The Avengers vs. Jesus
Recently I traveled to Disney’s headquarters for work to learn insights into their upcoming films and how to leverage those films to better market new products. One upcoming movie this year is Avengers: End Game. While I am a general fan of some Marvel heroes, I decided to get “caught up” before last year’s Avengers movie and make sure I had watched all 18 preceding Marvel films to ensure I knew the ensuing plot line. As I learned about what this new movie will entail, I found myself becoming excited for its release. I was so excited, I began to compare this excitement to other areas of my life. One thing I realized is that when it comes to heaven and meeting Jesus face-to-face, I don’t always share the same level of excitement. Sometimes I don’t get excited at all.
Whether you are an Avengers fan or not, I suspect there are hobbies, TV shows, events, and other things in our life that truly excite you. This is not a bad thing. Part of living is enjoying God’s creation. Yet, I am left asking myself, “Why am I not more excited about meeting Jesus after I die?”
I recently started reading a book written by Francis Chan. In the very first chapter, he wrote something that struck me: “People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth.” I believe this quote relates to what I currently am experiencing. You may not believe you’re in the last 10 years of your life, but the message hopefully resonates with you, too, in considering where our priorities lie.
The reason I don’t get as excited about Heaven at times is because, if I’m honest, I doubt it’s real. The reason I doubt is because it is much easier for me to believe and hope in something tangible that I can see and touch than something that occurs after death. Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The popular “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews chronicles many men who
all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone 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 for them a city. (Heb 11:13-16).
In the past, if I wanted to change my behavior or something in my life, I would focus on the steps I need to take to alter my habits. With this struggle, however, I can’t fake this type of focus and excitement. Excitement will naturally follow what I am first passionate about. Passion flows from what I strongly believe in. When I realize I am struggling with something—in this instance, lack of passion resulting from lack of faith—I seek to be encouraged and thereby strengthened by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Consider again the passage in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul writes the entire chapter in pluralistic language. One’s walk with Christ and focusing on eternal things is not something to do alone. In fact, I tend to lose focus and passion when I’m not around Christian community! Pursuing real friendships with one another where we can confess these struggles is key to getting through them.
This naturally cascades into the second major way I receive encouragement: I am not the only one who goes through this. I tend to get scared when I’m about to share something that isn’t very Christian-sounding to another believer. I guess I fear they might judge me or question if I even am a true Christian. Yet, every time I confess a fear or a sin, either that person or another believer close by is going through the same thing. Thus, we remind each other we are not alone, and that this momentary “light affliction” of a struggle to trust Jesus every day and set our sights on things unseen is something we can press into together as one body of Christ.
We can also find encouragement for our doubts through other people from the Bible. One verse I think of often is the man with the demon-possessed child in Mark 9 confessing to Jesus, “I believe [you can heal my son]; help my unbelief!” Jesus had compassion on him, and he has compassion on us, his children, as well. Through reading Scripture and being vulnerable with our Christian family, we can wage war on our doubts and encourage one another toward greater faith in Christ. As we grow in our faith, our love and worship of him will grow, which will impact our passions and what we look forward to in our future.
I still am excited about the new Avengers movie. But, I always want to be most excited about my eternal future. Let’s help each other run this race together and fight the good fight.