Finding Hope: Opening the eyes of our heart
Steve McClure, Navigators Rep, Southampton
7 May 2019
Ever struggle to imagine eternity with Jesus? If you are like me then you will know how easy it is to get caught up with matters of the present, to be focused not on eternity but on the here and now. All of that of course has its place, but the hope we have in Christ is primarily rooted in eternity. Take a look at what Paul prays for the Ephesians.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19)[i]
It is an extraordinary prayer with an eternal perspective. Paul asks God to open or enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians’ hearts, and by implication our hearts too. The really interesting thing, however, is what he says next! He makes it clear that the purpose of enlightening our hearts is for us to know the hope to which God has called us. Paul goes even further as he says that this hope is the “riches of his glorious inheritance” and his “incomparably great power”. Paul wants us to see the unseen reality of our hope, which is firmly rooted in the character of God and all that he has in store for us in eternity.
When I look around, there is often little to encourage and plenty to discourage. The eyes of my heart find it difficult to see what is really true. Yet the Bible makes it clear that what is seen is no more real than the unseen. Take a look at Paul’s reflection in 2 Corinthians.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
In that context there was every reason to lose heart. They looked like they were growing weaker and they were in trouble. Yet Paul’s eternal perspective reveals that they were actually being renewed every single day, and would be rewarded with an eternal glory weightier that all their troubles put together.
It is all too easy to focus on that which is seen but ultimately those things are temporary. Instead Paul urges us to focus on the unseen, which is eternal.
There is a great example of this principle in the book of 2 Kings. The Arameans were at war with Israel but every time they attacked, God would reveal their plans to Israel through his prophet Elisha. When Aram’s king learned this, he targeted Elisha and sent an army to capture him. One morning Elisha’s servant woke up to find that he and Elisha were surrounded by enemy troops. Understandably he was scared; he ran back to Elisha and asked, “What are we going to do?” Elisha, however, is not so worried and calmly tells him, “Don’t worry. The people on our side far outnumber those against us.” It’s quite a surprising statement given the situation that they were in! Thinking only of what could be seen, it was clear that the two of them were significantly outnumbered…
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17)
Elisha prayed: “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” God answered him and the unseen reality of the situation was revealed. His servant saw the vast army of angels on the hills outside ready to protect them from the army of Aram. Our natural inclination is always to look to what is seen, but even when the odds seem completely against us, we need to look to what is unseen!
The same is true of our perspective of heaven. We need God to open the eyes of our hearts in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, which Paul says is the “riches of his glorious inheritance” and “his incomparably great power for us who believe.” We have a truly incredible hope for the future, which makes such a difference here in the present. Even if life feels pretty tough right now, the unseen reality of all that God has for us (both now and in eternity) far outweighs it all. That is why Paul is able to describe the troubles he was facing as light and momentary. That is also why he is able to see that they were achieving for him an eternal glory that far outweighs all these troubles. This is no less true for us. I pray that God would open the eyes of each of our hearts so that we can find this hope that God has called us to and allow it to transform us.
Steve McClure (First published at www.the-mcclures.co.uk)
[i] THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Turner House, 54 The Avenue, Southampton, SO17 1XQ