We need to reorient our thinking to what Jesus was promising when He promised eternal life. Eternal life doesn’t start after we die, it starts now. Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus is not promising merely a future hope, but rather an abundant life with here-and-now ramifications, ignited by the hope of glory. When Jesus revealed Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), or the Living Water (John 4:10-11; 7:37-38), He’s claiming to meet very present needs. The call to Discipleship (consider Luke 14:25-35) has extremely personal, present, confrontational, and life-altering considerations, where coming to an altar, saying a prayer, and merely stepping foot in a building once a week to consume services is nowhere to be found in any of that.
This is good news for a Christian society that sees hell as the primary thing we are saved from. If that’s true, then I have little to be excited about. That means I await heaven with the problems I have now. But if God’s salvation has personal and present ramifications, namely: that I can be saved from sin now, I can overcome sins, I can grow in faith, I can change directions, now… well then, sign me up!
Thus the Gospel is received and at the same time, seemingly paradoxically, fought for. Paul tells Timothy to, “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses,” (1 Timothy 6:11b-12 HCSB).
As I grow more and more in my own faith, the less satisfied I am with the mundane, mediocre and lukewarm, and the more hungry and thirsty I am for the Bread of Life and the Living Water that is Jesus. What does it mean for you or me, dear Christian, to take hold of the eternal life that we are called to? What are you called to?
We live in a world that throws sins and hindrances to us much like hurdles on a track, and the Holy Spirit is calling us, through Paul’s letter, to run, jump, dodge, and pursue. Pursue righteousness and godliness! Saturate in the Word, be transformed by the renewing of our minds feasting on the Bread of Life, and drinking from the Living Water.
What shocks our 21st century evangelical understandings is the fact that we are to pursue faith. How many of us didn’t know that faith was something running down the same track ahead of us, and we are called to chase it? We get striving to love better, we know it requires training to build up endurance, and we’re all working on being gentler people. But pursuing faith?
I am reminded of one of my favorite stories in the Gospel, where Jesus is called to heal the demonized son of an awesome model of a father. More honest then many of us too-proud dads, he confesses to Jesus who has not promised anything, “I believe, help my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24). That man is pursuing faith.
As I always do, I close connecting to why you’re perusing this blog. What does it look like for you to pursue greater faith, deeper trust, radical reliance, and sold-out obedience upon Christ? How do you pursue the faith? Fight the good fight for the faith, and take hold of the eternal life that God’s called you to.
Call me a heretic, but I don’t believe heaven starts when we die. I believe that the eternal life that Christ calls you to, is a life that is abundant now. It is a life that has meaning, substance, and adds fulfillment and joy to doing what you were called to do, which is why you must pursue to take hold of it.
If you are called into this particular field of the harvest, that is Vermont, and you are weighing the options. I urge you to fight to the good fight for faith. Like a boxing match, the fight might have rounds, it might require strategy, patience, endurance, and weighing when to land the next blow. It might mean absorbing pain. It might mean suffering defeat a time or two. Nevertheless, fight the good fight, knowing what Jesus has called you to do.
And by all means, don’t let our society - in the church or out - tell you that the Christian life is meant to be mediocre, comfortable, convenient, or without risk. But rather, take hold of the eternal life that begins now… especially if it’s the life you’ve been called to.
Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.