II Corinthians 5-8: Do Not Lose Heart

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.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

II Cor. 4:16-5:1, ESV

 

At 60, I can more and more understand Paul's inspired writings concerning the "wasting away" that we all eventually will experience should we be blessed to live long enough. And while I do not consider myself to be quite that old yet, I do see signs that my body is physically beginning to slow down a bit. Indeed, that "slowing" seems to be gaining speed as each day goes by.

 

There are other "light and momentary afflictions" that I have observed. Perhaps it is my age, but this world seems to be getting more and more out of control. I see evil men and women struggling for power, and committing some of the worst crimes against humanity that have been seen for many a year in order to gain that power. I see people from one side of the world doing mischief on the other side, just to gain money. I see our youth becoming less and less respectful of those around them, perhaps as a direct result of the previously mentioned power and money hungry. All in all, it has led to a less safe and far less pleasant life than men could enjoy if they would just seek to help others, rather than try to get what they can.

 

So, whether from personal struggles or those difficulties being commonly shared by all men everywhere, there does seem to be a fair amount of "light and momentary afflictions" going on today that Paul experienced during his time some 2,000 years in the past. If one is not careful, he can get caught up in all of these trials and become discouraged.

 

That is precisely where Paul's encouragement to not lose heart comes in. We are here only for a brief moment, and then we are gone. Whether we are blessed to live many years, or whether we are blessed with a time of fewer struggles, there is an expiration date for us all. The wise man will realize that we were not made, at least not primarily, for this brief time of testing here on earth.

 

For we are created by God to live eternally.

 

That being the case, wouldn't it behoove us all if we spent a little less time focusing on our light and momentary troubles, and a little more time contemplating those things that are eternal? For it is true that one day, maybe a day much sooner than we expect, that we will be called to our eternal home, complete with a body that will not wear out. And then we can get on with the life that God has called us to... if we can only take our eyes off of the temporary, and place our eyes and our hopes on the eternal. It is for truths such as we read from the passage above that we can gain this hope and this confidence.

 

The reading for the next few days is from II Corinthians 5-8. They will help us all to realize that our troubles, no matter how seemingly big at this time, really are light and momentary, and will pass away before we know it.

II Corinthians 1-4: He Has Delivered Us Before and Will Do it Again

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

II Corinthians 1:8-10

 

Does it ever seem that things just go from bad to worse? Think about this past year and a half where we experienced an event that changed everything from the way that we work, educate our children and worship,  to the way that we even leave our homes. Now we are being warned by some that the economy is in such a degraded state that we may have to have some kind of a worldwide "reset". And this "reset", they warn us, will be a very tumultuous one indeed.

 

So, what's a Christian to do?

 

In the passage above, Paul reminds the church at Corinth of an affliction that he and his fellow workers had recently been through that had the effect of utterly burdening them beyond their strength. He said that it had actually made them despair of even life itself. Then he shared with the church a secret that not only had helped them get through this life shaking event, but would also get them through any other perils that might be coming up in the future. What was that "secret"?

 

It was the fact that God Himself had delivered them. God, who raises the dead as Paul pointed out, had not only the power to deliver them before, but He would deliver them again!

 

When you realize this powerful truth, there is really nothing that can stop you. Paul, through inspiration, revealed to us that these difficult times, in part, are to help us not to rely upon ourselves but upon God who raises the dead.  

 

And, if the One who raises the dead is on our side, what can possibly keep us from doing the things that He wants us to do? For it is a fact that He has delivered us before and He will deliver us again. That fact will not only keep us from despairing over the difficult times of life, it will give us the hope that we so desperately need to not merely survive these trails, but to successfully meet in an overwhelming fashion any difficulty that life may bring our way.

 

The reading for these next four days is from II Corinthians 1-4. They contain the secrets to successfully deal with all of life's travails. 

I Corinthians 15-16: Holding to the Agreement

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received,

in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

I Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV

 

I was a real estate appraiser for over a dozen years prior to preaching full time. And while I have had the privilege of preaching for over 25 years since that time, there are several lessons I learned from my appraising years that have always stayed with me. One of those lessons is that a contract, if written well, is there to protect and benefit both parties. But in order to receive these benefits, both sides must hold to the agreement.

 

This is one of the things I love about serving God. We never have to worry about Him keeping His part of the agreement (covenant) for His Word is written to both benefit and protect us because He loves us.

 

At the close of his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul reminds all Christians of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus) that he has preached. He reminds us that those who accept the Gospel are to remain steadfast in it, for it is by this Gospel that we are saved. Otherwise, he assures us through the inspiration of God, we have believed in vain.

 

In plain language, we need to hold to our side of the agreement.

 

Are you? If so you know what peace and joy can be had for those who love the Lord.

 

The reading for the next two days is from the final two chapters of I Corinthians. They not only remind us of the agreement, but provide encouragement and promise to those who will remain true to the end.

 

 

I Corinthians 11-14: Faith, Hope & Love

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I Cor. 13:13, ESV

 

What do you think of, when you read the words from the passage above? Many people will read this and falsely conclude that service to God is essentially a service of thoughts and emotions... but they would be only partially right.

 

It is true that all three of these involve what we think and the emotional responses that come about from these thoughts. Faith does involve the mental processing of information, hope evokes a very deep and visceral response from within towards the promises of God that we long for, and love, of course, is one of the greatest emotions that we possess.

 

So it is quite true that these three things - faith, hope and love - are very much mental and emotional responses, but the Bible also indicate something far more involved that mere thought. The Word of God also indicates that those who possess these three attributes will be motivated to do something in addition to merely thinking and feeling. Consider the following passage from Paul's inspired letter to the Thessalonian church:

 

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 1:3, NIV

 

Do you see it? When Paul wrote to the church he talked about faith, hope and love, but not as mere mental and emotional responses. He pointed out that faith would produce work, that love would prompt labor, and that hope would inspire endurance. In other words these three greatest of all Christian attributes would be something that cause us to not only think something and feel something, but they would also cause us to do something.

 

And when you think about it, you can see why. For anything worthwhile in life goes far beyond mere thoughts and feelings. Life is a participation event, and our Christian walk is the most important part of this life. Is it any wonder that God wants His servants to use these beautiful attributes in every way possible to enhance every part of our service to Him, to Jesus, and to others?

 

The readings for the next several days are from I Corinthians 11-14. They have all sorts of information as to how the church was expected to serve: first with the miraculous gifts that were available in the early stages of the church, and now with the greatest things that remain for the Lord's church today: Faith, hope and love!

I Corinthians 7-10: Living For God

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.

For the present form of this world is passing away.

I Corinthians 7:29-31, ESV

 

One of the great things about the Bible is that it contains the proper perspective that will allow us to live a good life for God. The Seventh chapter of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth is a wonderful example of the perspective that God wants us to live with. This particular chapter covers everything from slavery to divorce and remarriage, and just about everything in between.

 

The passage above addresses one of the great difficulties that the church was going through at the time this letter was being written. The church at that time was experiencing a great  persecution. Now we realize that persecution is something that we have not dealt with a lot in modern day America, but it is something that is starting to rear its ugly head so it will be good for us to pay particular attention to how God expects His people to deal with hard times.

 

Paul points out how the time is very short and he wants the people to get a grip on that which is most important. So, when he tells married people to live as if they were not, he is not telling them to get a divorce or to live in an immoral way, nor is he instructing them to show their spouses any less love or devotion. He is simply pointing out that they do not need to allow anything to get in the way of their devotion to God. The things he mentions in the list above includes everything from marriage, mourning, happiness, our possessions, and the way we deal with the world.

 

In other words God, through the inspired writings of Paul, is trying to get us a proper perspective: He is to be first! All other things are secondary.

 

Over the next few days we will be reading about things of such a practical and timely nature that it may seem that the words were written today and not 2,000 years ago. The reason for this is hopefully obvious by this stage in our readings. Mankind and the problems of men really haven't changed much over the years. Our duty is to handle the problems well. Our privilege is to enjoy the good things that God has given us. And our responsibility is to maintain the proper perspective throughout.

 

The next set of readings is from the 7th-10th chapters of I Corinthians. They will help us keep the focus and perspective that God wants all of His dearly loved children to have.