What Am I Living for?

January 22, 2024

That’s a big question. Easy to answer flippantly. We say things like, “I’m living for vacation, living for retirement, living for that new baby to get here.” We get excited over things and describe them or experiences in such a way, but in reality, when it comes down to it, we live for what takes our focus and energy most of the time. They are the things that make it possible to persevere in challenging times, the things that we would give up practically anything for. When we look at it in that way, most of us would admit that though we really do want to live for Jesus, other thinks creep in from season to season and practically become what we live for, at least for a while.

Quite a few years ago when I was a young husband and father, I would say I did a pretty consistent job of living for Jesus, my family, and the church. But honestly, except occasionally when I had a funeral or something like that, heaven never crossed my mind. Then doctors discovered that what I had considered to me quite a common mole was actually cancer that had grown fast and deep. They said it was extremely dangerous and quite possibly deadly unless we could immediately and completely take care of it. Of course, I did exactly as they said. I had surgery that left me with a huge deep scar in the calf of my leg. I can tell you truthfully that I think of heaven every day of my life since then, and it has been incredibly good for me. It has changed my focus.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2 ESV

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. NLT

This word from Paul is the secret of his massively impactful life that resulted in all of us being here today and having faith. It’s not enough to simply focus on the good and positive things if we want to have an eternally satisfying and significant life. Good that is only temporary, a fleeting satisfaction, is not bad – just insignificant. Throughout the words God has given us, this message is central. Live with heaven in mind.

And so, the question is this: What are you living for in 2024? Does anything on your radar matter beyond today or at best for a few years?

Author, pastor, and scholar John Burke has given heaven much thought and active study. He says, “People can’t imagine heaven, so they don’t live for it.” Incredible accuracy. You can see when people live for heaven and when they don’t. As he phrases it, “When we get it, and we live with the right focus, we reorient our thinking and living to revolve around the risen, reigning human/divine Christ, His kingdom ways, and the new identity and resurrection life He gives us, which culminates in an eternal existence in the new creation.”

We think about heaven so much that the reality that we can be with Jesus forever is life-shaping, not something we just think about when someone dies or when we longingly hope we will see them again.

When your mind is changed about heaven and the Jesus who provided it so we could be forever in the place and in the way He created us to be, everything changes. Your life will be transformed. I can speak for myself. I no longer judge things simply by the way they look, appear, benefit today – my conscious and subconscious filter is, “How will this matter one thousand years from now? What difference can it make in who makes heaven and who I take with me?”

Someone greater than Paul told us to live for heaven. Jesus did.

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. Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

C. S. Lewis said, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. … Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” Profound truth. It should impact how we live and focus.

My hope is that you will begin to see with this God-given gift called imagination that heaven is not imaginary but more real than the world we know. How will it change you? Primarily, it will make you intent on loving others as Jesus does. Everybody wants to change the world; nobody wants to love their neighbor! Yet all God needs us to do to change the world is to love God so we can love our neighbor as much as ourselves. … How do we know our unique purpose? It always starts with loving and seeking God, then following His lead to love the people closest to us, and then using the gifts and passions He’s put in us to serve humanity.

That’s what it looks like to focus on heaven and live for it. And heaven will be satisfying and an adventure far beyond our wildest dreams. If you are interested in knowing more about it, Burke’s books Imagine Heaven and Imagine the God of Heaven will fill you with excitement and stir your purpose. If you want a taste of it, check out The Learner’s Corner with Caleb Mason, episode 374. Caleb interviews John on this podcast, and it is powerful and motivating.