I Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
How should we follow Paul? Let’s have a look at what he taught and how lived his life.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
What did Paul mean by “the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed”?
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
What did Paul mean by “then you also will appear with him in glory”?
2 Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Paul’s hope was not set only on receiving eternal life in heaven through faith in Christ, but also on receiving his eternal reward at the judgment seat of Christ—consisting of authority to reign with Jesus Christ in his coming kingdom. The intense suffering he endured for the sake of Christ in this life (cf. the film Paul, Apostle of Christ) enabled Paul to set his hope and mind on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. The constant pressure of persecution added to indescribably torturous imprisonment in a Roman jail, along with his upcoming beheading by a Roman sword enabled Paul to see far beyond the things of this life.
Most believers in the prosperous West understandably hope for good things for themselves and their loved ones during their brief time on earth. But often this hope for good things in this life overshadows their hope regarding the grace to be brought to them when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. This grace includes the extent of their eternal reward— based on and proportional to what they have actually accomplished for the Lord while on earth. Ironically, God’s abundant blessings on America has caused most believers to seek first “success in life” on earth, making heaven and our reward there but a fuzzy hope for the future. They forget the Lord’s teaching to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness—after which all these things and needs will be provided for us.
In light of eternity therefore, persecution and suffering in this life on account of the gospel is actually good for us. Our goal should no longer be “success in this life” and enjoying a bigger slice of the American Dream as is the case for many believers in America and the West, but rather obeying the Lord and producing as much fruit as we can in this life knowing that our reward in eternity will be proportional to what we have accomplished (see Eternal Rewards below). For us the overriding consideration should not be “what can God do for me here in this life?” but rather “what can I do for God with the limited time I am given here?”
Again—given our very human nature—the very material blessings which God has poured upon America and the West so abundantly have made it actually difficult for most believers to make the far better choice. It is so easy to forget that we are in fact “blessed to be a blessing” to the nations through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was Paul—the one who willingly suffered much for the sake of the gospel—to whom the Lord gave this extraordinary revelation about eternal rewards in heaven. And it was Paul who urged us to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Our appearing with Christ in glory is conditional upon our setting our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Should we not follow the example of Paul and resist what the world offers us—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? Or must we lose our freedom and suffer persecution for our faith like Paul before we are forced to set our hearts and minds on things above?