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Four reasons not to lose heart.

2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1

In 2 Corinthians 4:1, the beginning of this section, Paul writes, “We do not lose heart”
And here (4.16), “We do not lose heart”

The audio of this talk can be found here

It is understandable why he might have lost heart.

For the sake of Jesus Christ, of the good news, Paul suffered terrible affliction.
He has already written in this chapter of how he has been afflicted, driven to despair, persecuted, beaten down.
So why continue? Why speak?

And for us?
I suspect that many of you here have been followers of the Lord Jesus for many years
Why bother?
Why do you continue to come to church? There are so many other things you could be doing on a Sunday morning. 
Why do you continue to try to say your prayers? 
Why do you try to continue to live a life ‘worthy of the calling that you have been called to?’ 
Why do you – if you do – speak of Jesus Christ to others, even though it means that they think you a bit of a fanatic or funny in the head?

I notice from our gospel reading (Mark 3:20-35) that his family thought Jesus was mad and the religious leaders of the day accused him of being possessed by evil.

Paul speaks of four reasons why he does not lose heart.

1. Because he has a deep conviction in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

“We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence”. 2 Corinthians 4:14

Paul’s conviction comes from two sources.

The first is the message that he heard from those who saw the risen Jesus for themselves
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” And he goes on to list the people who saw the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

The second was his own personal experience
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:8)

People sometimes hear of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus when he was blinded by light and heard the Lord Jesus speaking to him – and they say, ‘I would believe if I had such an experience’.

I would warn you. Usually – not always – it seems to me that the people who are given the most dramatic ‘experiences’ of the risen Jesus are often the people who God will then lead through the fire.

I think of Barbara. She told me that she was at the communion rail, and suddenly saw in front of her the Lord Jesus. She said, "He was standing there, as real as you are, so real that I could reach out and touch him". Three weeks later her daughter committed suicide. 
I don’t think that the two are unconnected. God was giving her grace to prepare her for what she was going to go through.

And Paul – read 2 Corinthians 11 to discover what he went through - did not lose heart because he had a deep conviction in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead.

2. He did not lose heart because of the love that God had given him for people.

Paul writes, “He will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God”. (2 Corinthians 4.14f)

It has become fairly de rigueur for people to say that they don’t like St Paul. I wish people would actually read what he says and realise that he is writing 2000 years ago!

Yes, he was probably difficult to be with, and incredibly mission focussed and driven. But he had a passion for God, for Jesus Christ and for people. And he longed that people would come to know the love of God (in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 he is pouring out his soul), so that they would know intimacy with God, the hope that God gives us, and joy.

And he wants to see people, all people, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, men and women (that was pretty radical in his day) drawn into this love of God, which leads to love for brothers and sisters in Christ and love for all. 

It is interesting that it is John – in his gospel and letters - who tends to focus on loving other members of the Christian family, and it is Paul who longs for ‘those on the outside’ (to echo Mark 3.32) to be drawn to Jesus.

Pray that God gives us a love for others, because it is that which will drive us on even when there are great discouragements.

3. He does not lose heart because of his conviction in the transforming renewing power of God

I love 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

"So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal."

We have the outer nature and the inner nature
We experience slight momentary afflictions and wait for eternal glory
We look at not what is seen but what is unseen
We live in the temporary but we know that there is an eternal.

They are great verses for a funeral. Alison chose them for her mother's funeral.

They speak of the reality that this world is not all that there is. 
God is in the business of preparing us for the other world, the world that is there – but unseen – just through the curtain. 

It is like Philip Pullman’s Subtle Knife. I know he wrote those books to try and do a CS Lewis for atheism, but I fear for him that all he did was speak to our inner longing, inner intuition that there is another world – just there. And there are places - like here - where the connection between that world and this world are very very thin, and where we hear the singing of the angels.

Once a person is in Christ, has opened up to this other world, has allowed the Spirit to come into their lives, the Holy Spirit will work in us and will begin that work of inner transformation.
He is in the business of making us beautiful on the inside.

At times it will seem we are getting worse, more grumpy, more complaining, more opinionated, more self-centred (I’m speaking of myself) – but I thank God that the Holy Spirit continues to point it out to me (and sometimes uses my wife!) and, more to the point, gives me the longing to change, to become more full of praise, humbler and to want to love.

Someone said to me a couple of weeks ago, ‘There is so much suffering’. I’m speaking to you, but I am also speaking to many who find that. 
It is, as I suspect they were saying, often not our suffering but seeing the suffering of others. 

Our hope is that somehow, and we have to trust Him in this, if we let Him, then God does use our momentary afflictions to renew our inner being, to prepare us for heaven, for being in his presence.

4. Paul does not lose heart because he has a vision of sharing in the glory of God

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

In verse 15 Paul writes that the grace of God as it extends to more people, including them, drawing them in, increases thanksgiving, to the glory of God
Now he speaks of the eternal weight of glory which is being prepared for us.

CS Lewis wrote a quite remarkable essay called The Weight of Glory.

You can find my sermons on this website and I’ve included a link to the text of what he writes there. My sermon is probably not worth reading, but his sermon is!

Lewis speaks of glory as joy, which comes from the recognition of God, the praise of God, the ‘well done you good and faithful servant’, and he speaks of glory as sharing in the brightness, radiance, splendour of God.

He warns us that if we are simply seeking our own glory then that is destructive, but if we remember that little word ‘us’ – 'he is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory' – and we recognise that others can be glorified with us – then it changes everything.

Lewis writes:
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. 
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

My brothers and sisters, take heart because

Jesus Christ rose from the dead
God is pouring out his love into our hearts
We are being transformed even through our suffering
We are being prepared for an eternal weight of glory.


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