Tricia Mingerink’s young adult Christian fantasy series The Blades of Acktar contains a scene where the protagonist is forced to watch friends and family martyred for their faith. A fearful person, she was struck by the peace with which each martyr faced death. In a moment of clarity, she realized that these believers were not bound by their immediate circumstances. The fear borne out of her exclusive focus on the present melted away as she embraced a perspective of eternity in God’s presence.
The story of Stephen demonstrates a similar response to suffering. While facing a group of irate Jewish leaders, Stephen lifted his eyes to heaven and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:54-56). His joyous proclamation of this sight drove the leaders into such a murderous frenzy that “they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57-58).
But this assault didn’t cause Stephen to take his eyes off Jesus. “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He [then] fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ ” (Acts 7:59-60). Even when facing his own death, Stephen was able to follow Jesus’ example and intercede on his murderers’ behalf.
When Jesus said we should “seek the Kingdom of God above all else” (Matthew 6:33), He was challenging us to move away from an exclusive focus on the here and now. In seeking God’s kingdom here on earth, we prepare our hearts for the eternity beyond and understand that the present reality does not have the final say in our story.
May we adopt an eternal perspective as the Holy Spirit helps us see all of life through God’s eyes and heart.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 5:1-16
Read Colossians 3:1-4 to see Paul’s appeal for a heaven-shaped perspective.
What do you think about the transition from life, as we know it today, to eternity in God’s presence? How does this perspective affect the way you live now?