In his phenomenally successful personal development book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit was formulated thus: Begin with the end in mind.
It’s pretty good advice, to whatever area of life you apply it. Whether it is constructing self assemble furniture or building a suspension bridge, it helps to know what the outcome is supposed to look like.
When you know what exactly you are trying to achieve, it enables you to work with more focus. And the vision of the finished product often provides the emotional fuel needed to keep going when things come unstuck or progress seems slow.
Covey’s advice, whilst not taken directly from the Bible, carries biblical wisdom. Over and over again the New Testament reminds us that there is a life to come and a day when the way we have lived in this world will be assessed. Life is to be lived with the end in mind.
However much we recognise the truth of what the Bible teaches about the brevity of life and the life to come, the reality is that many of us end up wrapped up in the present with our eyes on what urgently demands our attention at any given moment. It is all too easy in a busy and demanding world to lose sight of how transient it is and to forget that we are only pilgrims in this world.
How can we realistically not only begin with the end in mind but continue with the end in mind?
Firstly, read the scriptures. That might sound like a very simple point. Unfortunately, it is not a given that all Christians consistently read the Bible.
I would suggest reading the Bible with special attention to the New Testament. Reading the scriptures connects us directly to the revelation God has given to us. There are over three hundred references to the return of Christ in the two hundred and sixteen chapters of the New Testament. I would suggest that consistently reading the New Testament will enable you to continue with the end in mind.
Secondly, reminding ourselves frequently of the main points of our faith.
Peter said in his second letter: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body” (2 Peter 1.12-13). We need to remind ourselves of the reality of Christ’s return because we are prone to forget! We could all be doing with frequent spiritual post-it notes reminding us that Jesus is going to return some day.
Finally, reflect on your life in the light of eternity.
What are you investing in the life to come? How is the life to come affecting the way you live now? Jesus (Matthew 6.19-20) and Paul (1 Timothy 6.19 )said that giving our money to serve God’s work was a way of laying up treasure in heaven. When we reflect on our lives in the light of eternity, it gives us perspective, true perspective.
If you want to live a life worth living, begin with the end in mind. If you want to live a life worth living, continue with the end in mind.