2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 18
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Conquering the Fear of Death – Part 1. Now let me introduce this to you by just saying that death is a subject that all of us have to face. You’ve either experienced it with a loved one, maybe you are facing it in your own life right now with a very serious illness or whatever, but death is stalking each one of us in this place today, and one day it will conquer its prey. But we as believers should never fear death.|
Looking at Life from God’s Point of View
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4. And we’re going to be finishing up the chapter today, but we’re starting a brand new series. We’re going to be talking about “Conquering the Fear of Death.” And this is Part 1. And if you’ve read ahead of me you’ve got to be excited about what’s in chapter 5. Today in Part 1, we’re going to talk about “Learning to Look at Life from God’s Point of View.”
Now let me introduce this to you by just saying that death is a subject that all of us have to face. You’ve either experienced it with a loved one, maybe you are facing it in your own life right now with a very serious illness or whatever, but death is stalking each one of us in this place today, and one day it will conquer its prey. But we as believers should never fear death. You see, since the beginning of human life on this earth, man has feared death. You say why? Because death and the fear of death are the consequences of original sin.
In Genesis 2:17 it says, God says, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” and what’s the penalty if they do? “for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” There was no death before this. This death that is mentioned here is spiritual death first. We know that because when Adam sinned, immediately he did not physically die. But something did die: there was a chasm built between us and God; the life of God went out of us. We were separated from God when Adam first sinned.
Now, however, even though he didn’t physically die, he spiritually died. Physical death at that moment of his sin began to stalk him, not only physical death but the fear of that death began to come after him. You see, that death meant eternal spiritual judgment. Physical death catapulted him into eternal spiritual judgment. That was the fear of that death. We see the fear when God came looking for them in the garden and God found him and it says Adam said, in verse 10, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid.” You see, that fear immediately was there. He knew the penalty for what he had done.
Well, it’s because of this spiritual dilemma of all mankind that the Lord Jesus came in to this earth. In Hebrews 2:14-15, “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood,” the human race, “He Himself [Christ] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were all of their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Now we need to look at this very carefully. The phrase “that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” must be very carefully interpreted. The devil did not have the authority over death; he had the power of death. It’s a huge difference in the realm of death, in the realm of darkness. Let me try to explain this. The devil does not decide when and where a person dies. He does not have the authority “over” death. He has the power “of” death. You say how do you know he doesn’t determine when a person dies? Well, it’s relatively simple. If you read Job 1:2 you see God talking to the devil and He tells him twice in chapter 1 and in chapter 2 He tells him you can do this and this and this to Job, but you cannot kill him. Now what does that tell you right off? You say, “Is that the only verse you have, Wayne?” No.
Deuteronomy 32:39 says this, God speaking, “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides me; It is I who put to death and give life.” In 1 Samuel 2:6 it says, “The Lord kills and the Lord makes alive. He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” In Psalms 68:20, “God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” So, you see, even in the Old Testament God was the One who decided when and where a person died. Ecclesiastes says there is an appointed time; it means a scheduled time that a man is to be born and a scheduled time that a man is to die. You and I are not going to live one day beyond when God says we’re going to live. It’s going to be the hour and the time, He knows exactly when that is; numbers the hairs on our head and numbers our days.
So God has the authority over death. God decides when a person dies and when a person is born and no one else can do this. If you’ve lost a loved one or if you’re facing death, it will be in the exact, perfect timing of the Lord. And you can rest in that kind of assurance. So if God has the authority over death, but the devil has the power of death, then what is the author of Hebrews talking about when he says that? If the devil can’t control when a person dies or where a person dies, then what’s going on here?
Well, you have to understand the realm or the domain of death over which he has the power. When Adam sinned, Satan rightfully gained dominance over this world and its sinful state because of sin. You see in Romans 5:12 again, it says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” You see, there’s a domain of death here on this earth. It’s people that are under spiritual death, they are separated from God. Every person who is born into this world is born into Satan’s kingdom of darkness; born into a state of spiritual darkness over which he has the domain.
Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:1. He says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too [and Paul includes himself] all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Now in Satan’s domain of darkness and spiritual death into which we were all born, there is that fear of death. Why? Because of the subsequent eternal judgment and condemnation that lies beyond. You see, people that are living in spiritual deadness are afraid of what’s on the other side. Ever since Adam sinned the devil has stood upon the justice of God, and the justice of God is this: the wages of sin is death and after death the judgment. And he stands on that because it was a legal deal with the temporary control over the domain of darkness and sin on this earth. The context of Hebrews is showing how Christ came into this darkness, came into this spiritual deadness, the Light amidst the darkness. He came to earth as a man in order to rescue man from Satan’s bondage and from the fear of death.
Colossians 1:13, “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Christ was born into this world with a human body. Why? In order to die. He came to die the death that was assigned to all sinners. He paid a debt He didn’t owe; we owed a debt we could not pay. He died to conquer that which had held man in bondage. He died in our place, thus breaking the power that the devil rightfully had over all that had sinned. Hebrews says to “destroy him who has the power of death.”
The word “destroy” is not the normal word for destroy which means to annihilate. This word is katargeo. Katargeo means to render powerless, to render inoperative. The same word is used in Romans 6:6 when it talks about the power of sin. He didn’t annihilate it; he caused it to be inoperative in our life. Well, the devil has flaunted his power over the realm of death, this domain of darkness in this world that is infested with sin and people and spiritual deadness. But when Christ came He came to strip away his power. You see, His coming to earth was not only to strip away the power, but to deliver us.
Verse 15, “and deliver them who through fear of death were all of their lifetime subject to bondage.” Now, Christ had to come and die the death of all deaths. To die the death of all deaths He had to be born the birth of all births. He was born of a virgin, He came to die. His resurrection from the dead conquered not only physical death but it conquered spiritual death. That’s why in 2 Corinthians—what we’re getting into with all of that is, in 2 Corinthians, Paul was threatened with death every day of his life. He said, “I was daily handed over unto death.” And he was speaking the truth of the Word of God. But listen, death didn’t scare him at all. You see, he knew what Christ had done for him. He knew that death was just a threshold into the presence of God forever. Paul knew that one day when death ultimately claimed his life that he would be in heaven with Christ and he also knew that the believers that came to know Christ as a result of his willingness to yield and be obedient would be there with him. The Corinthian believers would be there with him.
He says in 2 Corinthians 4:14, “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” We’ll be there with you. He understood the resurrection; he understood the other side of physical death that it is to be in the Presence of God. And he says for this reason I don’t lose heart. Now that word “lose heart” that we have studied already, the word “lose heart,” ekkakeo, is the word that means to turn coward and go back to doing it your way. To go back to depending on the adequacy of the flesh. Paul says, “Listen, listen, listen. I have an understanding. I believe and I’m not afraid of death. I’m not going to go back and live my way anymore. I’m going to live in His adequacy and death, physical death, is no big deal.”
He says in verse 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart,” we do not quit, we’re not cowards, we’re going to be in the midst of the battle because we know who has conquered death. Oh, that we would live and not fear death so that God could just live His life through us.
Well, let’s look and see how we can conquer this fear of death. Everybody faces it. How do we conquer it, how do we get beyond it? I want you to listen to this apostle Paul, a battered man, afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but who never, ever feared death. I want to tell you something, folks, we fear what we do not understand and, hopefull, in the studies that we’re going to have in the next several weeks, including today, it will help you better understand what Christ has done for you and the fact that physical death is a piece of cake to him. It’s just from here to there.
But I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding as we go through this. It’s not an easy subject to tackle. From 4:16 all the way through 5:9, Paul begins to use some contrast. One of the greatest teaching tools anywhere is contrast, and he’s going to use this to show you what is and show you what isn’t, and it’s beautiful. It teaches itself you just watch it. So in these contrasts, we’re only going to go 16-18 today, but it continues on it to chapter 5, we’re going to learn how we can live conquering the fear of death. Where death is no longer an issue to us, physical death, and it’s because we’re learning to look at life from God’s point of view.
We need to learn to think God’s way. We need to learn to let the Scriptures get inside of us. It’s not just us getting it in them; it’s the Scriptures getting into us. Scripture is never just for information, it’s for transformation. And hopefully what we’re going to study will transform you, it will renew you, and it will conquer the fear of death in your life.
To see the fear of death conquered in our life there has to be a proper pursuit
Well, first of all, if we’re going to live and if we’re going to see the fear of death conquered in our life, there is going to have to be a pursuit, a proper pursuit. In other words, that pursuit is based upon an understanding of the difference between the temporal and the eternal. We’re going to have to learn to live for the eternal instead of living for the temporal. Look at verse 16 again, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man” see the contrast “is being renewed day by day.”
Now, I want to go back to an illustration I used several weeks ago. It’s kind of hard to do it up here because there’s no string back here, but let’s just say there is. Use your imagination. Let’s say it started way over there. I’m not going to walk that far but let’s just say way over there I started with a piece of chalk on a blackboard and I drew a line all the way across this platform all the way to that wall over there. And I would tell you that line represents eternity. Now, we know that’s a pretty inadequate illustration because it would just keep going on and on and on.
Now let me put a dot on that line, just a little dot. Here’s the line going all the way across and I put a little dot right there. Do you know what that dot is? That dot is the time when you’re born until the time that you die physically. That’s how insignificant this life is compared to eternity. Our life, from the time we’re born until the time we die is an itsy bitsy little dot barely visible on the eternal line of time. Now, when we were born we began to die and that’s because of sin as we’ve already seen. Now Paul makes that powerful statement again in verse 16 when he says, “we don’t lose heart.” He’s trying to tell us something. He says when we’re speaking God’s truth in the face of hostility we don’t lose heart, we don’t chicken out, we don’t coward, and we don’t turn back. He says we don’t quit because we have an understanding.
Now see, this understanding is important. They understood the difference between the temporal life of the outer man and the eternal life of the inner man. So instead of losing heart, the verse says, “but,” a contrasting word, “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” Now he’s weighing his sufferings on the scales of God, and it’s a huge difference from our scale. The word “outer man” is a believer’s outward, physical existence in this tangible world. It’s his temporal life. It’s his natural life here on earth amidst his surroundings and it is as a weakened vessel, we say earlier in 2 Corinthians, it is subject to death, to corruptibility.
James tells us in James 4:14 that our physical life on earth is like a vapor that quickly appears and then quickly vanishes away: it’s gone. In almost the time it comes up, it’s gone. And Paul shows us this temporal condition of the outer man by using the word “decaying.” The word decay is diaphtheiro. It means to corrupt throughout, to die. Our outer man is in the process of dying.
Now we’ve got older folks in here, we’ve got some younger folks in here. Younger folks think they’ll never die, but I promise you you’re dying. Those of us, I’ll be 62 pretty soon, those of us that are over 60, we know we’re dying. I can see a basketball lying on a court and my mind says, “Go get it and take somebody one on one.” My body says, “Don’t even think about it.” It’s like the three ladies in the senior adult home. And their husbands had long died and they’re living in a little apartment together. And there’s an elevator but there are also steps. They use the steps, they want to keep their exercise going, so one day they all walked down the steps, get on the ground floor, they’re fixing to go out, and one of them says, “I forgot my purse.” And they say to go back and get it. So she walked upstairs, got in the room, and she said, “Now, what did I come up here for?”
Well, the other two were standing down on the bottom floor and they said they knew what happened, she got up there and she didn’t know what she went up for. “Would you go get her?” “Yes, I will.” And so she said, “I’m going to use the steps too.” So she got on that landing between the first and second floor and she stopped and she said, “Oh, no, am I going up or am I coming down?” The other one standing down on the bottom floor and she knows what’s going on. She says, “I tell you one thing, I don’t know if they’ll ever get it. I’m just glad I’m not like them. Knock on wood. Yes, I’ll be right there!”
Our outer man is decaying, folks. It’s decaying. The word “decay” again is that word that means “to die.” Now Paul knew and understood the temporary and the decaying condition of his physical body. Death was imminent at some time. And in our context, Paul’s foes, the people in Corinth that had abused him and criticized him, and tore him down, were the very ones possibly bringing about this death. But Paul shows us the contrast between the temporal outer man and the eternal inner man of the believer.
In verse 16 again it says, “but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” Now what’s he talking about? The term “inner man” refers to our regenerate, spiritual existence in Christ who now lives in us. He is that life. By saying “is being renewed,” Paul realized that he’s not where he needs to be yet. You see, the Christian life is not an arrival. The Christian life is a pursuit and Paul knew he was on that pursuit and he hadn’t arrived yet. The great apostle Paul, the greatest missionary in the New Testament besides Jesus, knew that he hadn’t arrived and that every day inwardly he was being renewed.
Being renewed is in the present tense, middle voice. Present tense means it was constantly happening. This means he had a proper focus on life. He was focusing on that eternal thing, the inner man, not the outer man. But not only that, it’s in the middle voice. The middle voice means something is enabling it to happen. Now put together what we have studied in 2 Corinthians and it’ll light your fire. Paul, by believing, and therefore speaking, the hostility came back towards him and in the midst of his suffering and in the face of death, by allowing Christ to manifest His life through Paul, daily in him, changing him from glory to glory as we saw in 3:18, he was being renewed in his inner man.
You see, Paul got it. Paul understood what was going on. He was not blind to what was happening to him. He knew that God was causing life in the temporal sense to work for him in the eternal sense. He knew that even though they might have to suffer death, so be it. The outer man is temporal anyway. They were focused on the eternal. They were allowing Christ to daily conform them to His image: the inner man was being renewed day by day. That word “renew” is anakainoo, which means to be completely renewed. Changed from within. So much less of Paul and so much more of Christ was being seen in his life. The pressure of the affliction was driving all of this out of him.
Now, what’s happening in your life today? I want to know what’s going on in your life. You don’t have to tell me; I’m going to ask you that though. What’s going on in the outer man today? What’s the pain, the suffering that you’re having to deal with? Have you learned to focus on something bigger than that? The eternal inner man.
I’ll tell you what. There are so many people living today that are absolutely anchored to the temporal life that we have on this earth, that little dot on that line. I’ve never seen a hearse yet pull a U-Haul, have you? Not one time. But I guarantee you people are so tied to this life. This is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, “If we hope in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” It’s not this life that’s what it’s all about. It’s a dot on the line of eternity. It’s forever and ever what God wants to do and when people are anchored to the temporal they’re scared to death of death.
And I’ll tell you why. They’re scared to death because they have too much to lose. John said in his epistle, “Don’t be among those who shrink back at the coming of Jesus.” Why would they shrink back? Because they’ve got too much invested here to lose it. I hate to tell you this, and probably everybody is going to bail out on me when I get to chapters 8-9, like a covey of quails. Everybody is going to suddenly have an urge to have a vacation. Why? Because in chapters 8-9 he’s going to talk about giving, which are the two better chapters on giving anywhere in the New Testament. And I want to tell you what’s wrong. He’s building the platform right back here. He’s showing them: he’s dealing with death but he’s building the platform. If you’re going to live for this life folks, if you’re going to sink all of your investments into this crazy world and it’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth, you’ve missed the whole point of what Christianity is all about.
Your pursuit is the temporal. Your pursuit is not the eternal. And that’s the point. If I’m going to conquer the fear of death, perfect love cast out all fear, if I will just yield before Him, let Him renew me on the inner man day by day, less of me, more of Him, and live in that eternal perspective, death is a piece of cake. It’s just from here to over there. But when people live in the now, but we don’t live for the now. We live forever, for the One who lives forever. We live for eternity. We must understand that our pursuit has got to be that of the eternal, not the temporal.
And I want to promise you, if it’s not, that’s why you’re afraid of death. That’s why you’re scared to death, because you don’t know what’s on the other side. You’re not letting the Word of God renew your mind and the Spirit transform your life. And we’ve got to make up our minds: what we’re going to pursue. We’re going to pursue something but we only have two choices. Once this pursuit is there, and I want to promise you that if it’s not in your life this morning, you have no clue about the rest of what I’m going to say. Only when you’re pursuing the eternal can you have the perception that you’re going to have to have. That perception is that when we live for the eternal and not the temporary, what happens is we begin to grasp the difference between the momentary and the eternal.
To see the fear of death conquered in our life there has to be perception
Verse 17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” Now, what in the world is he talking about? What he’s saying here is exactly what he says in another passage but uses different words, same exact thought. And that’s Romans 8:28. Something is happening causing this. He says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” You see, what he’s saying in Corinthians is the same thing. God is using the affliction in his life, the momentary light affliction He’s using to create and produce an eternal weight in glory. He causes all things. You see, that affliction was a tool, a knife that was cutting him loose from all of his ties to this temporal world and freeing him to live in that which is eternal.
You see, God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Stone Mountain, Georgia, but when you’re flying east and when you get to Atlanta and you’re going to land to the west, it makes a huge turn and if you know when to look down, there’s that big mountain, that big rock mountain is called Stone Mountain. For years somebody told me, and I believed them without checking it out, there are three statues in those rocks. There are three Confederate generals carved out in that rock. They told me they were presidents, so I told everybody they were presidents. It took me a long time to realize the South dies hard. No, they’re not, they’re Confederate generals.
But one of my friends was sitting in a restaurant at the foot of that mountain one day and he came back home and he said, “Wayne, you won’t believe what God showed me.” And I said, “What’s that?” He said, “When I looked up there and I saw those three statues carved out of the rock, it dawned on me nothing had to be added to the rock to get the image that the artist wanted. But look what had to be chipped away for the artist to bring forth the image that was there.
You see, Paul is saying affliction is just a tool. We don’t get to choose the tools. Persecution, being perplexed, all that we studied back in chapter 4, all of these are just tools that God is using in the temporary to produce something in the eternal, the eternal weight of glory. Verse 29 of Romans tells you what he’s talking about. He says, “For those whom He foreknew, he also predestined,” that’s the purpose of each of the lives of a believer, “to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
You see, Paul understood and grasped this concept. He had a perception that was divine. It was a revelation to him. Why? Because he had the right pursuit, he had the right perception. And, as a matter of fact, he calls his affliction, he calls his being perplexed, he calls his persecution, being struck down, and he calls all of that “momentary light affliction.” Now, how in the world could he do that? Most of us would say, “Oh, look at the dreadful load we had to endure. Woe is me.”
Paul doesn’t say that. He says it’s a momentary, light affliction. When you grasp the difference between the momentary—now listen to me—and the eternal, it’s not hard at all to understand why Paul could say that. You see, the reason he could call it light affliction is because it was only momentary. You say, “What do you mean?” Something that is momentary does not last. Something that is momentary is transient. Something that is momentary is only for the moment. Moments will fly away. But listen, when you compare the momentary to the eternal, then there’s your difference right there. You can see the difference.
Whereas the momentary ends quickly, the eternal never ends. The word “eternal” is the word meaning that which is not affected by time. It’s perpetual, it never ends. So he said, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” The pain, the rejection, the affliction was a tool for the moment to create and to cause an eternal weight of glory. The word “weight” is the word figuratively here meaning “greatness, fullness, abundance.”
Now listen, look at the context and flow. The more Paul was afflicted for the moment, the more the fullness of Christ was seen in him. The more the weight of the glory of Christ was seen in him. The more the abundance of the presence of Christ was seen in him. And that is an eternal weight of glory. But the momentary was causing it to happen, and Paul would last forever because Paul was allowing life to work for him and not against him.
We’re so far off track. Folks, we’re not geared to stay here. We’re geared to be with Him forever. We’re strangers in this world. We understand that but some people live as if they’ve got to have what this world gives and they’re anchored to it, they’re tied to it. Paul says, “Not me, I’m allowing the affliction and the persecution and the pain and the suffering to cut me loose from the chord that have bound me to a temporal world to free me to be in the eternal.”
I want that eternal weight of glory to be produced within me. He’d already told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3, his first epistle to them, he’d already told them that there was going to come a day that they’re going to stand before Jesus and all of their works are going to be tested by fire. And all of that garbage they came up with and called it spiritual and good and asked God to bless is going to burn at the judgment seat of Christ. But all that was precious stones, that eternal weight in glory, letting Jesus be Jesus in them, letting Jesus live His life through them, letting Jesus produce those works of righteousness that they couldn’t in a million years be creative enough to produce, all of that would remain. It would be an eternal weight of glory.
Have you grasped the contrast between the temporal and the eternal? If you have, then you have a perception of realizing that whatever pain and suffering we go through here, allowing Christ to renew us day by day in the midst of it, allowing Christ to use it, to squeeze out the message of Christ in us the hope of glory, that’s eternal. That’s eternal. And that’s what life is all about. That affects everything about us. That affects our fear of death; that affects our giving. That affects everything that we do. You cannot take a person who lives after the temporal and teach them anything about not being afraid of death or about giving or anything else. But you can take a person who is focused on the eternal and it’s just an outflow of who he is.
To see the fear of death conquered in our life there has to be a pattern
The pursuit, the perception, and then finally there’s going to be a pattern that will develop. When you start pursuing the eternal, not the temporary, and you begin to grasp this perception God wants you to have that is producing an eternal weight of glory within you, then you’ll begin to develop a pattern. You know what that pattern is? We will focus on the unseen instead of the seen.
Look at verse 18. He’s building on what he said: “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.” What an incredible verse. Most people are living in what they think is the obvious and they’re missing the actual. They don’t have the big picture.
There was a football announcer for the University of Georgia. Being on the radio he was the eyes of the people who couldn’t see the game and so he would say to them, “Now, get the picture. Get the picture.” And he would draw the bigger picture of what’s going on in the game. Not that particular play but he would look at the whole picture of the game.
This is exactly what happens when you develop that pattern. You start looking at the unseen. Most of us get so hung up in the temporal, the obvious, we miss the actual. We miss what God is doing. We’re always, “Oh, no, what am I going to do about this. What am I going to do about that,” instead of saying, “God is in control. Now what is He up to in the bigger picture?” Each of the contrasts that we have looked at in 16, 17, and 18 build upon each other.
When we pursue the eternal instead of the temporary, the inner man being renewed, the outer man decaying, it affects our perception of life. And we begin to grasp, “Hey, wait a minute, this pain is only momentary. It’s producing something that is eternal.” And then that pattern sets in and we start looking at the unseen, not the things that are seen. What’s God doing in America today? Everybody is scared to death of things. There are some people more afraid of losing their Social Security than they are of the world going to hell. What’s God doing in the bigger picture?
What happened on 9-11? I don’t know, but what’s God up to? What’s He trying to do to wake up a nation? What’s the unseen thing that’s there? Paul in continuing his thought from verse 17 says again, “while we look not at the things which are seen.” Now the word “look” there is not to take a glance. He doesn’t say, “I glanced over and looked at something else.” It’s the word that means to fix your gaze upon something. It’s the word skopeo. It’s the word we get the word “scope” from. It means to spy out, to closely observe.
You ask any hunter. When you get what you’re looking for, you fix your eyes upon it and that’s the word that’s used here: skopeo. He’s looking at, fixing your eyes upon the things that are unseen. Paul is saying that anything you can see, touch, and feel, is only temporary. If you ever studied the book of James, it says everything you pursue after once you get it, you realize it has you. Have you ever noticed that? Go out and buy something: it’s got you. You’re either going to have to clean it, fill it up full of gas, you’re going to have to do something. It’s got you; it owns you. That’s the way it works: anything. It won’t last. Affliction was only momentary; it would not last. But that which cannot be seen, that which God is doing, through that which you’re going through, that’s eternal. We must fix our eyes upon that.
So in conquering the fear of death—and this is just the beginning of these messages. I can’t wait until the next one. I thought I’d get into chapter 5 but I couldn’t quite make it—we must begin by pursuing the eternal, not the temporal so that we might have the proper perception of the pain and the suffering in this life to realize that it’s only momentary and it’s a light affliction compared to the eternal weight in glory, and that will develop a pattern. It will stop getting so messed up with the things we can see and start fixing our gaze on the things that are unseen. What God is doing in the bigger picture.
So in closing today I want to ask you a question. Are you living for the dot or are you living for the line? Do you know how to tell if somebody has lived for the line instead of the dot? When you die, it will tell you more about your life and the way you lived than anything else. It’s the way you die. I haven’t been there, so I don’t know yet. I’ve tried to teach my children how to live and one of these days perhaps God will give me the opportunity to teach them how to die: by trusting and focusing on Christ.
R. G. Lee was the pastor of Belleview Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a large church in his day. He preached a lot of great sermons; probably preached on heaven more than any preacher ever that’s recorded. Others may have, but that’s recorded. And they said when he died—his wife had died several years before and I think I’ve got the story right—his daughter was there with him in another room and he cried out, “Honey! Honey! Come here, come here.” And she ran in thinking, “He’s fallen, something’s happened.” And he was looking at the unseen, which she could not see. And he said, “Oh, honey, look, look. There’s Mama.” That was his wife that had gone on several years before. And then he said, “Oh, there’s Jesus. Honey, heaven is so beautiful. I’ve preached on it all these years. I’ve never done it justice. Oh, how beautiful.” And with those words he went right on to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.
He died the way he lived. You know how a person is living when he faces death. If he’s afraid of it, he’s living in the temporal and not the eternal, because God, who gives saving grace, and God who gives living grace, gives dying grace. He’ll take us right on through. One of these days, my prayer is for my life, to live so close to Him—and I’m being renewed, I’ve got a long way to go—but I’d love to get to the place that I’m living so close to Him that He could say to me in the midst of the pain and the suffering, “Wayne, you’re a lot closer to My house than you are to yours. Come on over, supper is ready.”
It’s just a transition from here to there. What are we afraid of? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. We’re living in the temporal and not the eternal. And everything breaks down from that point on. There are too many ties to what this world offers. We’re not living in the eternal.
Where my heart is broken, we have needs in this world, in our church, and we’ve got people getting all they can, canning all they get, and sitting on the can and poisoning the rest. Why? Because they’ve got to live in this world. They have not yet understood that we live in another world that’s forever.