Question: "What things in this world have a true eternal value?"
Answer: It goes without saying that the only things of eternal value in this world are those that are eternal. Life in this world is temporal, not eternal, and therefore, the only part of life that has eternal value is that which lasts through eternity. Clearly, the most important thing in this world that has true eternal value is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, as the free gift of eternal life comes only through Him to all those who believe (John 3:16). As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Everyone is going to live somewhere for all of eternity, Christians and non-Christians alike. And the only eternal destiny other than the one in heaven with Christ is one that provides everlasting punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:46).
Regarding the abundant material things this world offers, which many tenaciously seek after, Jesus taught us not to store up for ourselves earthly treasures that can be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6:19–20). After all, we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. Yet our core Christian values often get overlooked in our diligent quest for success and material comfort, and in the midst of these earthly pursuits we often forget about God. Moses addressed this issue 3,500 years ago as his people were about to enter the Promised Land. He warned them not to forget about God, for he knew once they “built fine houses and settled down” their hearts would become proud and they would forget about Him (Deuteronomy 8:12–14). There is certainly no eternal value in living our lives for ourselves, looking to get out of life all that we can, as the world system would have us believe.
Yet there can be significant eternal value in what we do with our lives during the exceedingly short time we are here on earth. Although Scripture makes it clear that our earthly good works will not save us or keep us saved (Ephesians 2:8–9), it is equally clear that we will be eternally rewarded according to what we have done while here on earth. As Christ Himself said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). Indeed, Christians are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis added). These “good works” pertain to serving the Lord the best we can with what He has given us and with full dependence on Him.
The apostle Paul discusses the quality of the works that can bring eternal rewards. Equating Christians to “builders” and the quality of our works with the building materials, Paul informs us that the good materials that survive God’s testing fire and have eternal value are “gold, silver, and costly stones,” whereas using the inferior materials of “wood, hay and straw” to build upon the foundation that is Christ have no eternal value and will not be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:11–13). Essentially, Paul is telling us that not all of our conduct and works will merit rewards.
There are many ways our service to the Lord will bring us rewards. First, we need to recognize that every true believer has been set apart by God and for God. When we received God’s gift of salvation, we were given certain spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). And if we think our gifts are insignificant, we need to remember that, as Paul told the church in Corinth, the body of Christ is made up of many parts. And “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be . . . and those parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 22 emphasis added). If you are exercising your spiritual gifts, you are playing a significant role in the body of Christ and doing that which has eternal value.
Every member of Christ’s body can make meaningful contributions when we humbly seek to edify the body and to glorify God. Indeed, every little thing can add to the beautiful mosaic of what God can do when we each do our part. Remember, on earth Christ has no body but ours, no hands but ours, and no feet but ours. Spiritual gifts are God’s way of administering His grace to others. When we show our love for God by obeying His commandments, when we persevere in the faith despite all opposition and persecution, when in His name we show mercy to the poor and sick and less fortunate, and when we help alleviate the pain and suffering that is all around us, then we are indeed building with the “gold, silver, and costly stones” that have true eternal value.
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