First Mennonite Church
September 17, 2023
We Do Not Lose Heart!
Text: 2Corinthians 4:1-18
“So we do not lose heart.” This opening statement in our passage speaks volumes about everything in life. Why? Because there is a world of things that can easily make any person lose heart, hope, confidence, and optimism. Just take a look at the situation of the nations—there are wars, corruption, and crisis after crisis. People are suffering from all kinds of natural disasters. I do not have to rehash what is happening here at the national level. It is just disheartening! Besides that, there is the unyielding inflation, tough job market, rampant urban crime, and so on.
But let’s look closer. Look at the housing situation in our county. It was reported this week that those most affected are young families who are being priced out of the housing market. But now let’s talk in personal terms. The church. We do not have to read the Pew Report to know what is happening inside churches regarding attendance. The number of those who call themselves “nones,” the non-affiliated to religion, only keeps growing. Even, at times, the faithful miss attending church, some because of obligations and others because of opportunities. Regarding ourselves, if you are over 45, you also know what begins to happen with your body. And the list of things and reasons for which it is so easy to begin to lose heart is countless.
No. I did not forget that I was preaching and not doing journalism. And that was exactly what Paul was doing. He was presenting how the life of faith should be lived in a world where it is so easy to lose heart. The people of faith have a different perspective on life in this world. So, we do not lose heart!
Paul begins by saying, “rather than to pretend not being affected by things happening around us, or of sharing the same perspective of what is happening like those who do not have faith, ‘On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’” We honestly address life and speak of life’s vicissitudes, yet from a different light. We speak of life in the light of our faith in God.
The gift of faith we have received, which Paul says we have received by God’s mercy, is what gives us a whole new perspective of life in this world, filled with all kinds of reasons we can lose heart. Paul declares that such a vision of life is impossible for those who are blinded by the god of this world. And the unfortunate result is that they are perishing and they do not realize it. However, for the believer, the God who said “let there be light, has also shone into their hearts, giving them the knowledge of the glory of God in the presence of Christ Jesus.” That means we have been given the power to see the world and everything in it, from the vantage point of view of the resurrected Lord. We see life—even death, from the perspective of Jesus and his resurrection. And that, my brothers and sisters, makes a world of difference in how we see the world in comparison to those who do not have faith. Yet, it is only by the mercy of God, not because we are smarter or better.
But this gift of God, the perspective of faith, the treasure of God has been placed “in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Paul declares that God’s power dwells and operates in fragile human vessels. The presence of God, which gives a new perspective and hope in this life and beyond, is experienced in the fragility of our being, our human body. Thus, even when we are “hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed, and are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” So, no matter what comes in life, we do not lose heart. Or as Paul would say to the Romans, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:13).
We see the world, the church, and our lives from the perspective of faith; hence, we do not lose heart.
Regarding this earthly life, Paul honestly confesses, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Even as we grow old, even as we begin to see signs of physical decline, we know that there is still something pending. In the midst of everything that’s happening with the potential of making us lose heart, God is working behind the scenes. While something is falling apart outwardly, God is making something new in the inside. While the world and all of the creation seem going in the wrong way, the one who subjected it to frustration is the same one who will “liberate from its bondage to decay and bring it into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). A day will come when the Lord will declare, “Behold I make new all things” (Revelations 21:5). So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
In verse 14, Paul declares that through our faith we can speak this way, “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself on the day of our full redemption.”
What we have here before our eyes shows that God’s fullest intent in creating us, as fragile as we are, is to make out of us a living depot of his glorious treasure. God is displaying through you and me what he has in store for the future. God has placed his treasure in us, earthen vessels—in our mortal flesh. Despite our fragility, God honors us by making us bearers of his power and glory. We, therefore, can celebrate the awesome blessings of life and joy, even in the face of pain and limitations. We can live in faith and hope for things not seen yet because of God’s truthfulness. We are confident he will never put us to shame, as Paul says in Romans. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. . . And the one who believes in him will never be put to shame (Romans 5:5, 9:33).
We only need to live each day in ways that honor the One who fills us with honor. We only have to live one day at a time responding to his call to love and care for others as we love and care for ourselves. We only need to live the freedom of his forgiveness as we free those who sin against us. And all of this is possible because God’s light has shone into our hearts and we have been empowered to see life in a different light and so, we do not lose heart. Amen!