The power of eternity

We act on what we know to be true.

Hebrews 10:32-34 – “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews is considered by many to have been the apostle Paul; however, textual critics have legitimate reasons for remaining skeptical. Regardless of the author, some of the greatest truths about the earliest faith of the Messiah believers is captured within its pages.

In this passage, the author is reminding the believers of the physical struggles and hardship they endured with the result being increased compassion for those who were ultimately imprisoned for their faith.

These believers may have been some of those who had come under the early persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen, ironically, overseen by the pre-believing Saul of Tarsus who would later become the apostle Paul.

Acts 8:1, 3 – “Saul agreed with putting [Stephen] to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. … Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.”

Additionally, the text in the epistle to the Hebrews says the believers “joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] property.” That is such a foreign concept for us today, as personal property rights are practically held as sacred.

This small glimpse into the world of the early believers shows us why they could remain joyful even though their belongings were being confiscated or destroyed: it was because they knew they had a better and lasting possession within the hope of their faith. The promise of eternity far outweighed their earthly struggles, and this comforted them greatly, even to the point of being joyful during some of the most demeaning and demoralizing events that could occur. They were living out the admonition of the apostle Paul when he wrote:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Through their trials and suffering, they were enabled to demonstrate legitimate compassion and assistance to those who were hit the hardest through the persecution they had endured, and they were also strengthened within themselves with the knowledge of eternity.

Having an eternal perspective changes everything: whether being stressed at work or in relationships at home, having financial or resource challenges; all of these things pale in light of eternity. Through that veil of spiritual understanding, we are empowered to become more compassionate and encouraging, recognizing and acting on what is truly important and needful in this life, all to the honor and glory of God.

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The awe-inspiring perspective that changes lives

When we live in awe of God’s majesty, we are compelled to act compassionately towards others.

Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

Job 6:14

“The fear of the Almighty” or “the fear of the Lord” are phrases that have fallen out of use in our modern religious vernacular. Rarely is God represented as a being who is to be feared; rather, his mercy and forgiveness are emphasized above and beyond all of the qualities of his being.

To better understand this admonition to fear God, we would do well to investigate the word that is translated in our English versions as “fear.” In regular vocabulary, that word to us means to be frightened or scared of something or someone who might do us harm. However, in biblical terminology, the term goes beyond that into a broader usage of “reverence” or “awe.”

If we have the fear of God, we have the deepest respect and reverence for God, recognizing just how awesome and powerful he really is. Whether we read of his power in the creation of all things, or the separating of the Red Sea, or in the resurrection of Yeshua, we are glimpsing the majesty and glory that sits outside of our natural understanding into the supernatural realm of God’s character and abilities. When we incorporate that perspective of the other-ness of God into our daily lives, we cannot help acting and working differently than others around us who have a physical-only worldview.

In Job’s perspective above, he mentions how the fear of the Almighty is a factor in us helping those around us. If we do not have the fear of God, Job says, we have no motivation for expressing compassion to those less fortunate or those who are going through rough patches in their lives; we withhold kindness. We instead focus on our personal agendas which end up being relatively insignificant by comparison. Having the larger perspective of awe can help us realize that the things we value as important to us in the short term of our temporary lives pale in contrast with the more important things that the God of the universe expects of us, such as helping others.

This concept of perspective-changing awe is a known commodity, even outside of religious environments.

Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster. The experience of awe, whether we’re standing at the summit of a mountain or sitting in front of a computer screen, can lead to “a diminished sense of self,” a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people.

Galaxy Brain is Real, The Atlantic.

Taken as a whole, the Bible is all about instilling in us a sense of awe and wonder for the God who created all things and who placed us within his creation to make a compassionate difference in the lives of those around us. When we operate within that sense of big-picture reverence for our Creator, we are not only encouraged but compelled to express his compassion. In this way, the two greatest commands, to love God and love others, can be fulfilled in us.