(2 Corinthians 4: 1-18)
There’s a dark and a troubled side of life. There’s a bright and a sunny side too. Though you meet with the darkness and strife, the sunny side may also find you. Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we keep on the sunny side of life. In 1899 Ada Blenkhorn was inspired to write this hymn by a phrase used by her nephew who was disabled and always wanted his wheelchair pushed down “the sunny side” of the street. The musically famous Carter Family learned of the song from A.P. Carter’s uncle who was a music teacher. The Carters recorded the song in 1928 and it became their theme song on the radio in later years. You may remember the song as performed by The Whites in the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? In any event, verse one tells us that there’s a dark and a troubled side of life, but there’s also a bright and sunny side too. There may be times in your life when you are met with darkness and strife, but not to worry, the sunny side may also find you. You just have to have hope that what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
And that’s what I take from our scripture reading for this morning. The Apostle Paul has written another letter to the church in Corinth. Paul and his ministry have come under attack and there are those out there who want to discredit him for their own gain. They want to cast doubt on the gospel and Paul’s teachings. He starts out this part of the letter by saying; Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. He’s talking about that dark and troubled side of life where you meet with darkness and strife. There are people out there who, for whatever reason, want to make things difficult for you. It may be jealousy, envy, spite, or pure meanness; or it may be based upon race, class, nationality or ethnicity. It may be done just so the other person can elevate themselves at the expense of devaluing you. Paul talks about our gospel being obscured to where some who hear it do not understand the message because they have a veil over their eyes. They are blinded by the world, the god of this age, and all it seems to offer. They are blinded with incomprehension about the saving and transforming knowledge in the new covenant and glorious gospel of Christ. The bright and sunny side. Paul reminds his readers that we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. He reminds us that it was God who said; Let light shine out of darkness; and made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. That light will help us every day and it will brighten all the way in which we go in God’s service.
Verse two says; Oh, the storms and its fury broke today, crushing hopes that we cherish so dear. Clouds and storms will in time pass away, the sun again will shine bright and clear. The song writer is writing about one of those times when trouble broke upon him like a sudden storm with a fury that crushed cherished hopes, but he assures us that those clouds and storms are only temporary and, in time, will pass away yielding the sun again, shining bright and clear. Paul talks of this treasure we keep in jars of clay that shows that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us or anything we can do. The ordinary jars of clay are our mortal bodies, nothing special, but within us we possess this treasure from God, faith and hope. Paul says; We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We can do this because we carry around in us the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. That life, that “Son” Jesus Christ, will again shine bright and clear for everyone to see. Paul tells us that for we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. People will see Jesus in us by how we live our lives, by how we react to those sudden storms, how we are not crushed, do not despair, don’t feel abandoned, and are not destroyed. We weather the storm, the skies clear and the sun shines brightly once again with warmth and clarity.
Verse three says to; Let us greet with the song of hope each day, though the moment be cloudy or fair. Let us trust in our Savior always, who keepeth everyone in his care. The song writer is telling us that each morning when we get up, whether it is cloudy or fair, we greet the day with hope, trusting in Jesus who keeps us constantly in his care. And, Paul continues by saying; It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” (quoting Psalm 116: 10) With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because 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. 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. Paul’s telling us to embrace that trust we have in our Savior and speak, speak so that the grace we experience reaches more and more people so that they too will give thanks and glorify God. Have that song of hope on our hearts and lips as we go about our daily lives in his care.
Paul closes out this part of the letter by telling his readers not to lose heart. He says; Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. He tells us to 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. Keep on the sunny side of life and be renewed day by day by the assurance that you are a child of God. Your faith will help you every day with those light and momentary troubles. And, it will brighten all the way as you achieve that eternal glory of what is unseen, if you keep on the sunny side of life.
The focus of Paul’s preaching was Christ and not himself. So, when you witness, tell people about what Christ has done in your life, and not about what you’ve done by your abilities and personal accomplishments. People must be introduced to Christ, not to you. And, we must remember that we can be the best advertisement for a life in Christ. And, also the worst. Though we are weak, God uses us to spread his good news, and he gives us the power and the tools to do his work. Knowing that the power is his, not ours, should keep us from pride and motivate us to keep daily contact with God, our power source. Our responsibility is to let people see God through us and not in spite of us. Paul reminds us that though we may think we are at the end of our rope; we are never at the end of our hope. All our risks, humiliations, and trials are opportunities for Christ to demonstrate his power and presence in and through us for all to see. As we face great troubles, it’s easy to focus on the pain rather than on our ultimate goal. No matter what happens to us in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life, when all suffering will end, and all sorrow will flee away. Our lives should unquestionably exemplify that calm assurance and be a beacon to others in distress.
Our troubles should not diminish our faith or disillusion us in what we do in God’s service. We must realize that there is a purpose in our suffering, a reason for our being in Christ. We have to understand that our problems and human limitations have several benefits in advancing the kingdom to others. First, they remind us of Christ’s suffering for us, and they keep us from being prideful. They cause us to look beyond this life to the next life, allowing us to exhibit and prove our faith to others. And, they give God the opportunity to demonstrate his power enabling us to see our troubles as opportunities.
Knowing that we will live forever with God in a place without sin and suffering one day can help us live above the pain that we face in this life. It allows us to keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side of a life that will help us every day, brightening all our way as we keep on the sunny side of a life in Jesus Christ.
Please pray with me.
Gracious and loving God, how we thank you for the life we have in you and for the assurance we have that what we see is temporary, but what we don’t see is eternal. This faith we have in your son, Jesus Christ, is our hope for a future with you in eternity. We take comfort in knowing that the dark and troubled sides are only momentary and that through your love there is always a bright and sunny side. We know that the clouds and storms will pass, and we will be warmed by your bright and shining countenance. Each day let us sing the song of hope we have in our hearts secure in our Savior’s ways that keep us in his ever-watchful care. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.