In 1988, Dan Quayle was selected as the running mate for the Republican Presidential candidate, George H. W. Bush. Within just a few hours of that announcement, he faced the most intense scrutiny of his life. One of the questions revolved around his enlistment in the National Guard during the Vietnam War: did he use personal connections to do that, and did he do it to avoid going overseas? In a news conference the day after his selection, he answered frankly, “I did not know in 1969 that I would be in this room today, I’ll confess.”
If I had only known, I would have done things differently.
Our choices have consequences. At this season, many of us are likely already pondering that fact. We are rapidly approaching the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. This is often a time for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future, of evaluating the decisions we have made over the previous year and trying to apply what we have learned to the coming one. As we embark on 2020, how can we endeavor to ensure that we make the right choices?
Do Not Focus on the Things of the World
When setting goals for the future, so many people in our society are only focused on the idea of “winning.” Bill Veeck, former owner of the Cleveland Indians, is a good example: he would move the outfield fences either in or out depending on the opponent in an effort to give Cleveland the advantage. When Major League Baseball officials found out, they passed a rule to make that illegal. So, according to legend, Veeck would sneak out to the park dig up home plate, moving it a few inches closer to or further from the pitcher’s mound for the same purpose.
That’s more ridiculous than it is shocking. Unfortunately, we are not so easily shocked these days by what people will do to get ahead: politicians will say anything to paint their opponents in an unflattering light; businesses will put their customers at risk for the sake of profits; whatever it takes to win, some people will do. Their only motivation is to satisfy their desires.
Paul wrote about people like this in Philippians 3:18-19. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
If you only focus on things of this world, your ultimate end is destruction. There is nothing more to look forward to. Each of us is dying physically—we know that. Every time the calendar turns over to a new year, we are a little bit closer to the end. But we can also be dying spiritually. And if we take no interest in spiritual things, if we are apart from Christ and live only to gratify our bellies, then that spiritual death will be eternal.
Because Our Citizenship is in Heaven
But then Paul says, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Philippians 3:20). This is the same Jesus who said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Don’t we all want to live that abundant life?
Over the years, I’ve heard people say things like, “Man, that’s the life!” Usually, they’re referring to indulgence in alcohol or drugs or sex. I remember overhearing people when I was a student at the University of Texas talking about how much fun they had over the weekend—they knew it was a blast, because they were so wasted, they couldn’t even remember what they did. They were deceiving themselves. That’s not living. It’s dying.
But that’s not the only way to a living death. How many of us live just like we are turning on a switch? Going through the same monotonous routine, day after day? Is that really living, or is it just going through the motions?
There is more to life than that; there is a purpose, a goal, a vision that God wants us to catch. There is a motivation behind life greater than anything that this world has to offer. Through Jesus Christ, the abundant, eternal life with God is offered to each of us. As we set out on a new year, may we remember that our citizenship is in heaven. May that truth rather than winning in earthly matters motivate the choices that we make. May we all live abundantly in its light.