Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 31 2013 - 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 – Seeing the unseen

Paul has been speaking to the Corinthians of the costs of his ministry. As we saw yesterday, he has seen the glory of Christ and longs that others might come to see what he has seen and come to a knowledge of the living God. Paul has travelled the Mediterranean world, intent upon sharing this treasure. This has proved no easy task. This is how he describes it in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12: “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 always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

What keeps Paul going when he faces such trials and discouragements? “We fix our eyes”, he says, “not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:18). Paul’s life and conduct are shaped by unseen realities. He is not living for present comfort but for future glory. He has his eyes fixed upon Christ and the glory that will be his when Christ appears. So he lives by faith and not by sight (5:6). His goal is to please his Lord in everything he does, whether in life or in death. His decisions and actions are shaped by the knowledge that he will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to hear his Lord’s verdict on his life and receive the reward that flows from the use he has made of all that Christ has given him (5:10).

This is what keeps Paul going. He does not lose heart, even though he feels himself wasting away (4:16). He remains confident in his ministry and makes it his constant goal to please Christ (5:6,8). He considers the trials and persecution that he faces “light and momentary troubles” for they “are achieving … an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (5:17).

I find these words of the Apostle a tremendous challenge. To what extent does the unseen world to come shape my present life and conduct? Have I become too comfortable with this present age and detuned to eternal issues? I need to be reminded that this present age, with all its fashions and treasures, is passing away – like an old and broken clay jar. That does not mean that this present world is unimportant. On the contrary, through the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ God has affirmed his love and purpose for this present creation. His intention is not for its destruction but for its preservation, transformation and glorification – “that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”. It means that I am to have the eye of my faith fixed upon that world to come and to be living for that world and not for present satisfaction. I am to invest in what will last.

We pray that God’s kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There are costs to the work of the kingdom. It cost Jesus his life. He calls us to follow him; to die with him so that his resurrection life may touch and transform the lives of others.

Lord, help me to live by faith and not by sight. Help me to have my eyes fixed on Jesus and, in all things, to live to please him who lived and died and lives for me. May eternity shape how I live now, even as how I now live shall shape eternity.

Peter Misselbrook