Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8
When my kids were in junior high, my wife was gone one day and so it was my job to get our children to school. So, we had a skip day. It turned out to be one of those days that I still remember and that the kids still talk about. It was an unexpected day of fun, doing whatever we wanted, while being a little rebellious at the same time. I felt a little overindulgent, but looking back, it was a good decision.
What if however, I decided the next day that we should skip again? What if I decided we should always stay home from school and that I should quit going to work? That would have been disastrous. My kids wouldn’t have received an education. I would have lost my job. That skip day was wonderful, but it would have been catastrophic to always have skip days. On that one day, we took an opportunity to live for the moment, but we can’t live like that all the time. Rather, we must usually think about the future when we make decisions.
In today’s passage, Paul revealed his motivation in life. As he approached the end of his days on Earth, he looked forward to the reward that he believed was coming in the afterlife. He didn’t fear death because he had tremendous faith that there was a life beyond this one. Paul’s thoughts and actions weren’t consumed with the immediate. Rather, he made decisions looking forward to an eternity of tomorrows.
This is a life problem for me. I struggle with being motivated by eternity. I struggle simply with thinking about tomorrow. I’m impulsive and I want what I want right now. If I want to eat cake frosting, I eat cake frosting. This impetuous drive for immediate gratification is exactly what led to my drug addiction.
There are certainly times to reward ourselves and live in the moment, but those are celebratory exceptions. As a rule, if we want the life for which we were made, we must learn to think about the future when making our decisions. Eating frosting sounds great, but if I let go, always eating as much as I want, I get fat and eventually the frosting becomes disgusting. Living for the moment eventually becomes self-destructive. How we live today affects tomorrow. According to Paul, we have an eternity of tomorrows. How we think and behave today, affects how we spend those tomorrows.