Last night we took a detailed look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:11. Here are the notes:
Paul’s concern in this passage is that we don’t lose heart. (4:16) How did Paul and his companions who traveled with him to share the message of Jesus keep from losing heart, even when they faced adversity.
1. He had in inward source of power that was always refreshed (4:16)
2. Even Paul’s suffering was working glory for him. (4:17)
3. Paul presently did something: he looked at the things which were unseen. (4:18)
4. The present things are only temporary, and coming glory is eternal (4:19)
How can we help ourselves not “lose heart” in life?
First, one thing must be true: We actually have the life of God working in our hearts. (4:16)
Second, there are some things we need to know.
- Our suffering is temporary (17)
- Our suffering is glory for us (17)
- What we see now will pass away, but what we don’t yet see will come and endure forever (19)
Third, in order to receive and experience this renewing of life that keeps us from losing heart even when we face difficulty, we learn to do what Paul calls “looking” at the things which are unseen.
Now, What are these “unseen” things? The things that aren’t currently seen. The things that are going to never pass away. (18) The things that have to do with “glory” instead of “suffering.” (17)
The Bible’s teaching is that all of these things have to do with the time when Jesus returns and establishes his kingdom on earth. That kingdom will never end, and will be inhabited by those who’ve trusted Christ in their lives before Christ comes, and therefore are resurrected to live forever with him.
So “unseen” doesn’t just mean “invisible” or “unable to be seen,” it means “not seen right now.” It’s not “imaginary,” but more like, “just wait.”
How do you actually do this? How can you “fix your eyes” on things which are unseen? That’s what Paul demonstrates for us in 5:1-11.
Here he demonstrates how a Christian would “look at the unseen things” when they were facing a crisis as big as a threat to their very life. If your life is threatened, how can you not lose heart? You can look at the unseen things. And what does that look like? Observe Paul’s workshop:
First, Paul says “we know” something. (This is like what he said in 4:16-18, but let’s watch how he works it out here.) He says, “we know that if our body is destroyed, we have a better one waiting for us.” So Paul reminds himself about the better thing that can’t be touched by whatever crisis or threat is currently facing him.
Paul says, even now, we feel this tension inside. He identifies a source of “spiritual stress” as the desire to experience something greater and MORE “lively” than the current life. This tension, when rightly identified, proves the very reality of verse 1, that we have a more permanent body prepared for us.
We presently have the Spirit as a guarantee. (This is the explanation for what he said in 4:16)
We remember that we’re going to be with him. That future experience of totally close friendship and interaction with Jesus drives us forward. It makes the now worth it.
Since we’re going to see him, and part of it is going to be the experience of standing before his judgment seat, it drives us to want to pleased him.
So to sum up the process, Paul seems to be saying that the way we “look” at unseen things is by:
- Learning, and knowing, what the bible says about the situation (i.e. “if my body dies, I have another one”) and then by remembering it at the crucial time. So we practice calling to mind the truth that we most need in every situation. (ex. Heb 10:34)
- If we get tempted to doubt that knowledge, we remember that we are already experiencing the beginning of this because the Holy Spirit is already letting us taste this coming life, which has made us dissatisfied with the current life.
- Then we call to mind that the coming life isn’t only going to be life forever in a new, better body, but it’s going to be life with Christ as its defining characteristic.
- This moves us to think about talking to him face to face in order to give account for our life.
- This moves us to want to please him.
…So as we face any crisis that threatens to ruin or steal or destroy some part of our life here, we “look at the things which are unseen.” We Think: This may be taken from me, but I have something better coming, and that’s why I already long for it in my heart. Jesus himself will be there with me, and I’ll give account for how I handled this. – How can I please him in this situation?
So in 4:18, “looking” means keeping our attention on what the Bible says about the future that’s promised to us and all its implications, and then using that to interpret what’s going on now.
What are the outcomes of this “looking”?
- Greater emotional health. We don’t lose heart.
- Greater ability to be spiritually active and fruitful—because we don’t lose heart.
- We actually live lives that please the Lord.
- We reap glory.
- The Holy Spirit is able to strengthen us day by day, renewing us inwardly.
If you don’t follow Jesus currently, may we ask you–Do you live your life on only one level (the material)? Do you sense dissatisfaction with the level of this life? (5:4) It’s because you were not made to simply live on a physical, temporary level. You were made to live on the level of the intersection between physical and spiritual, forever. God sent Jesus to show us the way to find that life, and when he was raised from the dead, he proved that anyone who trusted him could have that life.