Seen vs. Unseen; October 10, 2018


2 Corinthians 5:7 We live by faith, not by sight.

Here Paul is restating what he had just said at the end of the previous chapter. “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) That’s why the Japanese (presumably agreeing with the Greek) starts this verse with “Certainly.” It takes a real shift in perspective to see things this way, and far too many of us never make it. I have seen far too many Christians who supposedly have assurance of salvation, yet are terribly afraid of death. They haven’t let the Holy Spirit speak this into their hearts. When we finally get settled that everything physical is temporary, it is enormously liberating. The vast majority of our stresses and frustrations are related to the physical world, and Paul is pointing out that doesn’t matter a hill of beans. It’s not that the physical is completely insignificant; we are called to faithful stewardship. However, it’s all a matter of comparative values. Some people have twisted this truth to excuse immorality, and even Paul had to deal with that issue, in Romans 5 and elsewhere. We are in the physical world to prepare us for the spiritual world to come, which is why Jesus talked more about money than He did about heaven and hell combined. As He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12) We indeed need to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

I struggle with this too, though by God’s grace I am far from where I once was on the issue. I have come to the place in life where I am actively looking forward to the next life, just as Paul talks about in this chapter, but I still enjoy this life, and I’m not tempted to set my own schedule for the transition. I am realizing, on the emotional level, that the only things that make it into the next life are souls, so everything in this life is to be directed toward the end of getting as many people saved as possible. At the same time, I delight in God’s creation, and love to take pictures of its beauty. I just ordered a new lens for my camera, and I find myself impatient for it to get here so I can take even more pictures. However, my equipment, the photographs, and the world they record, are all momentary against the backdrop of eternity, and I’ve got to remember that. The angels don’t go “Wow” over my pictures! I am to be a faithful steward of everything material, but keep it all submitted to God, who is Spirit. (John 4:24)

Father, You know better than I do that I can’t keep it all straight. Help me stay humble before You, delighting in fellowship with You and being fully obedient in all You direct me to say and do, so that the works of the devil may indeed be destroyed (1 John 3:8) and many brought into Your family, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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