6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies.
16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.
The apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians after a painful time, when many Christians in Corinth, biased by a set of false teachers, had turned against him. Later in the letter, he cataloged the many challenges he had faced in carrying out God’s mission (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Yet Paul did not let any of that destroy him. In verse 10, he tied his struggles to Jesus’ death, which seemed the worst defeat of all and yet became a victory when he rose from the dead three days later.
Lord Jesus, on the days when life feels dark, when nothing seems to go right, help me not to be crushed or destroyed. Remind me always that “the worst thing is never the last thing.” Amen.
“We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen.”
My step-dad has been in my life only since I was in my mid-20’s. He had never been a dad, and I had spent most of my childhood without a dad. So we didn’t really know how to do the “family” thing. But after a few months (years) of some bumpy conversations, he and I have learned how to talk to each other. He’s done a good job, and I’ve got all sorts of new advice in my repertoire thanks to him. One piece of advice is “never send an e-mail or text when you're emotionally charged.” Surprisingly I occasionally still make this mistake. I always regret testing this advice. Another piece of advice surprised me, though. It was more… spiritual… than his usual advice.
“Chris, the only thing you can take with you into the next life is your character. Nothing else can come with you. Not a relationship, not your body, not your mind, not money. Just your character.”
I’ve thought about it over the years and I think he was really onto something. It’s strange to think everything that makes you… you, will pass. Expect for your spirit. Your soul. Your essence.
Which is essentially shaped by qualities and virtues.
This part of ourselves is, strangely, the thing we most often work on the least in ourselves. We make our selves look attractive, we try to “keep up with the Jones’s,” we get educations, we get partners. And yet all of those parts of life are only aspects of life. Those things aren’t us. In a split second, all of that can be taken from us.
But not our character. Like the scripture says in today’s reading, “The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.” This is, obviously, referring to much more than human character. But it’s a similar idea.
The outside fades. The inside stays.
The invitation, then, is to let God into the insides. Into our deepest parts.
Think about it. The reason most people reject Christianity is because of Christians. They see qualities within people’s character that seem out of line with the character of Jesus. It’s amazing how even the most unbelieving person can can tell when a Christian’s character falls short of the ideals they claim.
But you’ve also met someone who really lets God go to work in their inner lives. They develop characteristics that embody peace and compassion and enthusiasm. Some Christians even explain this as “letting Jesus into your heart.” It’s not just a prayer or doctrinal statement.
It’s letting God work inside of you.
And that’s the part that lasts.
Christianity is the biggest investment you can make. You can’t take most of life with you. But you can invest and grow the part of you that will last.
And that’s not just advice from my step-dad. That’s advice from God. And He knows a thing or two.
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