“Do Not Lose Heart!”
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1, June 6th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Let us open our ears and hear the words of the Apostle Paul, as written in his letter to the church in Corinth, from Second Corinthians, chapter four, starting at verse thirteen and continuing on to chapter five, verse one.”
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture – “I believed, and so I spoke” – we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence.
15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,
18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
“Having listened to the words of this letter, which Paul wrote to a young struggling church, let us see if we can pull a current message out of these words to enhance our own journeys of faith.”
“Do Not Lose Heart!”
During these last couple weeks, I have been working at restoring the old shed out behind our home. I put two layers of a sealant on the roof, hoping to stop the leaks. It does look good now. I continued and repainted the outside also. It also looks good. Then Lois helped me sweep out the inside and then I started painting the wooden two by fours that hold the structure together. In the middle of the job, I realized there are two boards that have rotted and need replacing. I must confess, I felt very depleted and discouraged after putting so much effort into the project. Lois suggested I take a break for a bit and work on something else. Which I am doing. As the last few days have gone by, other, more meaningful events have taken place. Like our son and family beginning their journey to Eugene Oregon. The shed just needs a couple two by fours replaced and some clean up followed by a coat of paint. Our son and family have a long trip ahead of them, with a slew of unknowns to be uncovered. Many of these will be more significant than the repair of an old shed!
As we move into the message contained in our reading today, we hear Paul giving some advice as he speaks to them about worldly things verses heavenly promises. He also is working to build up their hopes with his words. Which is always a good idea when working with others. In business settings they call that a morale booster. It is often an issue of building up confidence and self-esteem. Clearly, those hearing Paul’s writings looked up to him, they respected his opinions and listened to his teachings. If this were not true, they would not have listened to him, and surely his letters would have never been published and studied as they are! Imagine, if you can, just for a moment, how hard it must have been for those early struggling churches. They were pioneers in what they were doing. It was the first church they had ever started; and following Jesus’ teachings were fraught with new concepts to deal with every step of the way. Not to mention they were oppressed by the local religious leaders of the Hebrew nation which Jesus and his first disciples and Apostles came from. We all, also know the tyranny of the Roman soldiers as they were the ones who executed Jesus. Surely, there were many opportunities to become discouraged with their efforts. Unquestionably there were many, a great many, opportunities to ‘Lose Heart’ as they moved through numerous human struggles.
A theologian named Janet H. Hunt asks us a leading question to help us begin bridging the gap between the plight of these ancient folks and us, here in the modern world we find ourselves in. Her question begins closing the gap between their disappointments and our own. “What in your life, your community, your congregation is most likely to cause you to ‘lose heart?'” Last week, for me, it was finding the two rotten pieces of lumber in my shed. We each can come up with something that did not go ‘quite the way’ we thought it was supposed to go. Perhaps not a shed, yet we all have our projects, big and small, that hit a snag and we are forced to step back, calm ourselves, if need be, and reevaluate how to move ahead once again. I have simply shared my dilemma with a couple friends and already I am envisioning the next steps I will endeavor to take. Thus, I am getting new hope of getting the task completed. The question before us today, is: “what is causing you to lose your center, your equilibrium, your balance within your life? Any project manager, worthy of their title, knows that when a new obstacle comes up, they first must clarify what it is and what the ramifications of it are before they can decide how to deal with it and move on. The same goes for our faith journeys and our struggles within our personal and our communal lives. As we grapple with our challenges let us draw upon Paul’s words of encouragement.
OK, so we know the question and we know the answer. You do, we do! Whether you are ready to listen to yourself or not is your choice, but you do know what is important in your life. Parents put a lot of heart into their concern for the wellbeing of those they love. We all do. Homeowner’s value their home and work hard to keep if in proper condition. A leaky faucet or a broken water pipe, either of these can cause a lot of stress. An outer door’s seal that needs fixing or a window frame that is showing signs of weakness need ones’ attention as we Floridians head into our summer season. Storms, high winds and pounding rain are virtually guaranteed during these next six months. We know it is time to get these things under control. Stress begins to build as the days get longer and hotter! “So, we do not lose heart.” /2 Corinthians 4:16a/ Paul urges his listeners to hang in there! Help is on the way! Paul understands the difference between the spiritual realm of the heavenly promises of God through Christ, and the stumbling blocks of human realities! Thus, his message takes us to speaking of this dilemma, this predicament and problem.
Listen across the timeless ages’ past, to the words of the Apostle Paul. “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” /2 Corinthians 4:16b/ Paul is urging his listener to not lose sight of the ultimate goals of our journeys of faith. Without a doubt, what makes human life have its deeper meaning is our connection to our faith journey’s. We must cling to this, or our worldly troubles will overwhelm us! Every day, you, and me, we age, we get older. Every ache, every pain and every blemish remind us of our mortality and humanness. Paul says it plainly enough: ‘our outer nature is wasting away’. My shed, even with a fresh coat of paint and sealant… is getting older. The rotted two by four cross beams make this all too evident. As the molars in my mouth have gone bad and been repaired, drilled, capped, and finally pulled, my body is aging. It cannot be denied. Our denial will not reverse the process of aging. Yet! Paul lifts us up by reminding us all – reminding us that “our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” Recognition of ‘renewal’ in our lives is crucial to our spiritual being! It is, what ‘is’ inside us, inside ‘us’ is our inner nature and that is most important! Do not lose heart! Our Inner natures are growing and being strengthened – this needs to be our ultimate focus! Storage sheds will come and go. Yet, the desire to care for the wellbeing of our families and loved ones, is a spiritual asset that shall continue to grow and grow!
Verse fifteen of our reading is a powerful reminder of what it means to have our Triune God on our team; the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The Captain of our Team to be more precise! Every good leader has multiple personalities and attributes to offer. I am your Pastor, Lois’ Husband, Father to our children and brother to my five siblings. A mother may also be many different personalities as well: she may be a police office, a soldier, a nurse; as well as a wife, and a parent of children that need her love and kindness. Thankfully, we have our God and we have come to know God in three differing ways, yet, like a mother, or a father our God is but ‘One’! Paul wants to be sure that, we, his listeners understand that all of God’s personifications are on our side! Having joined this community of faith we come together on a common quest: our ‘Spiritual Journeys, our faith journeys. Which are fueled by our trust and faith in our understanding of God! Paul exhorts his listeners to hear his words of reassurance. Because we have chosen to follow in the teachings of Jesus, because we have accepted the leading of the Holy and Living Spirit of God, because of all this there are certain benefits we are entitled too! When we join a company or a club or a community of faith, we inherit certain advantages! Listen again to Paul’s words. “Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” /2 Corinthians 4:15/
Let us take a moment to break down this compound statement form Paul’s writing in verse fifteen. Yes, everything is for your sake,” says Paul. Thereby we can be reassured of God’s faithfulness to our wellbeing! Paul goes on to say, “so that grace”, we all know that grace is how we are redeemed. God lovingly forgives and gives us a fresh start, every time we seek the mercy which God offers to us one and all! Because of this we can be the conduits that pass on, pass forward God’s grace and love to others. Thus, God’s mercifulness, kindness, and compassion, grows and grows as it extends and is given to more and more people. We all have so much to be thankful for, therefore let us each strive to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to God, every day! When we find ourselves losing heart, let us be reminded of this lesson. Thereby allowing us to live our lives to the glory of God!