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Looking to the Future

I heard a story on the radio a few weeks ago, and I thought it was a great story with a spiritual application. Back in 1979, Magic Johnson was just a rookie in the NBA playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the very first regular season game he played in was a close one. The Lakers won it on a shot at the buzzer by Magic’s teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem had already been playing in the league for several years. You have to understand that NBA teams play an 82 game schedule. Well, the team mobbed Kareem and celebrated, but Magic was overly excited and acted like his team had just won the championship. The story goes that Kareem told Magic, “Settle down rookie, we still have 81 games to go.” Obviously, the point to what Kareem told Magic was that this was the first game in a marathon of a season, so there was no need to celebrate like he was.

Isn’t it that way in life, too? Do we sometimes just live in the here and now and not look forward to the future? Do we sometimes want just the instant gratification that comes in life? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be celebrating  things worth celebrating, but how much better one day our celebration will be when Jesus tells us, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

Remember that when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, Esau was looking at the here and now and the instant gratification of a meal. Jacob was looking ahead, to the future of the blessings that would come with the birthright.

Hebrews 11 and 13 have some passages that talk about looking to the future. “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Abraham was looking ahead to the heavenly city, whose architect and builder is God. “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” So, how do we get to that city? The next 2 verses tell us: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of  praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”   (Heb. 13:15-16)

All of these heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 were seeking that heavenly city to come. We, too, have that charge, and what wonderful examples to follow. We need to be looking to the future at that wonderful reward. In Philippians 3:12-15, the apostle Paul writes of his own example in this, one that we should follow. “…I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in  Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are  perfect, have this attitude…”

What does Paul say? He reaches forward to what lies ahead, the prize of the upward call of God. Then he tells us to have this same attitude. Life really is a marathon. Let’s do good while we’re here on earth. Let’s celebrate when good does happen, but let’s remember that the ultimate celebration awaits us one day, and that is why we always need to look to the future!

-Michael Benson