We have been spending our year talking about having hope especially through difficult times. God wants us to have hope when we experience our hardships. We have talked about having hope after failure, hope in trials, hope when life does not go according to plan, hope when feeling alone, hope when anxious, hope when hopeless, and hope when tempted. Today we are going to talk about having hope when health fails. The text where we will spend most of our time is in 2 Corinthians 5. Our focus will be on verse 5. “Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.”(CSB) Purpose statements are very important. Corporations have vision and purpose statement to make sure that they do not lose sight of why they exist. When God gives us purpose statements, we need to slow down and learn what God is saying so that we do not lose sight of why we exist. So let’s look back and what we were made for and then consider what this means for how we live.
Breaking Bodies (4:7-18)
When we back up to the middle of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes the experiences he has gone through with his body. He afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and always carrying in the body the death of Jesus (4:8-10). In verse 11 he says that he is always being given over to death so that the life of Jesus can be seen. The point that I want us to see is that Paul is not referring to experiencing bad health because of old age. Rather, he is speaking of having bad health and physical difficulties for Jesus’ sake. Paul’s mentality is not that his health or his body needs to be preserved at all costs. Now I believe what Paul says about how we look at our failing bodies is applicable to experiencing old age or health issues. But I want us to realize that Paul is willingly and voluntarily giving his body over to death so that the life of Jesus can be proclaimed and observed in them. Paul even says that death is at work in him (4:12). We have read some of these things as we have studied through the book of Acts. Paul was constantly staring at the prospect of death. Paul endured so much for the sake of Jesus. So how did Paul continue? What kept Paul going when he was being given over to death? One would think he would give up. One would think that he would lose heart. But look at 2 Corinthians 4:16 where he declares that they do not lose heart.
Here is how they did not lose heart while experiencing persecution, physical suffering, and the prospect of death. First, while the outer self is wasting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day (4:16). He says in verse 18 that we are not looking to the things that are seen and temporary, but to the things that are not seen which are eternal. Our deteriorating bodies show that we were not meant to stay here. If this was all that life was about, then God would not have given us temporary bodies. I hope you hear that truth in Paul’s words. Paul speaks of an inner self and an outer self. The outer self is temporary because it is seen. The inner self is eternal for we cannot see it. The wasting away of our outer bodies is supposed to renew us inwardly. The breaking of our bodies is so that we will look to the eternal reality and not the physical which is temporary. The breaking of our bodies is intended for us to move our complete dependence on God. Paul says in verse 17 that the physical affliction they were enduring was preparing them for the eternal glory to come that is beyond all comparison. The wearing out of our physical bodies is an unavoidable outcome. No one is getting out of here alive, as much as we would like to think we are. Our bodies are going to break and our bodies are going to die. So we do not lose heart because the breaking of our bodies is supposed to happen. We do not lose heart because we are to give our bodies over to the Lord for his sake and service. Our hope is that our bodies are not intended to last. Our hope is that we are to offer up our bodies in service and sacrifice to the Lord, not to cling to these earthly bodies at all costs.
An Eternal House (5:1-5)
Our second hope is described in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5. We have something more than this body waiting for us. Paul says that we know that if the tent of our earthly body is destroyed, we have a building from God. Notice again the imagery of the temporary to the permanent. A tent is temporary but a building is permanent. We have an eternal body awaiting us. Consider how Paul frames this truth in verse 1. We know that we have a building from God, eternal in the heavens. This is not a possibility but a reality. We know that we have a new home when this tent is destroyed.
But there is a heart that is described in verse 2. Paul says that we groan to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. There is a picture of us looking forward to the time when the pain of these bodies and the weariness of this life is done so that we can be given our eternal homes. I hope we will think about what Paul says and see if our hearts match his longing. Is our longing to set these bodies aside so that we can receive what God has in store for us? Or is our longing to hope in these bodies, doing all that we can to protect and preserve what we have? Paul is able to sacrifice himself because he knows that this body is temporary and that there is something better waiting. This is where verse 5 comes in. We have been prepared for this very purpose. What is the purpose that we have been prepared for? We have been prepared for setting aside the mortal for the eternal.
Now think about how strange this sounds to our mortal ears. Paul says at the end of verse 4 is that our purpose is to have the mortal swallowed up by life. Would you not expect him to say that the mortal is swallowed up by death? You see how easy it is for us to look at this life backward. We think we are living now and then we will die. Paul says that you are dying now and then you will live. We were made to get rid of this body so that we can experience life. We are not losing life. We are gaining life. Let me say this another way: everything we do while we are in this body is to prepare us for life when we leave this body. God made us this way and made the world so that this would happen. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee for what is to come. If you believe that your sins are forgiven and you believe that you have been brought out of darkness and into light as his child, then you also have the same hope that it is life when we leave this body. We know we have a building from God. We know it and we long for it. We do not long for here. We do not long for this body. We long for the eternal body God has prepared for us. Our third hope is that life is coming.
A Walk of Faith (5:6-10)
In verses 6-10 Paul gives his fourth reason for hope and confidence. Our hope is that while we remain in this body we are away from the Lord. Things are going to be better on the other side of death, not worse. This is the time when we are far from God. We are not experiencing now the glory of being with the Lord. We are away from him. Notice again the heart that Paul has. He would rather be away from this body and home with the Lord. This is what he looked forward to. This is a great heart check for us. Would we rather be here or whether be there?
So Paul has put forward two important truths. Faith does not hold on to life at all costs. We read about Daniel, Daniel’s three friends, the apostles, Stephen, and so many of those who followed God and did not hold on to life at all costs. They were ready to give their lives. They had a hope that looked beyond this life and to the life to come.
The second important truth Paul gives us that the death is the goal of life. In fact, death is life. Mortality must be swallowed up by life. Separation from this body is necessary so that we are no longer separated from the Lord. So we walk by faith, not by sight. Sight says it is the end when the body dies. Faith says it is the beginning when the body dies.
Therefore we make it our aim to please the Lord because we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It is a simple equation that the apostle Paul gives to us. If we want for mortality to be swallowed up by life so that we are home with the Lord enjoying the building given to us by him, then we will stop making it our aim to please ourselves. We will make it our aim to please the Lord. If we live life making it our goal to please ourselves, then we do not have the hope of life. Verse 10 reminds us of a very important truth: we will receive what is due to us for what we have done while in this body. Accountability is certain. Judgment is certain. Paul says that we must appear before the judgment seat. This is as certain as giving up our mortal bodies.
It is so important that we do not waste the time given to us in our bodies. Is your goal for life to make a lot of money so that you can retire and carry out some hobby? Is the goal to binge watch tv shows? Is the goal to travel the world or see the sights? Is the goal to do nothing and sit comfortably at home? Paul says that what he does with his final breaths is he persuades others (5:11). We must stand before the judgment seat. What will you say you did with the time? Our hope must be that as our health fails and our outer self is wasting away, we look to the unseen. We look to the eternal building God has prepared for us so that we may put on life. We look to being home with the Lord. Do you use your body for that purpose that God has given to you or for something that will end in regret when you miss out on life?