THE BIG IDEA:
Because we have an eternal future that is beyond compare to the life around us, we have hope in the midst of our trials and choose to invest in things that last, rather than things that are temporary.
The things we see around us seem more real to us than eternity, therefore we place too much importance on the things that don’t last – both good and bad.
As we gain an understanding of the reality of eternity with God, we will value the things of God’s eternal kingdom more than the things that pass away.
When you are close to a tree it looks huge and important, but when you are far away from it, you can’t even see it in a forest of other trees, and it looks tiny compared to a mountain. In the same way, our life here on earth can seem very important to us, but if we are able to step back and see it compared to eternity, we will realize that what is really important is not this life, but eternity.
- What I want the group to know and understand: The ultimate reality is not just what we see around us. If we know Christ, we have something we can place our hope in that is far better than the things around us that don’t last.
- What I want the group to experience: Hope and peace in trials knowing these won’t last, and a desire to invest in the things of God knowing these will.
- How I want the group to respond: By evaluating our priorities and making changes to how we invest our time, talents, and resources in light of eternity.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
If we don’t have an understanding of spending eternity with God, we will live as if this life is all there is and place our hope in things that don’t last. When we realize how small our decades on this earth are compared to eternity, our perspective on the things of this world changes. We are able to endure and have hope in trials because we know they will not last.
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You’re waiting for the bus and drop your phone in the street just as the bus comes around the corner. Before you can grab it, you hear a crunch as the front wheel of the bus meets your phone. How do you feel? How would your response be different if you already knew you were getting the brand new phone you wanted in two days for your birthday? Why? Would you spend a large amount of money to fix your broken phone? Why or why not?
Paul and Timothy are writing to the believers in the city of Corinth. They have been suffering a lot of hardship and persecution. Paul has been in danger from people he once considered his friends and also from his enemies. He has been imprisoned, beaten, stoned with rocks, and shipwrecked 3 times among other things. (You can read how they describe it in 2 Corinthians 1:8, 4:8-9, and 11:25 if you want).
2. Have you ever thought about what it will be like to be with Jesus in his presence? Revelation 21:1-7 tells us a little of what it will be like. What in the description sounds most appealing to you?
Have someone in the group read it out loud slowly. Picture in your mind what it will be like. You might want to close your eyes as you listen.
3. In the situations Paul and Timothy are facing it would be very tempting to be discouraged and give up, but verse 16 says they don’t lose heart. What do they give as reasons for this (verses 16-18)?
They know that even though things look like they are falling apart on the outside, inside God is making them new (verse 16). They see a purpose in their suffering in that it is preparing them for future glory that God has for them in heaven (verse 17). They know their situations are only temporary (verse 18).
4. According to verse 18, what is their focus on? What are examples of these “unseen” things?
They are focusing on things that are unseen. Some examples include heaven, God, spiritual rewards in heaven.
5. What are they not focusing on? What might be some of the seen things in Paul’s life at this time?
They are not focusing on things that are seen such as their chains, pain, hunger, persecution,etc.
6. Why are they focusing on the unseen rather than the seen?
The things that are seen are temporary; the things that are unseen are eternal (last forever).
7. How would it make a difference in facing hard times if you know they are only temporary?
Allow the group to discuss. You can relate this to the cell phone story at the beginning. Also, you can talk about the difference between having hope and not having hope.
8. Consider a line representing eternity. It would be infinite (without end) in both directions. Now think about your life compared to eternity? If this line represented all of history behind us and all of eternity in front of us, how much of this line would represent your life here on earth?
(Think about how long eternity is. Our life here would be nothing more than a dot on that line.)
Matthew 6:19-21 says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
9. In what kinds of temporary treasures do people invest their time, talents, and finances?
Some examples might include athletic achievement, physical beauty, awards and recognition, fame, money, houses, cars, or the newest electronic gadgets.
10. What kinds of things are eternal?
The Bible only refers to three things that are eternal: God, His Word, and people.
11. As you look back at the line representing eternity, are you investing most of your life for the dot or the line? How is putting too much investment in temporary things like pouring money into a broken phone when you are going to get a new one in a few days?
Allow the group to discuss. Most of us would consider it an unwise investment to pour a lot of money into a phone we would only have for a few days. Likewise, since our life here on earth is so short compared to eternity in heaven, it makes a lot more sense to store up our treasures in heaven where they will last for eternity.
12. Why is it so difficult to keep our minds on things that are eternal?
Allow the group to discuss. This could be a personal question. These are some potential answers:
The things around us that we see seem more real than the things we can’t see.
We feel a sense of urgency for the here and now.
The world around us focuses most of its attention on this life (think of all the advertising of companies trying to get us to focus our time and attention on their product).
We don’t really understand what eternity will be like.
13. Are there any changes you need to make in order to live more for eternity in your everyday life? Changes in what you value? Changes in how you spend your time? Changes in your priorities?
Allow the group to discuss.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
For other illustrations of the concept and further study, check out Roger Hershey’s article http://crupressgreen.com/an-eternal-perspective
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.