As Christians, our confidence is in Christ and competence is from Christ. We must magnify the Lord in weakness and submit humbly to the work of the Spirit. In this message on 2 Corinthians 4:1–18, Pastor Jonathan Bean calls us not to lose heart and live with eternity in view.
- God’s power is sufficient to save us.
- God’s power is sufficient to sanctify us.
- God’s power is sufficient to sustain us.
- God’s power is sufficient to shine through us.
- God’s power is sufficient for our glorification.
It’s with great humility and honor that I come before you to share the Word of God this morning. In many senses, what we have just done was sing the text we are going to study this morning in our worship. Only one who knows and understands the truth of this text is able to write a worship hymn like that. Who understands what it is to live in between the times. We are people who are watching and waiting for the return of our King. Amen? It would help me out this morning if you guys interacted with me a little bit. I’m used to preaching in Latin America and Africa where you get lots of interaction back, so when you say “Bwana Asifiwe!” everyone repeats that back, and that’s Swahili for “God be praised.”
So this morning as we look at this text together, what we’re going to be doing is what the people of God since the coming of Christ, all the way through to present day have grasped to, as we live in the times where Christ has already come. And yet we’re looking forward to the day when He will return for His people. We are a people that live in between the times.
The Kingdom of God is inaugurated through the coming of Christ, yet it will come in fullness when Christ returns for His people. We are a people that live in between the times.
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, talks to a people that are also living in between the times. I want us to give a little bit of background of what’s going on in Corinth at the time, so that we can see what Paul is addressing in 2 Corinthians 4, if you want to begin to turn there in a copy of the Word.
Corinth was an important trading city in the Roman Empire. It had been destroyed and then was rebuilt because it sat on such a strategic location. It had a port that faced the east to Turkey and Asia, and a port just three miles away that faced the west to Italy and Rome. So much of the goods of the day passed through these two ports and right through the center of Corinth. It was an important city of about a million inhabitants and it was a city dominated by animistic religion, where their religious devotion was simply a way to appease the gods in order to get what they wanted.
There is also a culture of success and prosperity. And these two cultural values were what they measured the truth by: their success and their prosperity. Paul had planted the church in Corinth years previous. He had sent multiple letters to them and he had sent multiple of his co-laborers to go and work with them. He is now up in the northern part, in Macedonia, the northern part of what is modern day Greece, and he receives news from Titus, who has just been in Corinth. And he receives news that super-apostles have come and began to preach another gospel to the church in Corinth, a gospel different to the one that Paul had preached. And it was a gospel that was much more palatable to the Corinthians. It fit with their idea of success.
These super-apostles that were good at giving speeches and convincing, but preaching a false gospel that was more favorable to their culture than to Biblical truth. They had attacked Paul personally. They had said that Paul is weak and his gospel is weak. There is no outward success in Paul’s gospel. Look at us. Look at the outward success of the gospel. And Paul sits down to write this letter in anticipation of his soon trip to visit the Corinthians. And his intent is to defend the truth of the gospel and challenge all believers—not just the professional super-apostles—to live out the gospel in their everyday lives.
In the last verse of chapter three, as Paul has been contrasting what Old Testament ministry looked like on the face of Moses, a fading glory that had to be veiled, with the new covenant ministry that we all share in Christ. He says in chapter three, verse 18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
See, all of us are intended to behold the glory of God and to reflect that glory to everyone we come into contact with. This is not something just for the professional super-apostles. This is God’s design for each one of us as followers of Christ.
Paul means for the verses that we are about to read in 2 Corinthians 4 to apply to all Christ followers. Not just to a select few. Not just to super-apostles. Not just to professional ministers. So with that background, let’s turn and hear from the text itself this morning. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 4:1—18.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servant for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:1—18).
Thank God for His Word to us this morning. What we see here, in this passage in chapter four, is that Paul is addressing something to the Corinthians, but it is not only intended for the Corinthians alone. It is something that each of us as Christ-followers struggle with. He’s addressing our human tendency to lose heart, to shrink back, to cower back, to lose faith.
Possibly there were those in Corinth who supported Paul and the true gospel, but possibly these very ones had lost the courage to confront the super-apostles that were bringing in the false teaching to the church. He is challenging them and challenging us to not lose heart but to step out and stand for the gospel.
It is our tendency as Christ-followers to be tempted to lose heart and to not trust the power of the gospel in our lives, and to not persevere in our life circumstances, and not endure in this life towards the hope of glory that we have. We often evaluate our lives based on human standards instead of the standard of God. We even base our standing before God all too often on our abilities, on our successes, our circumstances, what we have done in our own strength, and not based solely on the power of the completed work of Christ on our behalf.
We do not lose heart …
God’s power is sufficient to save us.
Second Corinthians 4 is written to guide the Christ-follower—you and I and the Corinthian church that Paul is addressing—to guide us in how not to lose heart. How we do not lose heart in the faith that we’ve been given. The first thing that Paul emphasizes: that we do not lose heart because God’s power is sufficient to save.
In verses 1—6, Paul reminds us that our perseverance and our courage in the faith is based on the past work of Christ on our behalf, not on what we have done in our strength. Only the power of God is sufficient to save you, is sufficient is to save me, is sufficient to save others. But at times we have a tendency to lose heart, even in our very salvation.
We look at our lives and wonder if we have done enough to be saved, or we wonder if we’re not a Christian, can Christ even save me? But this misses the whole point of salvation. Salvation is never about what we can do to be saved. We cannot earn salvation. Salvation is always about trusting in what Christ has already done on our behalf. Salvation is about trusting in Christ and His work. Salvation is about God’s power to save us.
The finished work of Christ on the cross is the power to save you and I. Christ’s work justifies us before God. If you or I—if we—are trusting in ourselves, our actions, anything we’ve said or done for salvation, then we do have reason to be fearful in front of a holy God. We must be aware that there is a danger in false salvation based on something you and I have done, based on our works or our acts. But when we truly turn to Christ, when we turn from ourselves and trust in Christ and Christ’s work to save us, then He is sufficient to bring us out of darkness into His glorious light. This is the work of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4 1–18 Reminds Us that Our confidence is in Christ.
God’s power is sufficient to save and so our confidence is in Christ. Our confidence is in Christ, not in ourselves. See 2 Corinthians 3:4 in the chapter leading up to this one. It says,
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Corinthians 3:4).
You can almost, in verses 1—6 of chapter four, almost hear echoes of Paul’s own spiritual journey—his journey of coming to faith—can’t you? You remember that Paul was once a persecutor of the church, dead in his sins and darkness, persecuting the name of Jesus and those that followed the name. But what happened to him on that road to Damascus? He was blinded by the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.
You got to think that he is remembering back as he is writing to the Corinthians in his own experience of what God did to shine His light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus right into Paul’s life. And that’s exactly what God has done in any of us that have come to faith in Him.
We were helpless, lost in our sins, unable to rescue ourselves, in utter darkness. But God, being rich in mercy, shined the light of the gospel into our lives—the Light that is Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. Oh, and when we get a glimpse of His radiance, it changes everything in our lives. When we get a glimpse of His radiance it changes everything in our lives. We do not lose heart when we are reminded of the powerful work of Christ and the cross on our behalf. He lived a perfect life that we could not live. He died the death that you and I deserve to die for our sins. He reconciled the justice and the love of God by taking on the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins.
Oh, our confidence is never is in ourselves. Our confidence is always in Christ and Christ alone. So trust Him. Trust in Him for salvation. Trust in Him for salvation. Each one of us must respond to this gracious gift of the gospel. We either continue in darkness and unbelief, or we turn away from ourselves and trust in the completed work of Christ on the cross. He has accomplished our salvation.
If you are here today and you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I urge you, in light of eternity, to turn and trust in the power of the gospel. The power of God is sufficient to save even you, even me. God’s power is sufficient to save us. I invite you to consider the gravity of your sin and the lavish grace provided in our Savior Jesus Christ.
Our competence is from Christ.
Christ-follower, maybe you know that your confidence is in Christ. You have trusted in Him. But you need to be reminded this morning that your competence is from Christ. Your competence is from Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Now in Paul’s life as well as our own lives, God does not save us for our sake alone. God saves us and intends to use us to shine the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ into other peoples’ lives as well. God has a purpose for your life, and that’s to shine and reflect the glory of God into other peoples’ lives. Each of us as Christ-followers is entrusted with the gospel and must share the message of the gospel with everyone we come into contact with. We have been blessed with the gospel in order to be a blessing to others. We must declare the gospel.
But all too often in this life, in our Christian journey, we lose faith, we lose heart, we cower back in sharing the gospel. I know that’s true in my life. I know that’s true in many of your lives. But we must remember that sharing the gospel is never based on our ability, but is only based on Christ’s faithfulness to share the good news through us, through our lives. In fact, if there’s one thing that this passage teaches us, is if there is a wrong way to share the gospel, it is to manipulate the story of Jesus in order to gain a response to the gospel. So our competence in Christ is in Christ to share the gospel so we can speak honestly and openly about Jesus as Lord. We don’t manipulate, we don’t twist, we don’t coerce. We just lift Christ to His proper place.
Look at 2 Corinthians 4:2—4. Paul says,
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” (2 Corinthians 4:2—4).
Do you see? We don’t manipulate, coerce or twist to gain a response. We openly and clearly share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I remember the first time that this became exceedingly clear and evident in my own life. We had moved out to central Asia and were living among a people group, a Muslim people group. They were 99.9% Muslim. One in about every 10,000 of this people group were actually followers of Jesus Christ. A context where sharing your faith means real risk, real cost.
I remember hearing a local believer sharing the gospel with her extended family. She had lived out the gospel faithfully and had the opportunity. And we happened to be sitting there and hear her explain and share the gospel. She wasn’t wise by human standards, but she knew the story of Jesus Christ and she knew what He had done in her life. And they say, “No, but what about this? We Muslims do this.” She said, “Yeah, but who else gave sight to the blind.” They say, “Well, what about this?” “Yeah, but who else raised the dead?” They say, “Well, what about this?” And she said, “But who else has risen from the dead to prove that He has paid for our sins and conquered sin and death?”
In our sharing the responsibility that we bear is just to lift Christ up to His proper place. We don’t need to convince people of other things. We don’t need to try to argue people into the kingdom. We just need to faithfully present Christ for who He is, to lift Christ to His proper place.
Regardless of the resistance and difficult circumstances, we are responsible to proclaim the message. And you know what? Just as we must trust God for our own salvation, we can also trust God for their salvation as well, for others’ salvation as well. The same God that we trust in coming to faith in Jesus Christ, we can trust Him when we share the message of Jesus Christ, and trust that He is at work in others’ lives as well.
Second Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Oh, do you see that reference? “Let light shine out of darkness.” In other words, the God who spoke creation into being, who said “Let there be light and there was,” this God is the same God that can shine the light of salvation into the lives of the people that you are sharing the gospel with. Oh, do we believe this, or do we believe there are those that are too far or outside of the reach of the gospel? Do we see that nothing is too great for God? The same God that spoke all of creation into being is the God that can shine the light of the gospel into the hearts of those that we share with.
I remember one time this became very evident in my own life. I know that I and many of us in this room have probably lost heart in sharing the gospel. We share it and people haven’t received or have rejected it or mistreated us for it. Several years ago my wife came to me, concerned, broken about her father. Having shared and prayed for and demonstrated the gospel to him for many years, she thought that he was beyond the reach of God and that he would never come to faith in Jesus Christ. We continued to pray. We continued to faithfully share. We continued to faithfully model the gospel in our lives. And God shone, by His grace, the light of the gospel into his life and he came to faith in Jesus Christ.
There is no one beyond the grace and mercy of God. God’s power is sufficient to save you and me and God’s power is sufficient to save others as well. Take courage in the past work of Christ on the cross. Do not lose heart. Do not cower back. God’s power is sufficient to save us and to save them.
God’s power is sufficient to sanctify us.
Next Paul moves in, in verses 7—15, and shifts out to not just looking back in the past work of Christ, but begins to work what Christ is currently and what God is currently doing and how He is at work in our lives. These spiritual realities that he’s going to unpack in verses 7—
15 tell us how we are to live our lives in this time in between the times in which we live. Christ has come to redeem us but we remain in this fallen, broken world awaiting His return. So not only is God’s power sufficient to save, but God’s power is sufficient to sanctify us as well. God’s power is sufficient to sanctify you and to sanctify me.
Sanctification. What is that? It’s the ongoing process of becoming more and more like Christ. It’s what Paul references in 2 Corinthians 3:18, being transformed into the image of Christ. Justification, when we come to faith, is how we’re made right before the Father. This is a one-time event where we are justified before the Father. Sanctification is an ongoing process in our lives, where we are molded more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
Often when we think about sanctification, we limit it only to sin in our lives, and we think only about sanctification through this process of becoming more holy. And that is a big part of being transformed in the image of Christ. God is actively working through His Spirit, through His word and through His church to purify us of unrighteousness and to make us more holy and like Christ. But it is short-sighted to think that God is only changing our outward actions or our habits. God is also using everything in our lives to accomplish our sanctification. He is using our difficulties, our circumstances, the family that He has placed us in. He is using all of these things, divinely orchestrated, to accomplish our sanctification.
This becomes so evident as we see that this treasure is placed in weak, ordinary vessels. Weak vessels. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, “But we have this treasure [and that’s the treasure of the gospel] in jars of clay, [ordinary, everyday containers] to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
2 Corinthians 4 1–18 Shows Us that Our weakness magnifies God’s strength.
God has designed this picture to ensure that He receives the glory and that He is reflected through our lives, by making us weak containers of His glory. He has made it abundantly clear that any power that comes through our lives comes from Him and not from us. You see, our weakness magnifies God’s strength. Our weakness magnifies God’s Strength. We are subjected to weakness and suffering in this world, but we are subjected to it for a purpose, and that purpose is to magnify the glory of God.
The Corinthians, just as many of us today, can drift into believing that God’s blessing is always demonstrated by preventing us from suffering, and God can and does prevent suffering in our lives. But this passage and many others throughout the New Testament actually teaches how God often uses suffering to show His power in and through our weakness.
This is the example of Paul’s very own life. In 2 Corinthians 12, later in this same letter, in chapter 12:8—10, he helps us understand this. He says,
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:8—10).
Oh, Brothers and Sisters, we know this. This is the story of countless Christians we’ve come into contact with in our lives, of faithful believers, and those that we see in the pages of Scripture as well. God does things in our lives, often through suffering, that are so much greater than we could imagine or could be accomplished without the journey that God has placed us on.
So how do we respond to this difficult reality? That God not only rescues us from suffering, but also allows suffering in our lives. Oh, in the same way that we respond to the gospel. We trust in Him. We turn away from ourselves and our own power and we trust in God. We submit humbly to the work of the Spirit in our lives. We submit humbly to the work of the Spirit in our lives. This is what faith is all about. Trusting in Him, trusting in God and His plan for our lives, and not trusting in ourselves and our own plans. He has designed this so that we must depend on Him in order to see this process of sanctification happen and accomplished in our lives.
Now I want us to see that this is not just a mere fatalism. Like we just wait and suffer here by and by, one day He’ll come. No, this isn’t a mere fatalism where we just passively sit back. It’s an active dying to self each and every day. It is an act of dying to pride. Dying to selfishness. Dying to sin in our lives. Every day as Christ-followers we actively must die to self and live in the Spirit. This is what walking in faith is. This is how the life of God is made manifest in our very lives. So take courage, Church.
God’s work of sanctification enables you to live transformed lives. We are not left as we were. God is continuing to change and transform us more and more into the image of Christ every day. This is what He is accomplishing in and through our lives and our circumstances.
God’s power is sufficient to sustain us.
We do not lose heart because God is sufficient to save us and because God is sufficient to sanctify us. But we also do not lose heart because God’s power is sufficient to sustain us. God’s power is sufficient to sustain you and I.
2 Corinthians 4 1–18 Outlines that Our suffering magnifies God’s sustenance.
Our suffering magnifies God’s sustenance. Our suffering magnifies God’s sustenance in our lives. God displays the gospel in the way that He sustains us in the midst of our everyday messy lives as we go through suffering. Even though we don’t know how we’re going to get through it, God displays His character as He carries us through it. We get to know Him more deeply in the process.
Second Corinthians 1:3—4, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Oh, we can only truly know the God of all comfort when we have been comforted by Him in our difficulty and in our suffering. And then God can take that comfort that we have received and we can comfort others with it.
Oh, do you see this pattern of how this works in our lives? This is how Paul is able to say in 2 Corinthians 4:8—11,
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh,” (2 Corinthians 4:8—11).
So our suffering magnifies His glory.
How are we to respond to this? We respond by enduring for the sake of Christ. We endure for the sake of Christ. I know that many in this room have been on journeys of suffering and affliction, heartache, things that we’ve prayed to have removed in our lives. I’ve been on my own journey and this is a journey that didn’t just begin in the last year and a half with my battle with a brain tumor. But it went way back several years ago when we had to
evacuate out of the mission field because they thought our daughter was dying of leukemia. When a co-teammate of ours was kidnapped. When a coworker of ours in our country was gunned down in the street.
God does not necessarily provide the strength that we need ahead of time. But I can tell you on my journey and based on Scripture that God walks with us in suffering and difficulty and God sustains us and uses our suffering for God’s glory. This is what He does in our lives. He sustains us step by step. As we need His sufficiency He provides it when we walk faithfully with Him.
God power is sufficient to shine through us.
Take courage, Church. God enables us to endure in our suffering. It is not something that you can do in your own strength. You cannot prepare to endure it. All that you can do is rely on Him. And this is what we do when we come to faith. We cast ourselves upon Him. Call out to Him and claim His sufficiency and His power in our lives. And we do the same thing in the midst of suffering and difficulty. We do not lose heart because God’s power is sufficient to save us. God’s power is sufficient to sanctify us. And God’s power is sufficient to sustain.
And God’s power is sufficient to shine right through us.
We don’t lose heart because God is using all of these things in our lives and He is using it to shine His glory in and through our lives. He has given us the gospel that we might reflect the gospel. We walk through circumstances and are sanctified in the process and that shines the glory of God into others’ lives. God can use these weak vessels to shine His glory right through us. When we understand this spiritual reality, it has a transforming effect in our lives. God saved us by shining the light of the gospel in our lives so that we can shine it into others’ lives. God sanctifies us, sustains us, so that we may become a display that our lives, our very existence, our life, may become a display of the gospel to others.
This principal runs right through 2 Corinthians. We have been comforted in order to comfort others. In 2 Corinthians 4:12, Paul gets even more explicit and He says, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” What do you think He means by that? Oh, that as death and difficulty and dying to self happen in our life, it not only works in us, but it brings life—the gospel in transforming power—into the lives of others around us. This is what God is doing in and through our lives.
Our selflessness magnifies God’s grace.
The Corinthians and the super-apostles wanted to live for themselves, wanted success and prosperity, but Paul’s consistent example was selflessness, not selfishness. Our selflessness magnifies God’s grace. Our selflessness magnifies God’s grace. When we have truly experienced God’s grace in our lives, we are then enabled to truly live for the sake of the gospel in others’ lives.
Oh, this frees us up to serve others for the sake of Christ. Not even serving for our own sake, where we serve others so that they think highly of us, or not serving others so that works on us. But we can actually serve others for the sake of Christ. See, in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” So we serve others and grace extends to others. They, in turn, increase thanksgiving to God.
Think about this. As you faithfully serve others, they see the light of the glory of Christ and are transformed in the process. They give thanksgiving and this magnifies and increases the glory of God. That is how and why we serve others. So take courage, Church, in the presence of grace in your life, in our lives. And this grace in our lives will increase glory, the glory of God, through others’ lives as well. So we do not lose heart because the power of God is sufficient to save us. The power of God is sufficient to sanctify us. The power of God is sufficient to shine through us. These are the past and current things that God is doing in our lives.
The power of God is sufficient for our glorification.
But now Paul takes a turn and we begin to look forward to the future work of God’s grace in our lives. The fifth point is we do not lose heart because we know God’s power is sufficient for our glorification as well. God’s power is sufficient for our glorification as well. Paul lived a life with eternity in view. See this perspective that he has. His gaze is through to eternity. 2 Corinthians 4:16—18, some of my favorite verses in all of Scripture.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16—18).
You and I are wasting away. These bodies are wasting away. A week from Monday I go for my three-month MRI to check the status of the brain tumor. By God’s grace there’s been no growth and no evidence of brain tumor since surgery almost a year and a half ago. So God can rescue us, but He is sufficient in the midst of difficulties as well. Oh, but this reminder every three months of my own mortality is also a great blessing—a great blessing. It’s a constant reminder of my own mortality and it has forced me to live every day with eternity in view, just what Paul is calling each and every one of us to do every day. In the process I have learned to trust God more deeply and depend on Him daily for the journey that He calls us to walk.
You know, in reality, all of us are wasting away. Whether you have a three-month MRI or not, you’re wasting away. Your days are short and numbered. Our lives are just a mist, a vapor. Here today and gone tomorrow. But we have a hope in 2 Corinthians and this hope shows us that the gospel does not dismiss the difficulties in our lives, but it puts them in proper perspective, in an eternal perspective. Paul calls his troubles a “light and momentary affliction.” Now do you think that’s because Paul lived a really cushy, easy life? If so, you don’t know much about the life of Paul, do you? 2 Corinthians 11, the same letter, verses 24—28, Paul says,
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches,” (2 Corinthians 11:24—28).
Wow! He calls this light and momentary afflictions.
Even the afflictions of Paul can only be considered light and momentary in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that we have in the hope that is Christ. Christ-follower, weigh your suffering, weigh your circumstances, weigh your situation, weigh your sacrifice on God’s scales, not human scales. Weigh it on God’s scales, God’s eternal perspective. Free yourself up from comparing your life to those around you. Oh, compare it to the eternal weight of glory.
Our hope magnifies God’s glory.
Paul says it’s even beyond comparison. You can’t even compare it. Live with eternity in view. Lift up your eyes, Church. Lift up your eyes. Look past your circumstances. Don’t be blinded by that. Look forward and out to the glory of Christ. This hope that we have in Him, this too magnifies God’s glory. When we hope like this, when we live like this, this magnifies God’s glory as well.
When we live as men and women that have a true and abiding hope beyond our current circumstances of this world, that draws people to God and magnifies His glory and they see who He is in and through that as well.
So Church, let’s anticipate His return. Let’s look forward, let’s look towards that eastern sky, because one day that eastern sky is going to break wide open and trumpets will sound. And a horse and a Rider—the King Jesus—will come back to reclaim what is rightfully His, His bride, the church of Jesus Christ. And we will return forevermore and be with Him. No more suffering, crying, pain, heartache. We will be with Him forevermore. Anticipate Christ’s return. 2 Corinthians 4:14 says, “knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”
Brothers and sisters, we have a resurrection hope. This life is not the end. So live with eternity in view. Invest your life in things that matter for eternity. Spend your life for the sake of eternity. Since the time that I was a young child my dad told me, “Invest your life in things that have eternal value—in God, His Word and other people.” Invest your life in these things, Church. Invest your life in God. Invest your life in this precious Word that He has given His self-revelation to us. And invest your life for the sake of others as well.
We live with eternity in view by keeping our gaze, our vision, ever fixed on Jesus Christ Who reigns and rules forevermore. Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul does not allow the readers of 2 Corinthians to shift their eyes away from Jesus Christ, and we must not do that either. We have to keep our eyes fixed on Him, fixed on the prize that we have, looking forward, enduring through this life based on the power of God’s work in us with the hope that He has provided for us. Take courage in the hope of glory that we have.
Oh, Church, in summary, Christ-follower, take courage in the power of the gospel to save you and to save others. Take courage in the presence of God’s grace in your life and how He can use that grace to shine grace into other peoples’ lives. And take hope in the power that we have to be taken and sustained to be with Him forevermore. Ultimately we must live in light of eternity. We must open up our eyes and see our lives for what they truly are and live for eternity.
Take courage, Church, for God is preparing for us an eternal home. Oh, if you keep moving in 2 Corinthians into chapter five, we see verses 5—7. We see this truth resound.
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. [We always take heart, that means.] We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:5—7).
We walk now, in this life, in this time, in between the times, we walk by faith and not by sight. Oh, but Church, there’s more. One day we won’t only walk by faith or live by faith. We will live by sight. Oh get this, there is coming a day when we will cease to walk by faith and not by sight, but we will live by sight. There is coming that day. Revelation 21:22—25 gives us a picture of that day.
“And I saw no temple in that city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there,” (Revelation 21:22—25).
Jesus is the light of all of eternity. Oh, that we would see this and know this in the midst of whatever you’re living through, struggling through. Jesus is the light of eternity and that is not just for then. That begins in our lives when we come to faith in Him. He shines His light, the light of eternity, right down into our lives.
Oh, Church, may you and I, may we be consumed in our pursuit after God and our pursuit after the souls of men for the glory of God. Oh, thank God for what we have in this text. Live with eternity in view.