Speaker: Shaan Sloan
Dearest HCF Saints,
I pray that this day finds you well in the Lord, rejoicing in His goodness and love. As the Psalmist said,
Psalm 118:24 - 24 This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. NASB
I pray that you are even now resting in the promises of God as you make your way down this pilgrim road to Heaven’s shore. We look around and see the world in frantic concern, yet we rest and are ever hopeful and assured that God is working everything for our good. Even our toughest days are accomplishing His good will for us. He always has His eyes upon us and He never ceases to carry us and refresh us, even to bring us to the mountain top. When enemies assail us, the Lord laughs in confidence as He prepares a table before us in their presence. And even if we should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear for He is with us to comfort us with His corrective rod and His protective staff. Though the road to Heaven be lined with great toils, snares, and dangers, yet every day on that path is filled with the beauty of God’s incredible world and the lavish scenery of a carefully woven tapestry of earthly glory for us to enjoy! More, God fills our every day with the grace of dearly loved family and friends and a river of delights to thrill our souls as we make our way to our heavenly home. But this perspective only comes to those who have cast their eyes upon God’s Holy Words in the Bible. Only there do we see the true reality of the world we live in, and only there can we have a triumphant hope. If we look only upon what our eyes see in this fallen world, we will surely be downcast by the darkness of a world ruined by sin, ebbing its way down the road to hell’s dark door. There is enough trouble in each day sufficient to make the world cringe in fear, worry, and doubt. Yet for those of us who live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, we rise above the things that are seen. The words of our Lord train us to think with heavenly minds.
Matthew 6:34 - 34 "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NASB
It seems the world we are living in is so uncertain, tossed about with every wind of news of yet another tragic event in a series of tragic events, and people scrambling to make some sense of it all. But the wisdom of the world has no answers for the tragic things that are coming upon the world. In our own God-blessed America, it seems that the judgment of God arrives with a fresh new wave of calamity, week after week, and there is much lawlessness and deception afoot. The problems are so multi-layered and complex, one can hardly get their mind around the first part of it much less consider how it all relates or what one might do to help things get resolved. We Americans have sown to the wind and now we are reaping the whirlwind! Let us find shelter in the Lord before it is too late.
So what do we Christians do in this late hour? How do we navigate these uncertain times? I would like to suggest that the answer is laid out before us in God’s Word. After all, “thy Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light upon our path!” (Psalm 119:105). God gives wisdom to those who ask for it! Surprisingly the remedy for navigating uncertain times is not much different than the daily path of the Christian walk even when all is well and the sunshine is smiling down upon us. The Christian life is a supernatural life of following Jesus and living in the blessing of His Kingdom as we give our lives in service to our King. Our goals and purposes for life don’t shift and change like the waves, but are fixed with the certainty of God’s wisdom and His eternal purposes for our lives.
Such is the occasion of Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 4 he has been discussing the difficulty of living as an Apostle and preaching the Gospel in a world of unbelievers whose minds have been blinded to the light of the Gospel by Satan (verses 3-15). Constantly in conflict with the world around him, Paul gives the Corinthians, and us, the remedy for navigating our daily life in a world hostile to God and blinded to reality.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. NASB
Here Paul describes how he remains steadfast, v-16 “not losing heart,” even though his “outer man is decaying,” yet his “inner man” is “being renewed day by day.” He had previously described in the context the difficulty of his Apostolic life, “8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Yet for Paul in the midst of his “outer man decaying,” (by being afflicted in every way v-8-11), his “inner man” is “being renewed day by day,” with the powerful result, “we do not lose heart.” Paul is encouraged, he is “not crushed, not despairing,” even though he is “constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake” (v-11). How is it that Paul seems to live in triumphant victory while being “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down?” How can he “not lose heart,” and have his “inner man renewed day by day?” In giving the answer, he enlightens us to one of the greatest principles in the Bible for the Christian life. It is to have an eternal perspective. To fix one’s spiritual eyes upon the eternal realities of God’s Kingdom so that we see the world from Heaven’s perspective, where God is on the throne, and the world is a stage for Him to work out His eternal purposes in Christ! To look with the eye of faith and see that not only our labor in service to God, but also our suffering as a Christian, is victory, “17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison!” His point here is that “being afflicted in every way” is only a “momentary, light affliction.” When he looks at his circumstances with the eye of faith he sees that, in comparison to the eternal reward that will last forever and ever in the happiness of Heaven’s bliss, his troubles are but “momentary,” and they are not the heavy burden he is tempted to think, but only a “light affliction” when considering all that Christ has done to bring us into God’s eternal Kingdom of tranquility and rest! His troubles in this very short life are just a blip on the radar of eternity, just a drop of water in the great deep. This is the truth about his reality. His few decades of hard Apostolic service to Christ his King are but a mere breath in winter compared to the never-ending contentment of Canaan’s warm and abundant bounty! Dear saints, we need a pair of glasses like Paul’s! Oh, how we need to see with the eye of faith so we make a true and right appraisal of our circumstances today! If we do this, we will “not lose heart,” and will have our “inner man renewed day by day!” To this eternal perspective Paul now clearly points us. “18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Now consider what Paul just said, “we look not at the things which are seen.” How can you “look not” at “things which are seen?” It doesn’t even make sense to the natural eye as it sees our trials and sorrows as making us “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” But when we look “at the things which are not seen,” we find ourselves “not crushed, not despairing,” but are reminded of the great realities of God’s eternal Kingdom and we realize that our trials and our suffering have great meaning and purpose as God prepares us for the better and lasting world to come. We are not “struck down” into despair by this fallen and ruined world that is passing away, but are encouraged to know that these afflictions are “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison!” The trials of our present daily struggles, says Paul, are “far beyond all comparison” to the “eternal weight of glory” that shall be ours in the Endless Day! As Paul has said elsewhere...
Romans 8:18 - 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. NASB
The sufferings of this present time are only temporary. We cannot look to this present life to bring lasting contentment and happiness to us because it is an impossibility. The things of this present world are broken, they are ruined by sin, and the lure of worldly wares and worldly promises of contentment are deceptive temptations which can quickly turn our gaze away from God and His purposes for our life and cause us to lose our eternal perspective. As Martin Luther put it so eloquently, “Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever!” And so Paul would tell us to “look not” at “things which are seen,” but rather to learn how to look “at the things which are not seen.” Make your eyes to see with the knowledge of faith, trained by the eternal Word of God, “for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” His point is clear; if we look to the present realities of this physical world that we live in, we will be sorely disappointed because these things are only “temporal.” But, when we look to the eternal realities of God’s eternal Kingdom, the “things which are not seen,” these lasting and true realities shall never pass away! As our Lord said...
Matthew 24:25 - 25 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. NASB
Now here we see the principle of the eternal perspective explained and at work in the life of Paul. Let us learn from our Heaven-sent teacher! Let God’s Word be a light for our path and let it show us the way. Let us look with the eye of faith and see the true reality of today and what God is working in our life for our joy and for His glory!
Now, all of this may sound rather lofty and hard to attain, but let me tell you how to train your heart and minds to see with an eternal perspective by simply elaborating on Paul’s exhortation to look “at the things which are not seen.” Dear saints, you must train your heart and minds to look to God’s Word to understand the unseen realities of His eternal Kingdom. You have got to get your nose in the Book and you have got to keep it there! There are far too many distractions in the world turning our gaze away from the Word! Consider the words of wisdom...
Proverbs 2:1-6 - 2 My son, if you will receive my sayings, And treasure my commandments within you, 2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord, And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. NASB
“Knowledge and understanding” come from the “mouth of God,” dear saints. These things do not come from CNN or MSNBC, nor do they come from Fox News! Self-help books and the latest diet, Dr. Oz, or even that great guru Oprah cannot train your mind in wisdom, but only leave your aging and dying body more tired than when you started. After all, your “outer man is decaying,” but when you “look at the things which are unseen,” in the Word of God, your “inner man” is “being renewed day by day.” This eternal perspective is something you must train your mind to see with! It is much like Elisha and his servant when the servant thought they were doomed. The prophet, with the eye of faith, could see the reality of God’s eternal Kingdom.
2 Kings 6:15-17 - 15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" 16 So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. NASB
Dear Saints, let the Lord open your eyes today so that you may see that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Let us “search for wisdom” in the Word of God like “hidden treasure,” and let it permeate our thoughts and saturate our hearts! It will take some discipline to keep looking at the things which are unseen, but this eternal perspective will keep you seeing with the eye of faith and you will make a proper assessment of your circumstances. Indeed God’s Word will be a light for your path!
When I look at the evening news or catch a news story on social media, I am terribly perplexed about the things coming upon our nation. The problems are so complex I can get overwhelmed just trying to get my mind around all the multi-layered conundrums. But, when my eyes are turned to the Word of God, I realize that God is clearly in control and working every little detail according to His meticulous Providence! I see that what people need is the Gospel so that God can raise them from spiritual death and bring them into the eternal life of knowing Himself and Christ Jesus the Lord. I see the answer to these problems is spiritual, not physical, it is unseen and not seen; it is where true power exists, in God’s eternal and invisible Kingdom where Jesus Christ rules, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:21).
Self-discipline can be hard for me and I can get easily distracted by hobbies and things. So, I have to build things into my life that keep me focused on the Word. I am staying busy with my nose in the Bible as I am again reading through the entire Bible in 2020 (everyday a little portion). I am in the Tuesday men’s study digging into Hebrews and I use my ESV Study Bible along with Calvin, JMac, and also a commentary by the 18th Century missionary Andrew Murray. I just read an excellent book by Dane Ortlund called “Gentle and Lowly.” It truly refreshed my weary soul! Now I am reading a book on Biblical Theology by Vaughn Roberts called “God’s Big Picture.” A chapter every day - it is fabulous! I have slowly been working my way through a survey of the Major Prophets and cataloging promises for Israel’s Future to add to the little booklet I have written about the subject. I meet with Pastor Greg each week and we go over a book on Pastoral ministry called the “Master’s Plan for the Church.” All of this I do even when it is my turn to preach or teach as I do many weeks in the year. With all these things I need to read, I can’t help but stay constantly focused on God’s Word! I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but to humbly and honestly lead you by example of how to train your heart and minds to see with an eternal perspective. This is how you look “at the things which are not seen.” You have to, well, look “at the things which are not seen.” You have to cast your eyes upon the words of the Bible and “treasure my commandments within you.” You have to “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding.” Listen dear saints, “3 if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord, And discover the knowledge of God.”
When you have trained yourself to keep looking at the Word, you will surely learn that “thy Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light upon our path!” (Psalm 119:105). Indeed, it will motivate you to walk in God’s ways and it will guide you on His wise path! You won’t wonder how to navigate the uncertain times of today, but with meaning and purpose you won’t have enough time in a day to accomplish all the things you want to do in service to the King. You will spend your time planning how to live out God’s purposes for your life, your family, your marriage, your parenting, and loving your neighbor as yourself. The Word will bring you face to face with the awesome God of wisdom, power, and love! It will enlighten you to the beauty of His world and the glory of His redemption through Christ! You will learn to follow Jesus and His disciples and do the things that they did and go to the places where they go. In fact, you may even turn your world upside down! (Acts 17:6).
Dear saints, God has a real and definite purpose for your life! It is a purpose of triumphant victory where we “do not lose heart!” Even if we face difficulty and trials every day like the Apostle Paul, we can press on in victory, encouraged and strengthened by God and the unseen realities and promises of His eternal Word! We will realize that the circumstances of living in a post-COVID world and in a country whose streets are torn by violence, as a born-again Christian, are a “momentary, light affliction producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” But this will only come when we “look at the things which are unseen,” in the Word of God and your “inner man” is being “renewed day by day.” This eternal perspective will guard your heart and your mind, and will guide you to fulfill God’s great purpose for your life and will show you exactly how to navigate the uncertain times we face. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Praying for us all to have eyes that see and ears that hear!
In His unfailing love and sustaining grace,