2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke. We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.
16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.
5 We know that if the tent that we live in on earth is torn down, we have a building from God. It’s a house that isn’t handmade, which is eternal and located in heaven.
IN THE MIDST – Don’t we live all our life there - in the midst of the good and the bad? We are in the midst of family and friends. We are in the midst of challenges and adventures. We found ourselves seriously during the pandemic. In the midst there were job losses, economic pressures, isolation, depression, and an increased suicide rate, and so much more. What did we rely upon while we were in the midst? Then there is the toll time takes on the body. In the midst of living, our bodies sometimes take a beating, resulting in parts breaking or just wearing out. There is the ever-present possibility of disease. Beyond the personal aspects of living in the midst there is the turmoil of society. It seems that not a day goes by without stories of violence, greed, carelessness, and hatred. We live in the midst of a broken world as well as a beautiful world – the one that God created. In the midst … .
The first point I’d like to make is “Not giving up!” Why not become jaded and cynical?! The Psalmist says it beautifully. Psalm 138:7-8 “Whenever I am in deep trouble, you make me live again; you send your power against my enemies’ wrath; you save me with your strong hand. 8 The Lord will do all this for my sake. Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord! Don’t let go of what your hands have made.” When we are in the midst, remember that God is with us. He won’t let go of what he has created. Hear a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians. Paul says, “But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. (2 Co. 4:7-9) Don’t you love the way he says it?!
Then, from our passage this morning in verse 16, this time from The Message by Eugene Peterson. “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” We have an amazing God who cares for us – in every time, place, situation – in every way. We don’t give up!
Second, Paul paints a picture of a very different frame of reference for living. It centers around the temporary versus the eternal. Often, we can find ourselves weighed down by something that will not last. Instead of seeing God’s bigger picture, we focus on a momentary or temporary setback. Paul says in verse 17, “Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.” Verse 18 extends the frame of reference to include what is seen and what is unseen. We can sometimes focus only on what is seen – the difficulty, the tragedy, the hurt – and forget that there is an amazing God standing with us. Communion is a wonderful image of the seen and unseen. The bread and cup are visible and tangible. Yet, standing behind the visible elements is the unmistakable presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit right with us!. Finally, in 5:1 he uses an image of tents and buildings. This life is compared to living in a tent – movable and certainly not impervious to the elements. The ultimate life with God is described as a building, handmade by God – made to withstand anything that comes along. Again, the The Message 5:1 reads like this: “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again.”
The third point I’d like to make is about the cause-and-effect relationship we find in our passage. .
I intentionally started this sermon later in our passage to sharpen the image of what we believe. Paul, however, starts out with our belief, and our response (v. 13-14). “I had faith, and so I spoke. (quoting scripture) We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you.” It is a cause-and-effect kind of relationship. Our relationship with God reminds us that God will raise us in the midst - not always out of the midst, but always raise us up. There will always be grace for us in the midst – grace that enables us to live with confidence and assurance. Then, there is another cause and effect. This grace God gives is also for others through us. Hear verse 15 again: “15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.” Grace present in us is shared with others around us, leading them into grace and gratitude.
An image comes to mind of ripples in a pond. On a beautiful calm day, you can toss a stone into a pond and watch the ripples extend as far as you can see. They affect whole pond. Skipping rocks across the surface of the water – one of my favorite childhood activities - multiplies the ripple patterns. It was always my aim to see how many skips I could get. The ripples of each skip begin intersecting, amplifying, creating beautiful patterns on the water. Even when the water is turbulent you can see how the ripples can break a cap or effect the water’s surface. In life, the actions of one can make a huge difference in the life of another. Our faith skipped across the waters in the midst can make a difference, causing grace to spread, thanksgiving to grow, and God’s glory to be revealed and multiplied. Paul is saying we have a responsibility – dare I say an obligation – to speak of the faith that brings grace in the midst of our lives.
I’d like to draw a couple of conclusions. The first conclusion actually comes from The Message in 5:5 (after our passage) – “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.” We’ll never settle for less than God’s grace in the midst. We know it’s there, and we will always watch for it to lift us up. So, I ask: what are some of those bits of heaven that we have seen in our lives in the last week? Have we been watching for them?
The second conclusion comes from Ernest Best. Referencing the interchange of spiritual benefit between members of the church, he says, “More generally it means that every Christian by faithfully enduring affliction builds up other Christians in life and joy.” The grace we receive in the midst of life is a beacon to those around us. The grace they receive is a beacon to us.
So, another question: How have I shared grace in the midst of life with others this last week. Is there someone or some situation into which God is leading me to bring His grace? Name it! Do it! Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman