We saw last week how preaching the gospel is hard work. Evangelism is spiritual warfare. And it can be costly and painful.
2 Corinthians 4 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
We are the jars of clay, cheap, fragile, disposable. Continually carrying around in our bodies the dying of Christ. But Paul says, despite all that we do not lose heart! What was his secret for keeping on going despite all the opposition and persecution and suffering he experienced?
2 Corinthians 4 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Fixing our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen!
“Light and momentary troubles”
“An eternal glory which far outweighs them all”
“What is seen is temporary”
“What is unseen is eternal”
Message The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
How important is our hope of heaven to us? I suspect that if we are honest, we don’t think about heaven very much for most of the time. Most of the time our lives here and now are comfortable enough. It is only when times get hard, or perhaps we are facing illness or bereavement, that our hope of heaven begins to mean as much to us as it meant to the apostle Paul, or the other apostles, or the saints through the ages who have faced persecution and martyrdom for their faith.
What does it mean to fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen? In what ways should we be looking forward to our heavenly home? There is a direct relationship between faith and hope. Our lives here should continually be influenced by our hope of heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
This passage puts our life on earth into perspective – God’s perspective.
Here – a tent.
I love going on holiday in a tent. But I wouldn’t want to live in one permanently.
There – an eternal building, built by God not by human hands
Here – unclothed
There – clothed
Here – mortal
There – swallowed up by life!
The Holy Spirit is our guarantee – the first instalment of heaven
5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Message The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less
So if we are setting our sights on our heavenly home, how should we be living now?
Living by faith, not by sight
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Here in the body – away from the Lord
There – away from the body but at home with the Lord.
At present we “live by faith, not by sight”
Paul says “We live by faith, not by sight”. But in fact most of us for most of the time live on the basis of what we can see, touch and feel rather than what we believe to be true even though we can’t see it. A simple test –
“In what ways have you shown faith over the last week?” Actions that spring from faith are those acts of obedience which we would NOT HAVE DONE if we did not have faith in Christ
Living by faith means basing our life on what God has said and done. Among other things it means
Trusting the Bible. Basing our lives on God’s reliable word rather than the post-truths we find in the world around us. So Christians will read the Bible and study the Bible and even commit verses and passages and stories to memory, so that we can live by faith and not by sight.
Trusting what Christians say. When Christians talk about God answering their prayers, some people assume they are just making up stories. We should instead always assume that when Christian friends talk about the difference Jesus makes in their lives, the peace he gives them, the help and the guidance, assume that they are telling the truth.
Trusting our own experience. We can all discover for ourselves God is real, that God is there, that God will help anybody who sincerely searches for him! (C. S. Lewis) who wrote the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe once said, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” Trusting our experiences of God includes trusting when God speaks to us – expecting God to speak to us in supernatural ways, in words of prophecy and dreams and visions and flashes of imagination.
Expressing our faith in prayer. Perhaps the most important aspect of living by faith is by praying. Trusting that when we are speaking to God in times of worship or in silence then God actually hears us and answers our prayers. If we are just living by what we can see and here and touch then prayer will be a complete waste of time. But when we are living by faith, prayer is the most important expression of our relationship with God.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!”
Living by faith means clinging on to God’s promises, even when they seem impossible.
It was that great theologian Cliff Richard who said, “The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find he is.”
“Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God”. (the preacher John Stott)
When we think about it, living by faith is eminently sensible and logical. It is rational to put our trust in God because of His character. When we trust other people, there is always the risk that they might lie to us, or cheat us. But God will never do that! Because God is infinitely Good –
God is good and just: He will never deceive us – so it should be EASIER to trust Him than it is to trust other people. We should be able to trust God MORE than we do other people!
Then when we trust other people there is also the risk that they will hurt us in some way. But that will never happen with God because God is all loving. God IS love. “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” God says. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God.”
God is all-loving: He will never let us down: it should be EASIER to trust God than to trust anybody else. We should trust God MORE than we do anybody else.
Then when we trust other people there is always the risk that they will mess up. That however much they try, they might fail to do what they have promised. But there is no risk of that happening with God. Because
God is all-powerful – God is Almighty. God can do whatever He chooses to do!
God is all-powerful – He CAN keep His promises: it should be EASIER to trust God than it is to trust other people. We should trust God MORE than we do anybody else!
We trust other people all the time. We put our confidence in them, have faith in them, believe in them –
But people are fickle and fallible – But God is GOOD;
Human love is partial, limited – But God is ALL LOVING;
People can fail because of their limitations – But God is ALL-POWERFUL:
So we should trust God most of all! Corrie Ten Boom said these things about Faith.
“You don’t need great faith, but faith in a great God.”
“If all things are possible with God, then all things are possible to him who believes in him.”
“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”
“Faith is a Fantastic Adventure in Trusting Him.”
So we should be living by faith and not by sight.
“Faith is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God; so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction.” (Martin Luther)
. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Again I ask – would we really prefer to be with God in glory right now? Or don’t we really care about heaven because we are quite comfortable enough living here on earth?
When the rubber hits the road, we show that we are walking by faith and not by sight by aiming to please God in everything we do.
9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Since we have this eternal destiny, we make it our aim to please God in everything, knowing that we will have to give account for the way we have lived. Have we really been living by faith? Or are we only living by sight?
A large number of people aged over 95 were asked one question. It was an open-ended question they could answer any way they wished. The question was: If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently? Amongst the most popular answers were these.
If I could live my life over again: I would risk more.
If I could live my life over again: I would do more things that would live on after I’m dead.
Our greatest regrets in life are not usually about the things we did do – but about the things we did not do but wished we had done! So we should step out in bold leaps of faith in obedience to the challenges God has set before us! Living by faith, not by sight.
The manse where we live now is the nicest we have ever lives in. But there is one thing I miss from our Manse in Brentwood is the squirrels. I could sit at my desk preparing my sermons under the gaze of Mr Squirrel as he sat about 6 feet away in the tree immediately outside the study window eating the nuts he had just stolen from our bird feeder. Squirrels are such crazy creatures! They jump from one high tree to another. Sometimes they appear to be aiming for a limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide. Sometimes they miss–but they usually land, safe and unconcerned, on a branch several feet lower. Then they just climb up to the branch they were aiming for, and carry on with their journey. A lot of them miss, but none ever get hurt in trying. Even though they are sometimes only a few feet above the dog who is enthusiastically defending her garden from invaders. The thing is, squirrels have got to take the risks if they don’t want to spend their whole lives stuck in one tree. Too many Christians and churches spend all of their lives stuck in one place forever. W need to be prepared to take some risks in God’s name.
4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
5:2 we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,
5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.