Pentecost 3 + June 7 & 10, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
If you look at identical twins, it is easy to see they are related. If you look at regular siblings, it might be easy to tell they are related. Or you might have to look closely to see the family resemblance. If you look at adopted siblings - especially if they have different ethnicities - then the only way to know if they are siblings is if someone tells you. You can’t see their family relation just by looking at them.
That’s what Jesus says in our Gospel Lesson. Jesus uses his genetic family to talk about his spiritual family. Jesus says, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:31-34)
Just like you cannot tell if adopted siblings belong to the same family by outward appearance, so it is with the family of Jesus. That’s because the thing that makes you a brother or sister of Jesus is not external. It’s inside you. It’s doing God’s will. It’s faith. You can’t see faith.
Well, just as you can’t see faith, there are some things that only faith can see. In our epistle lesson Saint Paul tells us some things we can only see by God’s gift of faith. God’s Word tells us: faith sees God's unseen glory.
The first unseen, glorious, thing that faith sees is the power of God’s Word. This Word of God actually creates faith in the first place. Saint Paul says, "With [a] spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because 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. 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." (v. 13-15)
God’s Word brings glory to God. It creates faith by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection from the dead. When sinners hear that good news, God’s Word creates faith so they believe that Jesus is their Savior. Then believers glorify God by the same faith that saves them. And all this happens by the hidden, unseen, yet glorious power of God’s Word.
The invisible power God’s Word works a bit like a magnet. I can make a nail rise out of my hand into the air. Without touching it, I can make that nail defy gravity. Of course, I do it with a magnet. Once the nail comes under the pull of the magnet, the nail rises out of my hand and attaches to the magnet.
Well, just as a nail can’t raise itself, we sinners can’t rise out of sin, unbelief and spiritual death. Spiritually speaking, we are dead as a doornail. But then God spoke his Word to us. The power of God’s Word lifted us from the grip of unbelief and the grasp of Satan. God’s Word attached us to Jesus.
Now, why do you need faith in the power of God’s Word? Quite often, you want to bring someone to Jesus. You say, I want to share my faith with my unchurched friend. I want my sister to straighten out her life and act like a Christian. I want our church to grow and get more members. So, you tell others how great our church is. You beg and plead for your relatives to change their wicked ways. You offer people your friendship if someone, anyone will just accept the invitation to be a Christian.
But those methods don’t work.
They can’t work because those methods don’t contain God’s Word. Cajoling, threatening, and buttering people up do not offer God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Only God’s Word does that. Only God’s Word connects people to Jesus and his holy precious blood. If you want someone to come to faith or grow in faith, use the magnet of God’s Word. That gospel of Jesus Christ contains the invisible power of grace to create faith, to change lives, and to save souls for eternity.
Of course, it takes faith to trust the unseen power of God’s Word because God’s Word does not follow logical formulas or mathematical equations. But make no mistake about it. God’s Word works. God’s Word brings people to faith. God’s Word and God’s gift of faith also allow us to see something else that’s invisible. Faith allows us to see God’s invisible reward of glory.
Concerning this invisible reward of glory Paul says, "...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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." (v. 16-18)
Paul basically says, Don’t look at the aches and the pains and the disappointments of today. Instead, look beyond them to heaven’s glory. That will give you strength. That will give you hope. The guarantee of heaven’s glory will give you joy no matter what pain you suffer here on earth.
Paul also gives us a reason for not letting our troubles and pains bother us. Again, Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (v. 17) In other words, once we reach heaven, God will more than make up for all the trouble we experience on this earth.
To illustrate: some companies contribute to their employees’ retirement plans. But imagine working for a company that threw money into your retirement account every time something bad happened at work. Every time the photocopier failed, the company paid $5,000 to your retirement account. Every time a customer was rude to you, the company put $25,000 into your account. Whenever your boss was too demanding, you got an extra $50,000. Every time you had to work overtime, they threw another $100,000 into your account. Now, if a company really did that, everybody would want to work there. And nobody would complain when bad things happened. That’s because you knew that whenever something bad did happen, you would get even more benefits at retirement.
Well, in a way, that’s what God has promised us. "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (v.17) Every time we suffer here on earth, God will more than make up for it when we retire to heaven’s glory. It’s as if God were saying, “For every time your job makes it difficult to practice your faith, I will give you ten years of stress free living in heaven. For every time you patiently endure verbal abuse, I will give 100 years of pleasant conversation with your loved ones in heaven. Every time someone mocks you for your faith, I will give you 1,000,000 years of perfect health.”
Of course, that’s not exactly how it works.
You can’t do the math that way because heaven is eternal. Every blessing of heaven lasts forever, not just a few years and even longer than a million years. We must never get the idea that we earn heaven by suffering here on earth. Jesus already earned heaven for us by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Furthermore, the “rewards” of heavenly glory are not rewards we earn. They are gifts of God’s grace. That means you also cannot think, If I make myself suffer a lot on earth, I’ll be that much better off in heaven.
No, God did not give us promises of glory to indulge the twisted schemes of our sinful nature. He gave us these promises to comfort us when we suffer. He comforts us now so that when troubles do come, we won’t complain. Instead, we will say, My human eyes can’t see heaven’s glory now. All I can see and feel are the aches and pains of life. But God has promised me a glorious future of joy. So, I can’t wait until I get to heaven. I can’t wait for the glorious joy of eternal life. Now, may God use his powerful Word to bless you with a faith that sees God’s glory and looks forward to everlasting life in heaven. God bless you with this faith, for Jesus’ sake.