Looking toward Heaven

What Christians are in this world

True Christians live in this world as travellers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal.


Have a greater care for eternal life

We were created for eternal life by our Creator, we are called to it by the word of God, and we are renewed by holy Baptism. And Christ the Son of God came into the world for this, that He should call us and take us there, and He is the one thing needful. For this reason your very first endeavor and care should be to receive it. Without it everything is as nothing, though you have the whole world under you. Every sin and attachment to the vanity of this world lays obstacles to the obtaining of eternal life. Then avoid all that, lest you be deprived of it. You cherish your temporary life, although you will inevitably leave it, yet you do everything so as not to be deprived of it. How incomparably more must you safeguard your eternal life and make every effort so as not to be deprived of it, for all things temporal are nothing as compared to the eternal. Seek, then, eternal life as your sole true good, and with every effort flee everything that closes the door to it. God Who loves man wishes you to be saved. Then let that be your desire too, and without fail you shall be saved. Desire it and seek it as a hungry man seeks food and a thirsty man seeks water, and you shall receive what you desire.

Do not imitate those Christians who desire and seek to become rich, to pass their time in honor, and to be glorified in this world. They have forgotten that Christ, the Son of God, died and suffered for them, and that by His Suffering and death He has opened the door to eternal life and has called them to it. It is evident that they only desire and seek what they see, but they do not desire and seek what they do not see. Every day they stretch their hand out to the forbidden tree as Adam did in paradise, and they taste of it to their own misfortune, and so they depart in their heart from God.

They are like those Israelites leaving Egypt who turned back in their hearts to Egypt and desired the stewpots of Egypt. For this reason the Lord was angered against them (Num. ch. 11). So these Christians, delivered from the slavery of the devil through holy Baptism, as were the Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh, are called to eternal blessedness, but in their hearts they have turned away. They are attached to earthly and visible things, and having abandoned the eternal they seek temporal things. For this reason the Lord is angered with them and they will be punished not temporally but eternally.

Do not, then, imitate such Christians, but strive for eternal blessedness with faith and with the heart. For a Christian's property and inheritance, honor and glory, riches and every treasure, are not in this world, but in the age to come, and in the heavenly fatherland. There, all good things are prepared for them by their Heavenly Father.

Seek these things with every effort, and use earthly things carefully and with fear, lest you anger the Lord God against you through excess. Remember what the Apostle wrote, For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (I Tim. 6:7-8).

Godliness alone is needful in this life

Compare time with eternity, the present with what is to come, living people with the dead, and so your mind will be enlightened and you will know for yourself and acknowledge that they do ill who lay up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God (cf. 1 Lk. 12:21). The dead have all left the world, and with the world, they have left everything. You too will leave it, even though you may have the whole world at your feet. Godliness alone will stay with us into the next age.

Be godly to the end, then, and have godliness as your true treasure.

Remember death, judgement, hell and eternal life

Remember death often, and the judgement of Christ, eternal torment, and eternal life, and inevitably the world with all its lusts and enticements will become abhorrent to you. You will not desire to become rich, to be glorified, or to make merry in this world. Your only care will be to please God, to have a blessed end, not to be put to shame in the judgement of Christ, to escape eternal torment, and to enter into the Kingdom of God. This is truly a great and powerful means by which a man may escape enticement by the vanity of this world and remain in true repentance and contrition of heart which is absolutely necessary to every Christian. Truly: this remembrance and steadfast consideration by everyone is able to raise up the most depraved man and keep him in fear.

The very mention of eternal misfortune or torment, brings a man to trembling and horror. It truly so happens that people become attached to vanity, and they sin because they have forgotten about eternity. O eternal torment, how bitter is your very memory! It is a fearful and bitter thing to fall into that torment, but it is also a fearful and bitter thing to be deprived of God and eternal life! Remember these last things, then, and you will never sin.

Source: St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, 1991, Journey to Heaven: Counsels on the Particular Duties of Every Christian, Holy Trinity Monastery, New York, pp. 163-167.