When I was in high school, I was in a one-act play that reached the state finals. Our last competition started at 9 pm Friday. As a Sabbath-keeper, I wasn't able to participate. One girl from our cast asked me, "Can't you miss church once?" She casually added, "God would understand."
The answer to her question would come to me years later: God understands very well what we vainly strive for in this life. In reality, we are the ones who lose sight of God's promise of eternal life. Fully understanding what that promise means should make it the supreme goal of our life.
However, do we really comprehend what eternal life is? After all, we've never experienced it ourselves, so it can seem ethereal and out of reach. On the other hand, this physical life seems very real – or, tangible – to us. Therefore, it can seem much more tangible than the promise of eternal life!
First, the biblical facts: we know that eternal life is the gift that God has given us through grace (Romans 6:23) and we are justified through that grace (Titus 3:7) as well as faith and works (James 2:24). Eternal life does indeed mean to live forever, because death is destroyed after God's plan is fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 21:4).
In order to receive this promise, the Bible reveals there is something we must do now: keep the commandments (Matthew 19:16-19). Are those just the "big" commandments? James 2:10 states that "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all"! And Isaiah was inspired to write, "Woe to those who begin by pulling at transgression with a thread, but end by dragging sin along as if with a cart rope" (Isaiah 5:18, CJB). Some sins may seem minor, but "small" sins can lead us down the wrong path!
How can the connection between commandment keeping and eternal life be more tangible to us? Imagine someone promised you $10 million if you didn't tell a lie for one year. Your first thought every morning would be, "I'm not going to lie today!" Why? Because $10 million is tangible. You know of people who actually have that much money. The reality of the reward would inspire you. But it would not be easy to always tell the truth, and you would likely experience trials as a result. The question then becomes, is doing what's right worth the reward? The same question applies to the pursuit of eternal life.
But how do we know eternal life is reality? Because someone already has obtained it – our Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)! And He tells us that whatever we leave behind for His sake will be rewarded a hundredfold, "and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30). Also, Paul wrote that the gift of eternal life is worth any hardship suffered in this physical life (Romans 8:18). Becoming part of God's family as full spiritual children will literally fix everything suffered during this physical life – even death!
Is there something we can do to make eternal life more tangible in our present lives? 2 Corinthians 4:18 states we should look for the things that are not seen because they are eternal. How can you believe in things that are unseen? Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is the key to making the invisible things of God real in our lives. Over time, it becomes less our fallible faith and more the faith of Christ in us (Galatians 2:20).
As Paul quoted the OT, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). With this promise, we know that devoting our entire lives to the goal of eternal life is worth it.