From 'Orthodoxy and the World' www.pravmir.com
Eternal life and New Year's Resolutions
By By Fr. Peter Stratos
Dec 29, 2010, 10:00
Source: The Voice of Saint Anthony: monthly newsletter of Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church
A familiar practice for the New Year is to make resolutions that affect our lives. Usually they involve losing weight, exercising more, and eating more healthily. These are very positive ways to help prolong life. And they are necessary because, as we learn from Scripture, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is up to us as individuals to take care of the precious life we have received from our Creator. However, there is one thing that I believe we should consider other than our usual resolutions this New Year. We should attempt to really understand that our life on this earth is temporary, and no matter how much we try, we will eventually cease to exist on this earth. As we read in the book of Job, “For we were born but yesterday…Our days on earth are as transient as a shadow.”
To make the best use of this fleeting life, we should always remember two important things: First, compared to eternity, life on this earth is extremely brief. Second, earth is only a temporary residence for us. We won’t be here long, therefore we must try not to get too attached. As King David prayed in Psalm 39: “Lord help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am for but a moment more.” In the Bible, life on earth is repeatedly compared to living temporarily in a foreign country. There are constant references to God’s people as: foreigner, alien, stranger, visitor and traveler. We live here now, but we are not permanent residents. We are just passing through. And at some unknown time, our life here will come to an end.
King David said, “I am but a foreigner here on earth,” And the apostle Peter explained, “If you call God your Father, live your time as temporary residents on earth.” God also warns us to not get too attached to the things around us because they too are temporary. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians: “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.”
Compared to earlier times in history, the job of life has never been easier for much of the Western world. We have machines to do most everything for us. We make very little, we buy most everything we need, ready to use. We are constantly entertained, amused, and catered to. And with all these fascinating attractions, and enjoyable experiences avail-able today, it is so easy to forget that the pursuit of happiness is not what this life is all about. The pursuit of happiness is not what this life is all about.
We must be ever mindful that this life is a test, a preparation and temporary assignment. When we grasp that, then the appeal of our material possessions and entertainments will loose their luster. We must remember that we are preparing for something better. As St. Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians: “The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we cannot see now will last forever.” The fact that earth is not our final destination explains why as followers of Christ, we experience rejection, sorrow, pain and difficulties in this world. It also explains why some of our prayers may seem unanswered or some circumstances seem unfair. This place and our circumstance in it is not the end of our story.
The reason that we are not ever completely happy here is because we are not supposed to be! ( that is why there is never enough money, or fame, or drink or food, or success or fun.) Earth is not our final home; we were created for something so much better. Our next life, with our Lord is where we will be truly fulfilled. Truly joyful. Truly loved. Truly peaceful.
As C.S. Lewis wrote: All that is not eternal is eternally useless. Our main focus in this life should not be on material prosperity or popular success as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance. And faithfulness to God does not necessarily guarantee success in our earthly career. We should not focus so intently on goals, which in the end are temporary. In other words, goals without spiritual, eternal value. The heroes of our faith, in other words the saints and martyrs, provide us all the examples and answers for life lived with an eye toward eternity. St. Paul was faithful to Christ, but ended up in prison. St. John the Forerunner was faithful, but was eventually beheaded.
All of the Apostles except for St. John the Theologian were martyred. And millions of faithful Saints of our Church were martyred, their lives ended with no personal fortune left behind. But the end of life (on earth) is not the end!
In God’s eyes the Saints are not those who achieve prosperity, success and power in life. We have countless stories of holy men and women of wealth who sold and gave everything away to the poor, or to build hospitals, or monasteries. Our own St. Anthony is one of those saints who gave away all he had, to help those in need. In God’s eyes the Saints are those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve Him faithfully, expecting their promised reward in heaven.
Our time on earth is not the complete story of our lives. We must wait until we arrive in heaven for the completion of the chapters. It takes dedication and faith to live on earth as a foreigner. It is not easy.
When life gets tough, when we’re overwhelmed with doubt, when we wonder if living a life for Christ is worth the effort, we must remember that we are not home yet. And at death we won’t be leaving home, but instead we will be going home. To our eternal home with God. So this year as we all ponder and make our New Year’s Resolutions, let us think about the permanent eternal life rather than this temporary one.
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