2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Every sermon has a theme. And because the preacher wants his listeners to remember the theme, he will try to be creative. My theme this morning isn’t clever. It isn’t creative. It isn’t original. I took it word for word out of the text. “We Believe, Therefore We Speak.”
No apologies to the Apostle Paul for stealing his theme because it didn’t originate with him either. In our text, Paul was quoting 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 gratefulness 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 knew exactly how the psalmist 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 the troubles, in spite of the dangers, even in the midst of the most severe trials, Paul trusted in God. So 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).
We feel the same way. Our faith is built on the same foundation. So along with the psalmist, and along with Paul, we say, “We Believe, Therefore We Speak.” Paul teaches us that 1. Death will give way to live. 2. Trouble will give way to glory. And 3. Time will give way to eternity. Since this is what we know and believe, we therefore, speak.
1. One of the things that can trouble Christians at a funeral, viewing a lifeless body and wondering how the lifeless body cnd possibly live again. Another thing that is troubling at a funeral is knowing that we all have to go through this process, unless Jesus comes before we go one by one. It’s a pretty harsh preaching of the law just to see a body in a casket. And the reason we die is that we are sinners. Sinners die. Sinners die because they deserve to die. “The wages of sin is death.” There would be no death if there was no sin. No one would die is he wasn’t sinful.
But Paul says that death will give way to life. And 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).
Some of Jesus’ followers went to the tomb on Easter morning to give him a proper burial, but they never had the chance, because when they got the tomb they realized that his body wasn’t there. The stone was rolled away. The open tomb revealed and empty tomb. The 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 celebrations don’t stop there. And the resurrections won’t stop there either. “The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.”
How did Paul know that? How did he know that he wouldn’t just stay dead?
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.
So, the body in the grave, or body which ashes have been scattered, is made alive when Jesus returns, the Bible says. The sinner dies, but because the blood of Jesus is the price God accepted for the guilt of the world, death is not the end of life. No, it is the beginning of life in heaven. So, we ache and cry at the loss of a loved one, but death is really the avenue to a better life with Jesus in heaven.
Paul couldn’t keep this good news to himself. He believed, and so 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 four 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.
T. “Therefore we do not lose heart” (16). We do not lose heart because death will give way to life. And we do not lose heart because trouble will give way to glory.
2. “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. There were long nights and long hours. There were thousands of miles of travel. And then there were “the marks of Jesus.” Did people notice scars on his face from being stoned? Did people see bruises on his body?
On the outside Paul could be in pretty rough shape, but the inside was a different story. Sticks and stones were able to break his bones and skin, 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: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (17).
The word for “troubles” carries the idea of “weight” or “pressure.” We talk about the gravity of the situation. “Troubles” is described as a heavy burden. But according to Paul our weights are light. And momentary.
Think of life as a scale. On one side is 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, every harsh word, every cold stare, each persecution, everything that you would label troublesome or burdensome in your entire life, and put it in that tray. You need a pretty big tray.
As God looks down into the pan, do you know what he sees? A feather. And do you know what’s on the other side of the scale? All the eternal glory that awaits you and I is put on the other side of the scale, and it is heavy. So heavy, it is impossible to measure. The arrow spins round and round. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (17).
Whenever Paul talks about bearing the cross, whenever he encourages Christians to bear up in midst 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. He doesn’t suggest or promise quick fixes.
T. 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.
3. “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). Would you go back to a doctor is he said, “Now there is a spot on your lung, or your brain, but don’t focus on your spot.” I’m guessing you would rightly lose confident in such a doctor.
But this is what Paul is saying. It is very easy to focus all our attention on this world, but this world is not our final destination. This is a stop along the way. And so God 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 the perfect vision of faith, we can see a place where there is no more sickness and sadness. With perfect vision of faith, we can see all of our loved ones who died in faith. With perfect vision, we can see the places God has prepared for us in heaven.
The Bible is a big book, thousands of pages long. It can be intimidating, but at its heart and core it comes down to this. The Lord raised Jesus from the dead, and his resurrection guarantees our resurrection. Death will give way to life. Trouble will give way to glory. And time will give way to eternity. This is the hope we have. This is the hope we have to share. Along with Paul, we believe, therefore we speak. Amen.