Thursday, March 24
Reader: “For the things we see now will soon be gone,”
Response: “but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Scripture: 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
This has to be one of the most encouraging passages in all of Scripture! God is making an eternal body for you and me! Paul is the author here and in the earlier part of this letter he explained why he will never give up preaching the gospel because of the glory converted souls bring to the glory of God. Then we arrive at today’s passage as it begins with “That is why I never give up.”
Those are also good words for us. No one would doubt that there is great consternation in our world. There is much fear among many people regarding diseases. There is certainly political unrest. There is widespread lack of trust toward governments. Among several denominations there are theological conflicts and division. Racial unrest is fanned. Christianity, the nuclear family, sexuality, and marriage are all under attack. Parts of technology are straining for control of people’s lives. International conflicts abound . . . In contrast to all of this, we have the above message from Paul 2,000 years ago that is a message for today. With the exception of today’s level of technology, the other things mentioned were present in Paul’s day as well!
The perspective he spelled out here should be read every day! We are all aging, even the body of an eight year old. We age to physical maturity and then we continue to wear down growing old to the point of death. Cheery thoughts, aren’t they? But the glory is our spirits do not wear out. They can be renewed daily by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our spirits don’t have to age, they can continue to grow and mature! We’ve all met elderly people in their 90’s whose spirits are in their 30’s! God has given to them the big picture to view, one that is “out of this world!”
How dare Paul say our “troubles are small and won’t last very long?” He is writing not from a human perspective but from God’s perspective. The ultimate conclusion of his (and our) focus is not to be on the seen circumstances which press in on us today. All of the great concerns surrounding us will pass soon away. Do you remember the great concern and some pretty foolish reactions as to what would happen when the calendar turned from 1999 to 2,000? Or all the current doomsday predictions regarding the end of the planet or life as we know it? We’ve already forgotten the K2 worries!
Paul fleshes out the ramifications in the last portion of today’s reading. He has begun this section talking about how our earthly bodies are fading but then describes our heavenly, our eternal bodies, the ones God makes! In this pericope Paul answers a question many people have, “In heaven will we just be floating spirits? What will we be like?” The answer. We will have new bodies made by God, bodies impervious to aging. We will not be floating ethereal spirits.
It’s interesting that Paul uses the image of our bodies being tents. You’ll recall God housed himself in the tent of the Tabernacle in the desert. John talks about Jesus “tabernacling” among us. (John 1:14) In an earlier letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to our bodies as temples indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God’s guarantee that this is all going to take place when “our earthly tent is taken down.” (I Cor.6:19) What is the most important factor in the housing market? Location, location, location. The location of our new home changes (heaven in God’s presence). God is our realtor (he’s chosen the perfect location), our banker (he’s covered all the cost), and our builder (he’s created and prepared the place for us). His grace has covered it all. All glory to God!
Music: “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus” Robert Shaw Festival Singers
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at last through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―John Henry from Guideposts Prayers for Easter, p.102
A Bonus Prayer!
Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older, and will some day be old. Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details—give me wings to come to the point. I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains—they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.
—attributed to a seventeenth-century nun, though actually of unknown origin,
Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.53