Focusing on our eternal inheritance is key to maintaining a proper perspective on Christ’s sufficiency, especially when you’re in the midst of difficult circumstances. That’s not always easy because we’re prone toward selfishness and desiring instant gratification. Advertising fuels that mentality by telling us we can have all we want — and we can have it right now! Of course “having it all” usually means buying on credit whatever product they’re selling. A steady diet of that philosophy has fattened our society with self-indulgence and impatience. People find it difficult to cope with life if they can’t instantly fulfill every desire. They want to eliminate any discomfort, difficulty, injustice, or deprivation immediately.
Scripture responds with two revolutionary concepts: heavenly-mindedness and delayed gratification. Heavenly-mindedness is taking our eyes off the world’s offerings for fulfillment and focusing instead on God’s sufficient provision for our satisfaction. It’s what Jesus meant when He instructed us to make the Father’s kingdom our first priority (Matthew 6:33). It’s what Paul meant when he told us to set our minds on the things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). And it’s what John meant when he said, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).
Delayed gratification is simply deferring to God’s will and God’s timing — the essence of patience. All of His promises will be fulfilled, His righteousness and authority will be fully realized, His Son and His saints will be fully vindicated — but in His time, not ours. Many of the difficulties we experience will not be resolved in this life because His purposes transcend our temporal situations. So there’s no point in running impatiently for relief to people offering “solutions” that ignore God’s objectives and timetable.
For example, the Holy Spirit encourages persecuted believers:
Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You, too, be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7–8)
I’m sure the dear saints to whom James was writing longed for God’s comfort and justice against their persecutors. But God wanted them to cultivate patience, strength of heart, and a joyful anticipation of Christ’s return. Those are far greater benefits than immediate relief from the difficulties and injustices they faced. God would vindicate them, but in His own time.
Heavenly-minded patience includes looking forward to our eternal inheritance with gratitude to God despite our temporal circumstances. Peter illustrated that principle in his first epistle, which was written to teach us how to live out our faith amid seemingly unbearable trials and persecutions. The emperor Nero had accused the Christians of burning Rome, and the resulting persecution was spreading even as far as Asia Minor, where the recipients of 1 Peter lived.
To help them focus on their eternal inheritance rather than their present difficulties, Peter gave them — and us — a threefold word of encouragement.
We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As such we are at odds with Satan’s evil world system and will incur its wrath. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised or intimidated by threats of persecution. That’s our calling:
You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21–23)
Bowing in praise is far better than bowing to pressure. In 1 Peter 1:3–5 Peter says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The main verb “be” (1 Peter 1:3) is implied rather than stated (“Blessed be the God”). The text could be literally translated, “Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In short, the sense of it is “bless God,” which is both a doxology and a command.
For Peter to have to command believers to bless God clearly illustrates the depth of our sinfulness. One of the joys of heaven will be our undiminished capacity to praise God perfectly and incessantly for His saving grace. The song of the redeemed will be on our lips throughout eternity. Yet now we struggle with apathy and familiarity. What an indictment! Praising God for our eternal inheritance should be the constant expression of our hearts, no matter what the temporal situation might be.
Focusing on our inheritance is an important key to experiencing joy amid trials. The richness of our inheritance should motivate us to bless God continually. We’re aliens in this world (1 Peter 1:1), but we’re citizens of heaven and recipients of immeasurable blessings in Christ. This temporal world offers nothing in comparison to our imperishable eternal inheritance.
For more on the believer’s eternal inheritance, check out John MacArthur’s book Our Sufficiency in Christ.