Today we started a study on the book of Revelation in our Sunday School class. We are focusing on the big themes of Christ’s return, the victory of good (through Christ) over evil, the rewards of those who serve God (even in the midst of suffering and persecution), etc. It truly got me thinking about what it is I long for.
Some people long for more money. Some for fame. Some for that special someone to spend the rest of their lives with. Some longings are good, while some are bad. But what should we, as Christians, ultimately be longing for? According to Scripture, it should be Christ, His appearing, and being with Him for eternity.
Now, I would admit that I want that . . . at least in theory. But sometimes I honestly don’t live as if I do. I live as if I want to remain here. I know there have been times in my life where something good was coming, and I found myself almost dreading Christ’s return. I didn’t want to miss out! Perhaps I am the only one who has struggled with that backward thinking . . . the thought that being taken into eternity with Jesus would mean missing out on something here (getting married, watching my kids grow up, etc.). In reality, staying here is missing out! I just need that solidified in my mind and heart.
As Christians, we should be longing for Christ to come back. We should be praying for it. We should be expectantly waiting for it, like a bride waiting for her groom to come get her. Let me bring out some Scriptures to back this up.
When Paul was writing to Timothy, he pointed to the fact that he would be rewarded with a crown of righteousness. But he explained that it would be awarded not only to himself, but “to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV). The NIV says these people have “longed for” His appearing. Can we say we are truly longing for his appearing? Are we, with the rest of creation, “groan[ing] inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”? (Romans 8:23, ESV) Are we crying out “Our Lord, Come!” like Paul? (1 Corinthians 16:22, ESV)
I admit, I want sin to be done away with (both sin in general and the specific sins and temptations that I struggle against). I want health and wholeness for eternity. I want to live with no sorrow or sadness. In other words, I can at least admit I want the benefits of Christ’s return or departing from this body.
But do I long to be with Christ? Someone (I don’t recall who, but it is not an original idea of mine) once asked, “If you could have all the benefits of Heaven but God and Christ would not be there, would you want to go?” It is an interesting question to ponder. Our treasure should be Christ primarily, and only secondarily what He gives. Don’t get me wrong, it is not bad for us to want the blessings that come with being with Christ. Those treasures are good things, and we are told to store up treasures in Heaven (see Matthew 6:20). But if we value the gifts more than the Giver, our affections are off. If I return from a trip, and my children are happier to see what gifts I have brought them than they are to see me, something is wrong. The same is true for our longings. We can be excited for the gifts of God, but we should be more excited to be with Christ.
This has really been hammered home to me lately as I have been reading through Philippians. Paul is facing the possibility of death, and he considers death to be “gain” (1:21), and says “[his] desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (1:23, ESV) To die and be with Christ was not just good, but was “far better” than remaining alive!
I want to have that view. I want to long for Christ’s return (or my departure in death) that much.
I have decided to seek for this perspective in prayer and reading of God’s word. Won’t you join me? Let’s seek to long for Christ more than anything else. He is worthy.