13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
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.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Its first form was developed in 1856 and after the advances made in chemical technology following World War I, plastic has now become a pillar of our pantries, potlucks, prosthetics and so much more. Plastic has only been on the scene for about 150 years, but its reach has touched almost every aspect of our lives. Its power to help and provide convenience is unrivaled, but as we produce more and more plastic, more and more seems to be finding its way out of our lives and into the environment. Just look out your car window on your drive home and no doubt you will see various forms of plastic littering the streets. As we create more and more plastic to satisfy our temporary needs, the need to consider its lasting consequences on the environment is also on the rise. Sorting out the benefits between something temporary and eternal was also the point of our section from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In our second lesson today from 2 Corinthians 4, Paul encourages us to look past the temporary to the eternal.
Paul had to look past the temporary to the eternal in his own life, otherwise he would not be able to do what he was called to do. Paul was called to be an apostle. He was one of the twelve apostles, men Jesus had called to be his primary witnesses of his life, death and resurrection. They were also the leaders of the church, like Peter, James and Philip. As Paul carried out his apostleship as the missionary to the Gentiles, he traveled the Mediterranean Sea sharing the gospel and encouraging the churches through his letters. The section of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians we heard as our second lesson focused on the hope all believers share in the eternal glory and life we have waiting for us in heaven, which makes us
bold to speak and outweighs our momentary troubles.
Paul was bold when he spoke about Jesus, but that boldness did not come from himself. Paul reminded the Corinthians that,
since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.
The spirit of faith that led Paul to speak did not come from himself, but faith in God’s power. In fact, the spirit of faith Paul references came from a quote from Psalm 116. Paul said,
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”
The writer of this psalm was in danger for his life, but called out to God to save him and God delivered him from danger. This quote from the psalm revealed a spirit of faith in God’s power to deliver from danger, not a person’s own power. And the same was true for Paul in his life and work to share the gospel. Paul faced all kinds of dangers from ship wrecks to prison to beatings, but he trusted God to see him through those temporary sufferings because he had his eyes fixed on the eternal glory waiting for him. It was his faith in God that made Paul bold.
It is hard for us to imagine being like Paul, but we also have to understand that he had a very specific calling as an apostle. Paul was called to devote all his time to sharing the gospel of Jesus. The same is not true for you. You are believers with the same message of Jesus to share, but sharing Jesus will look differently for you than it did for Paul. What you do share with Paul, however, is the faith that relies on God’s power and not your own to save you from death and give you eternal life.
Therefore, the biggest obstacle we face to speaking boldly about our faith doesn’t come from the outside, but from within our own hearts. There is a war inside our hearts as believers between the spirit of faith that wants to speak boldly and our sinful nature. On the one hand, our faith looks past the temporary things of this world and focuses on eternal life in heaven. Our faith wants to live in loving, kind and compassionate ways that give God glory and share the message of Jesus to grow God’s kingdom. On the other hand, our sinful nature only focuses on this temporary world and wants us to keep quiet about Jesus.
Our sinful nature works to cut off our connection to God and make us rely on ourselves and our own power. When our sinful nature chokes out our faith, it leads to either a false sense of power and security or hopeless insecurity. On the one hand, sin leads us to block out its deadly consequences from our minds. Our own pride and ego take over our lives, so that we become the center of our own worlds, working and taking advantage of others without even seeing it. For example, fathers can work hard at their jobs believing that all the temporary sacrifices it forces the family to make are worth it to provide more money, a bigger house and better things for the family, but is that what his family truly needs from him? Ephesians 6:4 says,
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
And in Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Husbands and fathers fail their families if they do not give them what they truly need. On the other hand, our sinful nature can drive us to despair by cutting ourselves off from caring about anyone else. After working to build and maintain relationships with others, so many of our family and friends have left us broken and hurt that we would rather be cut off from others than have our trust broken and our love unreturned again. We would ask ourselves, “What else can I do to earn someone’s love,” but we are too tired to try again.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul said,
but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Clay jars are easily broken, they are a temporary vessel, but the faith in God’s power that we hold on to is forever. Therefore, we do not speak boldly about our faith because we are strong, but because God is strong. God is the one who saved the write of Psalm 116 from death. God delivered Paul from danger countless times on his missionary journeys. And it is God alone who has saved you from your sins. It is hard to hear God’s law and face our weakness and sins, but God wants us to boldly confess them to him and then be at peace confident he has forgiven them through the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Paul knew that our greatest difficulty in speaking boldly is not about fear of sharing with others, but our own fear of sin and its consequences. He knew the guilt we have over our deepest sins, those we don’t share with others, make us afraid, which is why Paul said,
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Paul faces us with the reality that we are wasting away because of sin. Our physical bodies in this sinful world will one day be gone, but God will give us a new body in heaven. The reality of our lives is that we are lost, but in Jesus, we are found. Our bold confession of faith then is that we are both sinners destined for death and also saved children of God destined for eternal life.
In order to keep our eyes on the eternal, Paul had reminded the Corinthians in his first letter to them that
‘when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”’
1 Corinthians 15:54
Death will be the last enemy we face as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Once death is done, we will live forever. Therefore, Paul says
16 Therefore we do not lose heart,
even when we face suffering before death.
In our reading from Genesis 3, Adam and Eve learned that sin means death and also suffering before death. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree and their eyes were opened to sin, they were terrified. Soon after they disobeyed God, God came to confront them about their sins. Adam and Eve ran from God like a child runs from mom and dad when a rule has been broken and they know punishment is coming. Adam and Eve were right to expect God’s punishment for their sin, but they did not expect how God would deal out that punishment. God did punish Adam and Eve with temporary suffering like the pain of giving birth, difficulty in getting food and death. However, God also punished the devil and promised to punish his own Son for our sins. Jesus did ultimately give his life to save us from sin and death. His sacrifice also won eternal life for us in heaven.
When we face suffering in this life, it can make it hard to run to God. Sometimes, we don’t want to turn to God because we blame him for the troubles torturing us or a loved one. Or our trials are so great or have lasted so long that we don’t believe he can save us from them. This is why Paul tells us that
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Paul knows we need to be reminded that what we face in this temporary broken world will someday be gone and replaced by the endless joys of heaven. Finally, this is why Paul tells us to
18 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.
Plastic has been around for about 150 years and has helped us in almost all aspects of our lives, but will its temporary help soon turn into a lasting problem for future generations? I don’t have the answers to the plastic problem and that is not the point of this sermon. The point of this sermon is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4, that we will face troubles in this life because of sin and the temporary nature of these bodies, but we do not lose heart because of Jesus. Our Savior has removed all our sins and given us faith in him that will lead to eternal life in heaven. We are called to speak boldly as we ask God for forgiveness for all our sins and share his life giving power with others. So,
look past the temporary to the eternal, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.