When you have three toddlers, one vehicle in the family, and limited resources, you tend not to travel long distances very often. But, when Grandma offered us to stay with her for a week around the twins’ 3rd birthday, driving 10 hours (plus stops) to South Florida became a much more workable proposition.
Then, we got on the road… Lonnnng road. Did I mention 10 hours plus stops?
Breaking it Down
When your destination is so far off, you tend to look for mile markers, the coveted “halfway” mark, and state boundaries are bright spots on the journey. From Gainesville, GA to the Florida line is about 4-1/2 hours. The whole time we were on that leg of the trip, all three toddlers and both adults were talking about “heading to Florida, heading to Florida” with great anticipation. Unfortunately, the Florida line is an hour shy of the halfway mark. Even when you get to the line, you’ve still got a long way to go, don’t you? Especially if there are delays…
This means the excitement of “getting to Florida” is short lived and soon replaced with “are we at Grandma’s yet?” This is the tension between temporal hope and eternal hope… In fact, after a few hours in Florida I began to think we were never going to get there and it would have been great to be back home in Gainesville, GA. Rain and the inevitable standstill construction traffic slowdowns. “Four more hours? 3… 2… Ever?!”
In those moments of temporal disappointment, if we didn’t have the ongoing excitement of knowing we’d see Grandma, Nana, and a big birthday party, it might have been easier to just pull over to the nearest beach, hang out, and go back home. “We’re passing the Panhandle… Can’t we just pull over in Destin and call it a day?”
Paul heard about trouble on the Isle of Crete. False teaching was making a mark. Paul’s letter to Titus gets verbally a little Chuck Norris to help focus the teaching ministry there. “Rebuke sharply… Warn the divisive once, twice, then have nothing to do with him. Here’s the vital stuff you can’t skimp on in your ministry, Titus. Be clear and bold about this stuff,” he essentially told him. Clear and imperative coaching without any fluff.
But then, he drives these points home with at least one “why” Titus should be teaching these things:
“…so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7, emphasis mine)“
Hope is the place you hang your heart, your mind, your current, intense focus. Paul gives Titus crucial perspective on the hope part of his discipleship ministry – “Keep those you disciple focused on the fact that they’ve been saved from sin and the stuff that used to enslave them, but also keep their eyes on the fact that they’ve won the ultimate permanent vacation destination: “hope of eternal life”.
Better than birthday at Grandma’s. Better than the beach. Better than a halfway point. Eternity… with… Jesus.
Glad you asked. The traffic jams and distractions that slow us down on the way to eternity are the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life”. Satan loves to misdirect our ultimate hope with midway points in the temporal realm. Misplaced hopes: loss of a family member or mate… or a job… or a dream… Gain of a new gadget or the bonus or promotion we’ve been working for or just the accumulation of the house, the boat, the pool, the dream backyard, dream kitchen or both.
The word “amusement” comes from the Greek “a = not” and “muse = think”, meaning “not thinking”. During tough parts of our life journey, we tend to long for amusing diversions. These are places where we almost need to “hyper-muse”: intensely focus on the eternal. During the “fun” parts, we can easily become too enamored by the midpoints and make the journey all about the amusement. There’s a ditch on both sides of the road.
Paul makes it clear: life isn’t about the journey – it’s about our eternal destination. God is preparing us for eternity. So, what are you thinking about… or not thinking? Have you become so overwhelmed or enamored by the journey that the ultimate destination is no longer your focus? Where is your hope, in the now or the eternal?