Speaking of all the notables in the Hebrew Scriptures who had lived and died with unrealized goals, the writer of Hebrews made this observation in Hebrews 11:13-16:
These 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.
Through all the hardships and challenges of life those the author included in his “hall of faith” had one thing in common. They never allowed nostalgia for the old places and good old days to crowd out their hope and longing for the promise of better days and destination ahead. The hope for things longed for. We all treasure memories of time spent with people and experiences had in places past. When life gets especially hard it is tempting to mentally retreat into a sentimental longing for then that overtakes and clouds focus upon the not yet. When we stop seeing memories as only markers of progress on our journey and start retreating into the past losing all focus on what is ahead, we can easily get trapped in despair. God has special regard for those who keep their eyes on the prize. Why? Because God has prepared for us a “city” and really wants us to get there.
Paul described it to the Corinthians as “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).” God loves it when, in faith, we point our lives toward that future. Faith carries us toward God’s dream for us. I think of faith as that intrinsic, hard to define sense that the best is yet to come. The rough spots of life are temporary. Our God-designed future is eternal. We are on the right path when we long for, believe for and press onward toward it. It has been said we should avoid becoming so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good. I think Hebrews is telling us that without hope for tomorrow earth is no good.
God, author and finisher of our faith, help me today to recapture your vision for my future and draw from it strength for the journey. Amen.