. I don't need to fear people and situations, because grace will be supplied for what I am facing when I face it. I have always believed in the gift of God’s grace, but after my eyes were opened, I had a new and life-changing appreciation of the now-ism of that grace. Today I can face life with courage, not because I am able, but because I know I will always have the grace I need to do what God has called me to do.
As I quoted earlier, when Peter wrote to suffering people, he captured this grace with these words: "By God's power [we] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5 ESV). If you are God's child, Peter is writing this promise for you.
2. The guaranteed end of the story secures control over my story in the present.
Understanding that I was not responsible for writing my own story nor able to do so was a relief. By grace the grand forever story had become my story. My job was not to control people and situations with the anxious hope that somehow things would work out. I came to rest in the fact that even when I don't understand my past, present, and future, my life is secure because I am held in the hollow of the hand of the one who controls all three. In the midst of the harsh realities of life in a world that does not operate as God intended, I can grab hold of the fact that my story will have a glorious end. God’s control over his story is so careful and personal that the apostle Paul says, "[God] marked out their ["their" here means us] appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26).
3. Final peace guarantees the presence, power, and provision of the Prince of Peace in the here and now.
I grew up in a house that had little functional peace, and I became a man with little internal peace. Like many others, I looked for peace where it could not be found (in situations, locations, and people). But peace is not something I have to wait for until forever is my home. The promise of future peace guarantees the presence of the Prince of Peace in the here and now. He could never guarantee me eternal peace if he abandoned me along the way. I came to realize that the lasting inner peace I had lacked for so long was not the result of the ease of circumstances or the love of people, but was mine because the Prince of Peace had invaded my life, and I could rest in his care even in moments when I didn't have a clue what was going on. When it comes to peace, I think many of us are searching for what we have already been given. As Jesus was leaving earth, he said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
4. Eternal hope gives me reason for present hope.
I invested much of my life hoping for hope — that is always the quest of people who don't have it. We all hope that somewhere around the corner we will have reason to work, fight, serve, love, give, obey, worship, invest, forgive, and continue. I came to learn that a guaranteed end gave me reason for hope right here, right now. In fact, hope was redefined for me. I think I had defined hope as a wish for something good in the future — like wishing for good weather for the next day because you're going on a picnic. The problem with that kind of hope is that there is no surety to it and therefore no security to be found in it. The surety of eternity redefined hope for me. Rather than being some dreamy wish for future good, hope became a confident expectation of a guaranteed result. Eternity taught me that I had reason to be hopeful — not because I knew my plans would succeed, but because I was absolutely sure that God's plan would. I stopped putting my hope in things and began to rest in God, who works all things according to his wise and loving will. The apostle Paul speaks of our hope this way in Romans 5:5: "Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been
5. God's work of change, which will culminate in an eternity where all things are new, assures me that real change is possible in the here and now.
My problem was that I had a short attention span. When I saw the need for change, I wanted to see it happen immediately, and when it didn't, I got angry and discouraged. I would then try to change what I had no power to change. As I studied the Bible more, I began to see that the redemptive story that is unfolded on the pages of the Bible is a change story. It is about how God sends his Son to a broken world to restore it by his grace. That work of change is a process that culminates in an event. God's work of change, with the intention of making all things new, begins in the hearts of people. He will stay on task until we have been completely re-formed into his image and his world has been completely re-created by his power. In the here and now, I am not called to sit around and wait for big changes in the future. I am welcome to participate in God's ongoing work of change. The final recreation of all things is but the end of the many moments of mini-change that he is calling me to hope for and participate in in the here and now. Forever teaches me that change is not just a future hope but a present reality. It also teaches me patience.
Change in the here and now is seldom an event and most always a process. Paul told the Philippian believers that he prayed for them, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). God will continue to carry out the good work he has started in us until forever is our final home.
6. The final restoration of all things guarantees me the help I need until they are restored.
In my transformation, the promise of final restoration took on new meaning for me. Sure, it had been a part of my theology, but it had never shaped my daily living. By God's grace, however, it began to. Think about what restoration means.
These biblical conclusions, based on the surety of eternity, left me a changed man. Progressively I was freed from the burden of fear that I had dragged around with me for so long. I was also freed from what the fear produced: needing to be right and in control in order to make my world safe. By grace, I began to be kinder, gentler, and more patient. (By no means have I arrived in any of these.) I was able to look at people as people and not just as potential obstacles in my way. I began to be able to look at circumstances with expectancy and not just as soon-to-be hassles. The story of forever began to enable me to face things I didn't fully understand and over which I had no control. Not only did I face them, but I did so with peace, hope, and courage. I knew where my story was going. I knew I was not alone, that God would help me. I knew change was possible. God used all of these new recognitions to re-form me, and the process continues today.
I wrote [Forever] with the hope that what I experienced, you will experience too.
Find more resources by Paul David Tripp at www.paultrippministries.org.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's opinions are their own, and are shared for information purposes only. To receive new blogposts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)