At some point in life, each of us has to learn the necessity of taking the long view.

Deferred gratification causes us to live differently. For example, we continue our education now so that we’ll have more opportunities after we graduate. We save today so we can have financial security later in life. We exercise now so that we might be healthier as we age. Our perspective on the future impacts our decisions in the present.

This is a truth taught throughout the Bible. Paul, drawing from his experience as a tentmaker, gives a fascinating picture of this:

“We know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands”.

2 Cor. 5:1

Our physical lives are fleeting.

Paul reminds us of a reality we must acknowledge: Our physical lives are fleeting. To have the proper perspective, he says we should focus instead on what comes next, the eternal dwelling that is the future. From Paul’s perspective, when we consider the long view, our future state actually undergirds our current faith.

By contrast, the spirit of this age encourages you to take the short view. Recently, global headlines were consumed with Ashley Madison, a website for people seeking to cheat on their spouse. A hack exposed the names of 30 million plus account holders, which were eventually made public. But the tagline of the website is worth our consideration at this point. They told visitors, “Life is short; have an affair.” But that’s the exact opposite of the perspective we see in the Scriptures. Instead, the Bible says that life is eternal; therefore, live your brief time on this earth in light of the eternal realities. It’s about taking the long view.

No matter what culture—or even some in the church—says, the Christian life is fundamentally not about our best life now. To follow Jesus faithfully is, in part, an acknowledgment that our best life comes later and our lives right now should reflect this reality. To do that requires four shifts in the way we view life.

1. Live with an eternal perspective.

This idea saturates Scripture. The biblical emphasis on keeping eternity in our view reminds us of the brevity of our existence. The Bible compares life to a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Having this fixed in our mind points us to a reality that goes far beyond the years we may have on this earth. Recognizing this truth, it would be foolish to obsess over such a small portion of our existence. Wisdom would have us remain focused on what happens after this life is over.

2. Live in a contrast between now and not yet.

Paul says we “groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are” (2 Cor. 5:4). We groan because we are in this imperfect, broken, struggling reality, but we look forward to the time when that reality is replaced with something better, something greater.

We know this to be true because of our own experiences and the experiences of those around us. We groan when we hear of the hurt of our friends and family. We groan in our own bodies because of the physical challenges we have. We all groan sometimes, but this groan is for heaven, for an eternal and better place. As we groan, we should remind ourselves and others these groans are temporary. They are momentary echoes of a future truth. Our best life is yet to come.

3. Engage the confident hope that permeates our lives.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Paul’s point is that currently we live our lives based on faith, but one day that will no longer be the case. Then we’ll walk by sight because we can actually see the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. But for today, in a life characterized by our stumbling attempts at walking without sight, we rest our hope in our currently unseen Savior. It is hope now because it is faith in what is to come. One day that hope will be realized into full sight, but for today a confident hope should shape you.

We can see an example of what this looked like in Scripture. In describing great faith leaders in Hebrews 11:38, the writer says, “The world was not worthy of them.” But, it’s important to note that the world was not worthy of them because they were not focused on this world. Their confident hope focused them on what is to come.

4. Embrace a proper understanding of our reality.

In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul writes,

“Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.”

Herein is the truth that we cannot miss. Paul says we make it our aim to please God, both now when we are in our physical bodies and later when we see rightly and live for eternity. For Paul, the promise of the resurrection leads to a current life shaped around resurrection values. We want to please Jesus in our brief time here so that we might worship Jesus for an eternal time there. The hope of personal presence later leads to the desire of personal actions now. In the end, the focus is not necessarily on heaven, but on life now lived in light of heaven.

This is not my best life now.

There are good moments for which we should praise God, but we know there are challenges, difficulties, struggles, physical ailments, hurt and pain. The world is indeed broken. But the good news is Jesus will make all things right, including you and me. For those who follow Christ, we will be in right, perfect-sighted relationship with Him for eternity, and that should cause us to live differently now. It should cause us to take the long view.

Article courtesy of Mature Living magazine.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as executive director of LifeWay Research.