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Temporary vs. Eternal

I remember reading a story about a meeting at which a speaker stood in front of a large group of people with a roll of stickers in his hand. Behind him on the platform were tables filled with props that represented the stuff of our lives—a Matchbox car, a dollhouse, a tiny desk that stood for our jobs.

The speaker roamed the stage and placed a red sticker on each item. He explained to the crowd that they may not be able to see it from where they were sitting, but each sticker contained the same word: TEMPORARY. He said,

“Everything that I’m putting a sticker on is temporary. It will not last. It will fade away. We invest our emotions in them because when we acquire it, it gives us a little thrill. And we think the thrill will last. But it does not. It fades. And eventually, so will what we acquire.

“If you are living for what you see up here, then you are living for what is temporary. Temporary satisfaction, temporary fulfillment, temporary meaning. It will come to an end—but you never will. It will leave you with a terrible emptiness.”

The speaker plastered red stickers on everything on the stage. He walked before the now silent room, pronouncing with his hands the ultimate fate of the greatest goods this world has to offer. It’s the word that never appears in ads on TV or the temptations that play out in our soul. It’s the word that might have saved the rich fool in Jesus’ story, if only he had plastered it on his barns and crops. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary. Temporary.

“There is only one thing in this room that is not temporary,” he went on. “There is only one item that you will be allowed to take with you from this life into the next.”

He had a little girl join him on the stage, and he put a blue sticker on the collar of her dress. “When you get to the end of your life and take your last breath, what do you want your life to have been about? What will make it rich in the eyes of God?”

People.

Wise people build their lives around what is eternal and squeeze in what is temporary.

Prior to becoming a Christian, C.S. Lewis had few friends and did not have much concern for other human beings. But upon becoming a Christian his entire perspective changed in regard to his valuation of people. Lewis realized that:

“Every human being, he now believed, would live forever—outliving every organization, every state, every civilization on earth. ‘There are no ordinary people,’ Lewis reminded an audience in an address given at Oxford. No one ever talks to ‘a mere mortal . . . it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors . . . your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.’”

People, in Lewis’s new perspective, transcend in time and significance everything else on earth. This forced him to set new priorities in his life—the first priority given to his relationship with the Creator, the second priority, to his relationship with others.”

I think that living for the temporary things in this life comes quite naturally to us. Without realizing it, however, there is a problem. We are eternal beings who will live forever and according to Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has set eternity in our hearts. Therefore we have this yearning that our lives count for something permanent, that which will last over time.

I often share the poll that was performed a number of years ago where a large number of people who were 95 years and older were asked, “If you could live your lives over again, what would you do differently?”

One of the top answers was, “I would invest my life in more endeavors that will live on after I am gone.” You see here the desire for the imperishable, a life of significance.

Every day God gives us the opportunity to serve Him and advance His kingdom on earth. In other words, we can spend our lives on ourselves and the temporal concerns of life or invest our lives in that which is eternal.


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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