It’s What Gets Us Out of Bed

(2 Corinthians 4: 13-5: 1)


You hear a lot of people say they don’t “do” Facebook or that they’ve unfriended some of their friends who have posted things they don’t believe in or have greatly offended them on some level.  I get that and there are a few folks I have stopped following and even unfriended because they are so far out there, I don’t want anyone else looking at my list of friends and seeing them.  But for me, it’s more like watching a train wreck.  As horrible as it may be, you can’t look away and, besides, it gives me great fodder for sermons.


Case in point, last week I got a “twofer” as in two for the price of one, when not one but two of my acquaintances posted via the internet their unsolicited opinions on the existence of God, or more correctly, the non-existence of God.  One was on Facebook and the other was a mass email.  The email actually came to Teresa who had previously asked this person to remove her from his list of contacts due to many of his unsolicited opinions she did not care to know.  Nevertheless, he proceeded to expound upon the theory of evolution and the fact that the Adam and Eve story was authored by people who had no scientific knowledge and then pointed to a thesis written by a scientific scholar as support.  Great, I appreciate that, even when you consider men of science long ago also believed the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.  I am relieved that science is willing to admit its mistakes and ignorance when they’ve discovered the actual truth.  The Facebook post was a meme that said: Here’s A List of Scientific Discoveries That Were Later Poven Wrong by Religion: and then had numbers one through ten going down the left side of the page with nothing written after them.  Clever, and thanks for sharing.  But do you know what one of the many things science has not been able to prove?  The non-existence of God.  Unlike the learned men and women of science and my Facebook posters, we believe in what we cannot see.  That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.


And that’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning.  He’s talking about what we can’t see but know exists because of our faith.  We pick up where we left off last week where Paul had written to the church in Corinth regarding that awesome treasure that has been given us that we now keep in our earthenware bodies.  He says: 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.  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.  Paul is confident through his hardships, the ones he previously mentioned that we learned about last week, that this life is not all there is.  He maintains a firm hope of participating in the future resurrection of all believers in Christ. He knows that all of the sufferings, trials, and distress he faced as he preached the Good News will one day pass and he would obtain God’s rest and rewards.  He reassures us that all of these things we suffer for the gospel are for our benefit and says: As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.  I think this is the Apostle’s way of saying that our efforts, even the ones that are not easy, are a benefit to those who experience them which results in a gratitude for what we do because we believe, and in the end it brings glory to God.

Paul then acknowledges the inherent difficulty and hardships that come with spreading the Good News.  As daunting and as thankless as it can be, we are not to get depressed.  He says that even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day.  He reminds us that our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.  Paul recognizes that the temporary burdens that weigh him down in this life do not even compare with the far more profound, immeasurable reward of eternal life and the glory it brings.  As his basis for this he says: 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.  It’s as if he’s daring someone to prove to him that unseen things do not exist.  What proof do you have that defeats my faith?


Paul’s own body is beaten, worn down, and gradually decaying as he grows older, but his inner self, the self-reflecting “I” of his being, is continually being renewed.  It’s what gets him out of bed each and every morning.  What the Apostle’s life exemplifies for us is that as we face our troubles, both great and small, it’s easy to focus on the pain and suffering rather than on our ultimate goal of living a Christ-like life and doing what we can to spread the Good News.  Our Christian race is much like the athlete who concentrates on the finish line and ignores the discomfort knowing the satisfaction that comes from running a good race and crossing that finish line where the reward awaits.


What Paul is acknowledging here is that it is easy to lose heart and quit.  We all have faced problems in our relationships or in our work that have caused us to want to think about laying down the tools and walking away.  But rather than giving up when persecutions we can’t even imagine wore him down, Paul concentrated on experiencing the inner strength that only the Holy Spirit gives God’s faithful.  It’s Paul’s prayer that we not let fatigue, pain, or criticism force us from the task God has entrusted to us.  He prays that in the face of those obstacles that we prayerfully renew our commitment to serving Christ.


Yeah, but what about our learned men and women of science who don’t seem bothered by this stuff?  To them that’s just the way the ball bounces and they have the data to back it up.  Life just happens and you just have to deal with it and one day you’ll just be another skeleton for some future scientist to dig up.  Faith can’t stop any of this stuff from happening.  No, no it can’t, but our troubles should not diminish our faith or disillusion us.  The faithful, those who believe in what they cannot see, know that there is purpose in our suffering.  Our problems and human limitations have for us several benefits.  First, they remind us of Christ’s own suffering for us.  They keep us from pride; they cause us to look beyond this brief life; they prove our faith to others; and lastly; they give God the opportunity to demonstrate his power.  The faithful see these troubles as opportunities.  Our ultimate hope when we are experiencing terrible illness, persecutions, or pain is the realization that this life is not all there is, as the learned men and women of science would have you believe, that there is an unseen life after death.


Knowing that we will live forever with God in a place without sin and suffering can help us live above the pain we face in this life.  This is what Paul meant when he closed out this portion of his letter when he said: 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. And that, my friends, is what gets us out of bed each and every day.


Let us pray.


Gracious and loving God, life is difficult even on the best of days.  We live in a world beset on all sides by all sorts of ills and evil, the evil that men do for the sake of their own greed, power and selfishness.  They act the way they do because they think that is all there is to life, but we know different.  We have a hope and belief in what we do not see but know exists, that you are God and will stand by your promise to us of a life with you in eternity.  As difficult as life is, we know that one day we shall overcome our trials and tribulations, one day we will walk hand in hand, one day we shall all be free, one day we shall live in peace, that you will see us through, and we shall overcome some day.  In Jesus name, we pray, Amen.