Living in Holy Tension
When our hearts are focused on heaven and we live with an eternal perspective, it’s only natural that our hands are in the harvest—helping people who are desperate.
In John 4:35 Jesus says, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”
Unlike those of us living in the twenty-first century, Jesus’ disciples knew exactly what He was saying. They knew the significance of the harvest season—it was a time to roll up your sleeves and work. There was finally an opportunity to bring in the crops whose seeds had been sown and cultivated months ago. It was a time of hard labor and celebration. It was a time of reward. When Jesus called for eyes to be lifted up, He wanted His followers to see those around them; Jesus wanted them “harvested” into His Kingdom. He wanted them helped, served, and made aware of His saving grace.
It might seem as though a heart focused on heaven and hands focused on the harvest can’t coexist. It might seem like an either/or option, but we’re called to live in this holy tension. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:23–24, “I am hard-pressed between the two [heaven and earth], having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (emphasis mine). These powerful verses form the essence and inspirational key for my new book, Between Heaven and Earth.
Yes, I want desperately to be with Jesus in heaven, and yes, I see and want to meet the needs of others here and now.
William Barclay wrote about the word depart used in the letter to the Philippians:
The word [Paul] uses is senechomai, the word which would be used of a traveler in a narrow passage, with a wall of rock on either side, unable to turn off in any direction and able only to go straight on. For himself, he wanted to depart and to be with Christ; for the sake of his friends, and of what he could do with them and for them, he wanted to be left in this life. . . . Paul’s desire to live is not for his own sake, but for the sake of those whom he can continue to help.
That’s hard-pressed living! That’s the holy tension under which we are called to live.
 William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, 2003), 33–34.