During my last semester at Stony Brook University, I took a senior seminar on feminism. The course revolved around Iris Marion Young, an influential contemporary feminist. The class covered issues in gender theory, political inclusivity, economic inequality, etc. The majority of the students in the class were extremely liberal in ideology, which was challenging for me because I lean toward conservatism. The sessions lasted three long hours, typically filled with circular back and forth debates among the students and the professor. I learned a lot, and my patience grew, but I would never want to do it again and I had to keep myself from nodding off more than once. The course materials were voluminous and densely filled with academic jargon – more potent than Nyquil. No, I did not take this class to meet the ladies. Surprisingly enough there were actually more men than women in the class. I needed to take it to graduate.
We do things for rewards all the time. Exercise for health. Go to work to get a paycheck. Study to get good grades. Get good grades to go to college. Go to college to get a job. Yea, it’s basic logic, but the fact stands: Rewards motivate us. I would have never endured my course on feminism had it not been for the diploma at the finish line.
This simple logic of rewards applies to the Christian faith. Christians have an eternal, unshaking reward in Christ. Heaven is a reward and should motivate believers accordingly. However, heaven – multifaceted as it is – encompasses a variety of specific rewards, one of which is called glorification.
As my pastor puts it, “Glorification means… [w]e will finally become completely like Jesus Christ.” The apostle John knew this fact full well. He says, “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). To be like Jesus means to be totally sinless, filled with unhindered love, immortal and much, much more. Clearly the apostle John fixed his eyes on his future with the Lord.
Focusing on a glorious future with Jesus is motivation to live according to God’s will. Jesus himself overcame his trials by focusing on his heavenly rewards: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus looked ahead to the joy set before him – that is, his heavenly throne that represents his glory and his future with his Father and redeemed children. Jesus had his eye on the prize.
While I was working in Juneau, Alaska with Campus Crusade for Christ on Project Lima 2015, the men’s team memorized an acronym that reminded us to look ahead to glorification. The acronym was R.A.C.E.S.: Reject passivity; Accept responsibility; Courageously lead; EXPECT GOD’S GREATER REWARDS; and Sacrificially love. The deceitful sinful pleasures of this life pale in comparison with the eternal pleasures that God has in store for us (Psalm 16:11). Similarly, the ephemeral pains and trials we experience will soon be forgotten when we see God in his fullness. Therefore, daily hardships and temptations should be seen in light of a heavenly future that outweighs them all.
Yes, Christians must view suffering in light of future glory. As the band King and Country says, “The things of earth are dimming in the light of Your glory and grace. I’ll set my sights upon heaven. I’m fixing my eyes on You.” Additionally, suffering should be viewed as discipline that produces maturity (Hebrews 12:7 + James 1:2-4). When suffering is viewed through the correct perspective it can be successfully endured through Christ. But how can suffering be overcome without Christ who himself is hope?
Furthermore, what athlete runs a race without thinking about the finish line? Paul did no such thing:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. ” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Paul ran with purpose. His eyes were fixed on his reward – his imperishable crown, and crowns symbolize regal glory. Throughout the NT, Paul continually draws strength from God by meditating on glorification. And we are called to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16).
Therefore, I rejoice in Christ! Perfection is coming. The night is passing away. Soon I will be face to face with my Savior King.