Fashioned For This Very Purpose
By Timothy Lopez
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Key Verse: 5:5
“Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Every week, when we hear about the persecution going on in the world against our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters, it’s almost wonderful to hear of their strong faith, or confidence, or their heart in spreading the gospel. When we hear of their trials, their sufferings, their needs, I marvel at the fact that although I don’t know them, their testimonies are those of a fully devoted, uncompromising, gentle, forgiving, faithful ministers of God. Do you wonder how that’s possible? What keeps their hearts alive in the midst of such circumstances? When we listen to Paul’s words, knowing some of the suffering he went through, it’s a miracle to see that this man still had heart and confidence in the Lord to keep pressing toward the goal to finish the race marked out for his life. According to his words in 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…”, losing heart wasn’t even a possibility. Some of us here today might be tempted in one way or another to lose heart. Within our western evangelical Christianity, as different as it seems from the rest of the world’s Christianity, there are things that tempt us to lose heart. What are they? What does “outwardly wasting away” mean? Some of us might feel it a little more than others. Perhaps more so the older generation, while the younger crowd not so much. When I was in high school, I used to be able to play basketball every day. I’d sweat until I couldn’t sweat anymore, until you’d literally see the salt on my skin. I was in track & field and I used to be able to sprint every day. Now after a light jog, or a few hours of basketball, I need the whole next day to recover because my bones and joints are soar. I can tell that although I’m not really old, the body is still a bit different than what it used to be. All of our bodies, along with this world are on their way to checking out.
Not only physically, but emotionally, and mentally, we are in every way wasting away. And on top of this, some of us are so beat up and oppressed, physically, financially and relationally, that we are tempted to lose heart. Yet, if there was anyone who was tempted in this way wouldn’t it have been Paul? When Paul couldn’t journey the way he used to, he was tempted to lose heart. When he didn’t recover from beatings the way he used to, he was tempted to lose heart. So if in one way or another we are tempted to lose heart, we should listen to the word of God. They come from someone who’s had his share of afflictions and came out on top. Satan’s greatest deception today is in leading many people, especially Christians into hopeless despair, or to lose heart. Don’t you agree? That’s his overall goal. If he can get us to have no confidence in the Lord, to lose courage, to lose our vision, then we’d have no drive to continue the work of God, and he’d be free to operate and rule in people’s lives.
So, what do we do? What do we do when life becomes really really really hard? How in the world do we hang in there and keep on pressing toward this goal? Listen to Paul’s words here, because his life was pretty difficult, most of the time. One day in this man’s shoes, and many of us might feel the wind of confidence knocked out of us. Yet Paul could carry his cross high. How? By determining to live as an example of radical faith and an example of radical repentance! That was the source of his powerful life! But why did he live this way? Here he gives us not only the reason but also the antidote to a despairing heart. In the next part of that verse, he said that in the midst of our wasting away, “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16b,17)
Let’s read that together. This should never be a surprise to us at all that life here on earth is not all that there is. Life goes on for us after our last breath in this world. You might say, “Well Tim, I know this already. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that much.” So, what if we tested ourselves? What if our lives flashed before us here on this projector. No words, just a muted video. Would that life look like someone who has their heart set on eternity, or would it look like someone’s life was set and focused only here on this world? Would it look like someone who’s storing up worldly treasures? Someone who’s seeking man’s approval? Someone who’s life style is superficial? Those are all marks of one who has their heart set on this world. And, if you didn’t get the memo, Christian or non-Christian, child or adult, king or slave, green or blue, no matter who you are, our life will continue after our time here? In fact, in the grand scheme of all eternity, this life won’t be as big as many of us make it today. Do you have some problem that has troubled you all your life? Does life seem to always go wrong, with one thing after another. Well guess what, Paul says it’s only but a moment. Do you have some heavy issue that weighs you and everyone around you down? Paul says it’s not really that heavy. They are all light and momentary troubles. The word of God says it, not I! It’s the same word of God that’s comforted people like Paul and all who suffered and led them to victory, all because it helped them set their hearts on what’s eternal!
Over the weekend, my wife and I moved. Some of the kids helped us. It’s no secret that the weather has been a little chillier than what it usually is for this time of year. But to Hannah’s surprise, it got cold enough for her to breath while we were outside. Amazed she would say, “Tim, I could see my breath, watch me.” Then she’d breathe, and by the time I turned around I would miss it. Then we’d go back to moving stuff. Then when it would happen again, she’d say, “Did you see Tim, did you see?” But I was always too late, or too occupied at the time. But at that moment I couldn’t help but think life is like that. Like the Apostle James says, “You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) Kind David says, “LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.” (Psalm 144:4,5) Though this is true, people tend to live this life like it’s eternal. And we focus too much on what is seen and temporal. The word of God doesn’t tell us this so that we might despise our troubles or our earthly life! The Bible tells us this so that we might have the right perspective on life. In fact, the Bible teachers us that every trouble we encounter in life has meaning and purpose. And it’s not just about learning endurance. It’s about handling our troubles in a God-honoring way. The Bible teaches us that every trouble we have is achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all the suffering that trouble brings upon us. Our trials here, all of them, physical, spiritual, and all that causing us to waste away, is all meaningful because, according to the Lord, it’s shaping out our eternal glory. Whenever you resist sin— whenever you choose to sacrifice yourself rather than to remain selfish— whenever you choose to honor God instead of yourself— whenever you follow the way of the cross rather than the way of ease and comfort— when you turn your heart to love and to honor the Lord in your days to day life— you will be sure to lose a lot of earthly glory— but you will be sure to pile up a lot of eternal glory!
Jesus left told his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms, if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4) In the kingdom of God there is no housing problem. Everyone has their own spacious and beautiful house as a free gift from God with no mortgage. This eternal glory is supposed to be what our hearts should be fixed on, as we walk through our trials here on earth, being encouraged and confident of what was promised us. But Paul wanted to make sure he’d explain to the Corinthian Christians what heavenly glory they should be focused on in all their struggles. So he speaks of it in this next section.
Those who worked to develop the NIV translation decided to title this section, “Awaiting the New Body.” I like this title. All the other translations interestingly have different titles. To keep a heart of good cheer, we can’t just let our eyes droop down to what’s here. We have to remind ourselves of what was promised us, because the earthly rewards just don’t cut it. Let’s read verses 1-3. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.” Why does Paul talk about tents here? We know that tents are different than houses and buildings. For example, with houses we know that a foundation is laid, and ideally the bigger the foundation, the stronger the house or building. Whereas, a tent doesn’t have a foundation. It’s not that strong and is frail and flimsy. That’s because tents are meant for travelers, intended to be like traveling houses, convenient for a journey.
But, according to this passage Paul was not only himself a tentmaker, but he was also a walking tent. And we are all walking tents— tents which house our soul and spirit, and the Holy Spirit (if we’re a believer). This earthly tent is just a tent. In what way? It’s weak and fragile; we can also say that it’s sinful and dying. But if it is destroyed would that be the end of everything? No, as believers we have hope. We groan while being in this tent, but at the same time, we have a longing hope for what God promised us, our heavenly body. But why do we groan while we live in this tent? There are many reasons, the first of which is that it’s decaying and dying! (Romans 7:24-25) But while we’re in this earthly body, we should neither despise it nor should we think too highly of it. But rather we should take care of it, and use it as God intended it to be used— as an instrument of righteousness. Our bodies are also the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. They should be well prepared for him to reside in them in holiness so that he might guide our lives in any way he may choose. Then others would be able to tell that the Lord is in your life and in mine by the things we say and do— by the decisions we make— by the life we live in these tents we have been given.
In verse 3, Paul mentions that our heavenly dwelling will clothe us, and we will not be left naked. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they’re eyes were opened, and they realized that they were naked. It obviously wasn’t a good realization, so they tried desperately to cover their nakedness. Might I suggest that this is more than just a physical nakedness. They lost something special that day. They lost a form of glorious heavenly covering that adorned their soul with righteousness, truth, honor, love, identity. Something was there, but they lost it. As well as the rest of creation lost its glory together with them. And since then, both people and the creation subject to them have been groaning. All people have been groaning. Especially Christians who have tasted the heavenly glory in Christ Jesus Long to be clothed with their heavenly dwelling so that this nakedness— would be forever taken away and done away with, and our eternal struggle will be over. We will be adorned completely with the heavenly glory befitting a child of God. Let me remind you that our trials here on earth are only a preparation for this heavenly body, this eternal glory. All our hardship are for the preparing of this body. Our problems whether at work or at home or on the journey are preparation for this eternal body. We don’t see it now, but Paul tells us to stop looking at what is seen, and to fix our eyes on what is unseen.
Let’s read verses 4 & 5. “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by what is life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Who planned for us to live in this heavenly dwelling? Whose idea was it that we should inherit such a gift? Notice the word fashioned. The NIV also does a good job with this word selection. That means to be made specifically for a purpose. All the trials and hardships that we receive are hand-picked perfectly to fashion us for our future glory and to prepare us to receive our heavenly dwelling. But while we are looking forward to this wonderful gift, one might ask, “How can I be so sure that this will be coming to me? I don’t seem to handle my challenges the way I ought. My walk needs a lot of work. Though I try and try, my struggle with sin keeps on going.” But our gracious Lord gives us the Holy Spirit the minute we accept Christ in our hearts. Paul told the Ephesians that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. To seal something is to make it impenetrable. Once you’re sealed by the Holy Spirit, the deal is done. The Lord will not revoke Him. The moment we received Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit was indwelt in us as a down payment. Before Christ ascended to heaven, the Spirit would come upon a person for a specific time and purpose, and then be taken away. But now He is with us and in us forever. And He gives us a taste of this heavenly dwelling each day. When we follow His leading, He also renews us inwardly and restores us to take on another day of purpose and fellowship with the Lord. Even our Lord Jesus didn’t lift up a finger towards his mission until the Holy Spirit descended upon him. Even he needed this assurance of what was promised Him, before he took up the cross of mission for his life.
Usually, in this world, we trust something by looking at the expertise of the one who made it. But even experts make mistakes. But God never makes mistakes. God is the one who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. God is Almighty God. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Mark 10:27). It is God’s unchanging purpose to bring us to his eternal house in heaven and to clothe us with a glorious spiritual body. God has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing this. The Spirit enables us to call God, “Father.” As God’s children we are heirs of God who inherit his kingdom (Romans 8:15-17). When we have this assurance, it is easier for us to go through hardships in this world because we have this truth hidden in our hearts.
Look at verse 6. “Therefore, we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” Here, “we are at home in the body and away from the Lord,” refers to living on earth in our mortal bodies. While we live in this world we are always confident that we will live in the heavenly kingdom forever with a glorious spiritual body. Paul stresses that we are “always” confident. That means that we live always with a sense of victory even though our situation may not be so good at times. But still we have confidence. Why? Look at verse 7. “We live by faith, not by sight.” Let’s read it together. Who lives by sight in this world? Those who have no hope in heaven. Those who don’t trust the word of God. Those who crumble at every hardship that comes their way instead of turning to God for assurance and for strength. Who lives by faith when living in this world? Those who trust God and his word, who believe that what God says will come true. Jesus comforted his disciples when they were struggling with his departure and gave them hope to trust in him. He assured them that their home in heaven is secure. Of course they suffered much to serve him after his ascension. But their hope in their heavenly dwelling never wavered. How did they do it? How did Paul maintain such a dynamic life before God even when his hardships were unbearable? He lived by faith not by sight. He trusted the Lord. We too ought to trust the Lord in all things. If we live by sight, we would end up like the people of Noah’s time, mocking Christians for their lifestyle and their dumb outdated beliefs now, and then getting swept away by the flood when it comes. But if we live by faith, we will live by the truth of God even if it means being mocked and shunned by the world. Living by faith is the wisdom of God for us. Practically speaking what does it mean to live by faith?
Read verses 8-10. “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Living by faith is to have the confidence and assurance of our salvation in Christ Jesus who has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit. (5) Those who have put their faith in Christ and put on his righteousness must not doubt that the day will come when the Lord’s promise will come true and they will be clothed in eternal glory. Also living by faith means that while we are in the body here on earth, we live day by day a life that pleases the Lord. We want to please him. We want to please the one we love. We want to please the one who ultimately will welcome us into his heavenly dwellings. Many Christians never think about how they will be received in heaven, and so they live on earth as if all that matters is how to please each other. But what does it matter if we end up pleasing each other and end up displeasing the Lord? Look at verse 10. We must long for the day when we hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Indeed, pleasing the Lord with our lives, every day, should be the goal of our lives here on earth. We can best do that if we live by faith not by sight and fix our hearts on what’s eternal. Read verses 9-10 together again. “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”