The Journey Home

by Dr. Ken Boa

Those of us who follow Jesus are on a journey, a pilgrimage, to our heavenly home. As we grow older and prepare for our hand­off to the next generation, this metaphor of life as a neverending journey may be cliché, but it also brings clarity and comfort. We are not alone, others have gone before us, and still others are coming behind us. We participate in one another’s journeys. And if we are followers of Jesus, then we are all participating in one Bigger Journey—one that is far better and more glorious than we can even imagine. Hardships and uncertainties may mark our tenancy on earth, but these are brief compared to eternity (1 Peter 5:10), and God is ultimately guiding us toward a destination free of all suffering and full of true pleasure that will never end.

As we look toward this destiny, God is ever seeking to transfer our affections and hopes from the temporal to the eternal, from that which we can see and touch to that which is unseen. We are learning to walk by faith instead of by sight, to see with spiritual eyes instead of worldly eyes (2 Corinthians 5:7, 16).

Even mature believers tend to have a diminished view of this invisible reality. Consequently, we may grow weary, disillusioned, or sorrowful (often without even realizing why). Especially when we’re younger there is the temptation to get distracted—to become caught up in the day­to­day and to assume we have so much of our lives left that we can focus on eternal things later (even though none of us knows if there will be a later). As we age, there is a temptation to focus more on the past than on the future—to assume our best days are behind us instead of pursuing God and his purposes for our lives until we draw our last breath.

But let’s face it, whether young or old, all of us can grow distracted or weary (Isaiah 40:31); at any age we can be tempted to stop “straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). If our strength is to last and our hearts are to be renewed regularly, it is God who must do it. He is the One to empower us and push us along—to invigorate our activity so it doesn’t become mere busyness and to reinvigorate us when our bodies and minds begin to fail. Only when he is living in and through us are we able to pursue this path called the Christian life (Galatians 2:20).

During our earthly pilgrimages the landscape of our lives is ever changing. But sometimes the scenery changes more dramatically. These changes can propel us to new heights in our walks with God—or sink us. During these pivotal times, it is important to recalibrate: to consciously process where we have been, where we are now, and where we are headed.

At the heart of recalibrating is seeing our lives from an eternal perspective. By this we mean not only looking at our lives as they are now or even considering the full span of our relatively brief time on earth, but viewing our lives in relation to eternity. More than head knowledge this perspective is anchored in the wisdom and truths that God uses to transform us from the inside out. When we espouse and live by an eternal perspective, we will

  • align our affections and thoughts with that which God calls valuable
  • set our hope on that which endures
  • channel our actions and motivation toward the unique purpose and opportunities God places before us every day

Beyond Self-Help

To recalibrate, of course, we must have first calibrated. If we have never calibrated to an eternal perspective, it’s impossible to recalibrate to one. For followers of Jesus this calibration begins with knowing our new identity in Christ. If you have never entrusted your life to Christ, or to refresh yourself on who Christ has made you, start with the resources at recalibrateyourlife.org.

Only when we understand who Jesus is—and who we are in him—will we be secure enough to take the risks in the temporal that will lead to true, eternal gain. With God, recalibration is a distinctly Christian process that increases our focus and dependence on God; it leads to our becoming more conformed to the image of his Son and to being people he can use to reproduce his life in others.

We are recalibrating, then, for a specific purpose: to maintain or regain an eternal, Christ-centered perspective and to apply that Christ-empowered perspective in every component of our lives.

Scriptural exhortations to work out our salvation, renew our minds, run with endurance, strain forward, press on, look to the things that are unseen, all lead us to focus us less and less on that which is passing away and more and more on that which is lasting and real. They anchor us in that which never changes amid lives that are ever changing.

Even desirable transitions can be difficult. This is partly because every transition involves a loss of some kind: life as it once was. Of course, many life changes involve some form of suffering that goes beyond nostalgic sadness. With these changes the scenery of our life changes from sunny to dark. Yet, even in the most difficult transitions, viewed through the lens of eternity, we can experience joy because as followers of Jesus our joy is rooted in the unchanging character of our God and Savior, not in our circumstances. Major changes, even when thrust unwillingly on us, have a way of stripping away the temporal things we were leaning on too much and throwing us at the feet of Jesus.

Recalibrating in the midst or aftermath of suffering can take years. In a sense it’s a process that is never complete as long as we’re on this earth. But we can be sure God will complete the work he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

Recalibration doesn’t always occur in the midst of transitions. We can also recalibrate regularly as a part of the rhythm of our lives. We call these two kinds of recalibration kairos recalibration and chronos recalibration.

Kairos is a Greek word meaning “opportunity.” Kairos recalibration occurs because our usual routine has been interrupted in some way—a transition has occurred or is occurring. As a result, we stop and reflect on the implications of the transition, event, or new life circumstance.

Chronos refers to clock or calendar time. Chronos recalibration is something we schedule into our calendar, no matter what else is going on. These can occur on the micro, midi, or macro level. We can recalibrate on a daily or weekly basis (micro), a monthly basis (midi), or an annual (or less frequently) basis (macro).

Usually, unless we schedule chronos recalibration into our calendars, it will not happen. Most of us put off the important in favor of the urgent, and our lives are constantly harried as a result. But without taking time to process our life journey with God, life can begin to happen to us. Without even realizing it, we can get swept downstream in the current, and before we know it we look around and wonder where we are, how we got there, and whether we’re the same person anymore.

At the same time, recalibration should not be misused to beat oneself up over what we aren’t doing. God and his grace must be at the center of recalibration.

At the heart of recalibrating is a deep desire for our lives to count. And it’s ideal if we think in these terms early in life rather than waiting until our health is waning and our energy is dwindling to consciously process how we can spend more of our time, money, and energy on things of eternal value and less on the things that are passing away. If we assume we can make up for lost time and suddenly create a godly legacy in our later years, we make a grave mistake that ignores two important realities.

Our legacy starts now, and it formulates throughout our life, however long or short that may be.

None of us is guaranteed another day (Psalm 90:12; James 4:13­14). We don’t know when we’re living our final days or months or years. Scripture is clear that we are not to presume upon the future but to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us today since we may not have tomorrow. We shouldn’t wait to determine our legacy until we’re older, for that day may never come.

Further, life builds on itself. Our character and legacy build over time through the accumulation of many little decisions. Large choices certainly define us, but they do not occur in a vacuum; they are made on the basis of a matrix of smaller choices that ultimately determine our true character.

None of this is intended to discourage you if you’re already in the later years of life. All of our lives, including the timing of when God works in and through us, are in his hands. When he works, no matter how old we are, his grace will be effective. We need not be filled with fear or regret, because our God can redeem or repay what the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). Yet this doesn’t give us a free pass to live for ourselves and make poor choices earlier in our lives. God will hold us accountable for the truth and wisdom currently revealed to us. He expects us to use the power and resources he has made available to us to labor heartily for him. Nothing good in our lives is done apart from his grace, and yet what great work he can do with a life surrendered to him! And he will reward those who are faithful to the opportunities and time he does give.

If our lives are to matter in a lasting way, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes the need to persevere to the end, to press on in our faith, and to finish well (Matthew 10:22; Hebrews 3:14; 6:11). In other words we’re to avoid fizzling out.

The way many proceed through life is more similar to the fizzlers than the well­trained athletes. Whether it’s because of distraction, entanglement with sin (and refusal to repent), exhaustion, failure to plan, loss of interest, or some other reason, they succumb to the temptation to bow out of the game and bench themselves in their final years. (Please note: We’re not talking about a needed reduction in activity as a result of declining health, nor are we talking about appropriate transitions in leadership because of a recognition that it’s time for us to step down and train others to step up. We’re speaking of those who have chosen to disengage entirely from ministry.) The idea of a benched Christian starkly contrasts with the call of Scripture:

According to Paul, without diligence and recalibration we’re all in danger of veering off course and fizzling in our spiritual walk. For this reason, continual training from the time we first come to Christ until we draw our final breath is essential.

Failure to live and finish well doesn’t hurt us alone, but it hurts others as well (1 Timothy 4:16). And despite appearances it’s nearly always the result of a slow leak, not out of the blue. Small decisions of disobedience or neglect in our relationship with God accumulate little by little until character is eroded.

We don’t finish life well automatically or by accident. We do so when God’s faithfulness to complete his work in us meets our commitment to him—through ongoing discipline and self control. That’s what recalibration is all about: deepening intimacy with Christ, which in turn motivates you to approach more of your time, attention, and resources with the mindset that all you are and have comes from him.

Recalibration is a personal process that works best in the life of the person who genuinely understands God’s grace—the catalyst for all genuine spiritual maturation. Ultimately, we desire that through recalibration (both the kairos and chronos kinds) you will capture a vision for the remainder of your journey on earth, however long or short that may be: a purpose­ and hope-filled vision of a life in which the best is yet to come. That best may not be felt or experienced until the next life, but it’s the best because Jesus is there. This process will be much more enjoyable and motivating if you find someone else to journey alongside you.

Recalibrating is an immediate invitation to hit reset in your relationship with God, to get honest before him, and to rely on him more (and on your own wisdom and resources less). However this process looks for you, may it spur fresh growth in your relationship with the Lord so you will “flourish in the courts of our God” and remain “full of sap and green” every single day that the Lord has sovereignly set you on this planet (Psalm 92:13­,14).

As an exercise in recalibration, read and reflect on Hebrews 12:1-3. You can conclude your reflection time with this or your own prayer:

Lord, I draw near to you, recalibrating my position so that I am fixing my eyes on you amid the ever changing scenery of my life. People change, circumstances change, but you never change. May I lean on you, my Solid Rock. At the same time tenderize my heart and help me to be open to new things you want to do in and through me. Break up the hard soil that may have formed, and make way for new growth and life. Amen.

For further reading: Recalibrate Your LIfe: Navigating Transitions with Purpose and Hope by Dr. Ken Boa

The Journey Home

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