150614 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Theme: We Believe, Therefore We Speak

Every sermon has a theme. The purpose of a sermon theme is to engage the person in the pew, to stimulate thought, to leave God's people with something memorable, something meaningful, something they can take home with them when they leave.

Because the preacher attaches so much significance to his sermon theme, he will try to be creative as he develops it. The theme can take the form of a question or a statement or a command. It can rhyme. It can be alliterative. It can even sound like poetry.

The theme of this sermon is not poetic. It isn't very clever or creative. It isn't even original. I took it almost word-for-word from today's text. And you can see it printed in black and white in the bulletin: "We Believe, Therefore We Speak." But I will not apologize to the apostle Paul for stealing the theme because it didn't originate with him either. When Paul wrote these words to the Christians at Corinth, he was quoting the Old Testament, specifically Psalm 116.

The psalmist composed these verses after he had gone through a time of great affliction: "The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow" (3). This time of trouble was followed by a great deliverance: "You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling" (8).

And then the writer went on to express his gratitude for God's grace and mercy: "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me" (12)? "I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord" (17).

Paul didn't write Psalm 166, but he knew exactly how the writer felt. He had been stoned. He had been flogged. He had been thrown in jail. And time after time, the Lord had delivered him. In spite of all his troubles, in spite of the dangers, even in the midst of the most severe trials, Paul trusted in God. That is why he was proud to make the words of the psalmist his own: "'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With the same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak" (4:13).

Because there are days when we feel the same way, because our faith is built on the same solid foundation, maybe this isn't such a bad sermon theme after all. Along with the psalmist, along with Paul, with the same spirit of faith...

WE BELIEVE, THEREFORE WE SPEAK

I. Death will give way to life
II. Trouble will give way to glory
III. Time will give way to eternity

If you have ever attended a Christian funeral, if you have ever viewed a dead body in the casket, if you have ever wondered to yourself how that corpse can possibly come back to life, Paul has the answer. Death will give way to life because it already has: "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence" (14).

If you have ever scanned the obituary section of the paper, you have probably noticed that some death notices are very short. They don't list any family or friends, any accomplishments, any reasons why the deceased should be remembered. Instead, there is a single line: "Services were held." When I see those listings, it makes me kind of sad. I wonder if those people had any family, or if they had been given a proper burial.

Jesus was never given a proper burial, but it wasn't because no one cared about him. The women who went to the tomb to anoint his body were the first to discover an amazing truth, a fact that is no less amazing today. The stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. And an angel explained why: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said" (Matthew 28:6).

Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, but our celebration doesn't stop there, and the resurrections won't stop there either. Paul wrote: "The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus." How did he know that? How did he know that he wouldn't just stay dead? How could Paul be so sure that his grave wouldn't remain sealed forever? Where did he get this crazy idea that God would raise his dead body back to life the same way he raised Jesus?

Paul put his confidence in the one who called himself "the resurrection and the life." Paul believed Jesus when he said: "Whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:26). Jesus' promise was all the proof Paul needed to believe. And Paul couldn't keep this good news to himself. He believed, and then he spoke. And this is what he had to say: "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God" (15).

Paul didn't go on multiple missionary journeys to satisfy his thirst for adventure. Paul didn't risk life and limb to show the Lord how committed he was. Paul didn't preach the gospel wherever he went because he liked to hear himself talk. "All this is for your benefit," he told the Christians in Corinth. He wanted everyone to know what he knew. He wanted everyone to believe what he believed. He devoted his life to preaching and teaching so that others would hear and believe and be saved.

And if you judge by the numbers, Paul enjoyed great success. Because of his preaching, more and more people heard about Jesus. Because of his preaching, more and more people came to faith in Jesus. But before the Corinthians could sing Paul's praises, before anyone tried to canonize Paul for his life's work, he was quick to give credit where credit was due. Every soul in heaven is a testimony to God's grace. Every soul in heaven is an illustration of God's love. Every soul in heaven gives us one more reason to give God glory.

"Therefore we do not lose heart" (16). We do not lose heart because death will give way to life...and because trouble will give way to glory.

"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (16). Over time Paul's occupation had taken a toll on his body. Not just the late nights and long hours. Not just the thousands of miles of travel. Paul bore on his body what he called "the marks of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17), and he wasn't talking about Christian tattoos. When people met Paul for the first time, do you think they noticed the scars on his face from when he had been stoned? When Paul traveled from place to place, do you think he walked with a noticeable limp because of the brutal beatings he had endured?

On the outside Paul was in pretty rough shape, but the inside was a different story. Sticks and stones were able to break his bones, but they couldn't touch his inner being. God's Word renewed Paul's faith day by day. God's promises gave Paul the strength to meet the challenges of every new day. God gave Paul the conviction and the courage to say: "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (17).

This is one verse where the King James Version (KJV) is a little closer to the original. It reads: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." The Greek word for "affliction" carries the idea of "weight" or "pressure." This isn't all that unusual. We use similar phrases in English. We talk about the gravity of the situation. A problem is sometimes described as a heavy burden.

According to Paul there is something that carries a great amount of weight, but it isn't our troubles. They're light. They are only momentary. Only in heaven will we feel the full weight of...eternal glory.

Can you picture those round scales that hang in the produce section of the grocery store? You put your fruit or vegetables in the metal tray, and the weight of the food pulls down the chain that moves the arrow and tells you how much your food weighs.

I want you to think of every sickness that made you feel miserable, every disease that took someone from you, everything that ever stressed you out, every problem that made you lose sleep at night, every time you struggled, every time you cried, everything that you would label as troublesome or burdensome in your entire life, and put it in that tray. Do you need a bigger tray?

When God looks down into the pan, do you know what he sees? A single feather. And then do you know what God does? He goes into his pocket and pulls out the eternal glory that awaits you and me and all believers, and he puts it in the tray. It's like a lead brick, a brick that is so heavy it makes the arrow spin round and round. The weight of that glory is so heavy that it is impossible to measure.

That is only an illustration. That illustration is one person's weak attempt to put heavenly glory into human terms: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (17).

There is a lesson for us in those words. Whenever Paul talks about bearing the cross, whenever he encourages Christians to bear up under suffering, he doesn't say it could be worse. He doesn't make an empty promise that everything will be okay. He doesn't offer temporary solutions or quick fixes. He looks beyond this life. He looks beyond this world. He looks ahead to the Last Day, the day when death will give way to life, the day when trouble will give way to glory, the day when time will give way to eternity.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (18). Talk about a paradox. What would you think about your eye doctor if he told you to focus on something that wasn't there? You might lose confidence in him. You probably wouldn't go back to him.

This is exactly what Paul is saying, so why should we listen to him? That is what God is saying, so why should we listen to his Word? Because God knows. God knows how easy it is to focus all our attention on what we can see. God know how easy it is to fixate on the here and now. God knows how easily we forget that this world is not our final destination, but only a stop along the way.

And so God sometimes does things to get our attention, to get us to lift our noses from the grindstone, to get us to look up. Not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith. And Jesus is the lens that helps us see everything clearly. With perfect vision, we can see a place where there is no more sickness and sadness. With perfect vision, we can see all our loved ones who have died in faith. With perfect vision, we can see the places God has prepared for us in heaven.

The Bible is a big book, hundreds of pages and thousands of verses long. Some passages can be a bit confusing, but at its heart and core the message of the Bible is as simple as this. God raised Jesus from the dead, and his resurrection guarantees our own resurrection. Death will give way to life. Trouble will give way to glory. Time will give way to eternity. This is the hope we have. This is the hope we have to share. Amen.

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