2 Corinthians 5:6-10 For we walk by faith, not by sight
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight — 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The purpose of apostle Paul’s ministry is to bring the life of Christ to the nations amidst much oppositions and peril. The grit of his apostolic calling was revealed through much persecutions and hardship. He said, “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:11-12. During Paul’s time, it was almost impossible to preach the gospel without encountering spirited persecutions from entrenched religious, social and political elements. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul recounted his resume of suffering:
- whipped with 39 lashes (5 different times)
- beaten with rods (3 different times)
- pummeled with stones (1 time)
- shipwrecked (3 times)
- adrift at sea (one night, one day)
- danger from rivers
- danger from robbers
- danger from his own people
- danger from Gentiles
- danger in the city
- danger in the wilderness
- danger at sea
- danger from false brothers
- toil and hardship
- sleepless nights (many)
- hungry and thirsty (often)
- cold and exposed
- the pressure of anxiety for all the churches (daily)
However, Paul professed that despite his sufferings, he would remain in good courage and good cheer although there were countless moments when he vacillated between departing to be with God or to continue in his apostolic work. Central to Paul’s life and philosophy is to walk by faith, not by sight. The distinct feature of a life lived out in obedience and hope (faith) despite dire circumstances is perpetual peace and good courage. On the flip side, the distinctive of one who walks by sight, whose eyes are fixed on the cares and the pleasures of life is sorrow and darkness. In today’s devotion, we learn that the Father’s reward is with those who make great sacrifices to please God in all that they do.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
Paul had resolved within himself to be of good courage even if it meant remaining in the ministry. “At home in the body we are absent from the Lord” is Paul’s way of describing his earthly existence. Paul’s secret of finding good courage despite his troubles and constant danger of death was in the way he looked at things. He fixed his eyes continually on the heavenly and eternal reward: while we look not at the things which are seen (earthly troubles), but at the things which are not seen (heavenly glory) (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). In doing so, Paul found his momentary light affliction as incomparable with the eternal weight of glory (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
In this succinct assertion, Paul presented the two opposing mindsets – faith and sight. Walking by faith means obeying God in spite of the circumstances around us, the feelings within us, or the consequences ahead of us. However, one cannot obey God without first hearing His word. Therefore, faith begins with first hearing the word of Christ through the written word. The apostle Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17. The written word is the conduit through which believers receive divine life, wisdom and instructions.
Walking by sight on the other hand refers to living life in accordance to man’s basic instincts and fleshly assessment of circumstances. Sight in the original language denotes external appearance, that what is immediately perceived through the eyes.
We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Paul did not shy away from making his natural inclinations known, which was to depart and to be with God: to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. However, he would defer to God and be of good courage no matter at home or absent. Paul’s desire to depart from the world was attributed to the extreme difficulties that constantly plagued him: For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:11). Nevertheless, in the light of God’s call and grace over him, Paul did not weigh in with his preference. For Paul professed to have only one ambition – to be pleasing to Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Paul substantiated his ambition… to be pleasing to God with the eventuality of appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul made known the inevitability of judgment for every man (both believers and unbelievers) and to receive recompense for works done: for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. However, the believer’s judgment as opposed to the unbeliever’s concerns the quality of each man’s work through which he will be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:13). On that day, each believer’s work will be tested by fire to reveal the underlying motivations of his works. If his works are done in accordance to faith (obedience to God’s instructions), his works will remain and he will receive a reward. Otherwise, he will suffer loss even though his soul may still be saved.
God rewards a man not by his performance, but by his desire to please God as opposed to pleasing himself.
God evaluates and judges a man’s heart by his desire to please God as opposed to pleasing himself. A man may appear accomplished through which he gains recognition. However, if his works are birthed not out of a desire to please God, he is seen as pleasing himself. Therefore, God is not concern about a man’s scope of influence or his resume of achievements. As God has appointed every man to a unique and important role in God’s salvation plan, every believer’s task is to find that role and fulfill it. Thus, in the endeavor of pleasing God, one may not find himself with much wriggle room. He may have to make painful sacrifices and pass up on his rights and privileges. He may have to forego the comfort of life in order to reach people in far flung places. He may have used up his productive years without seeing significant fruit from his labours. However, the reward of obedience is incomparable to the persecutions and momentary afflictions. And the sacrifices that seemed insignificant and superfluous to the world is precious to God.
Paul understood his apostolic mission and was single minded in fulfilling his call. He walked by faith by giving up his freedom and He chose to please God even if it meant more hardship.
God loves a man whom when he is caught in the dilemmas of life, chooses to follow God while rejecting personal entitlements, interests, career opportunities and physical security. For such, God rewards with the highest honours and his legacy will perpetuate for generations to come.
God sends his best soldiers to the fiercest battlegrounds.
Sometimes I wonder why certain people had it easier than others. I have seen some ministers faithfully serving a group of people who not only lacked talent but were obstinate to the core. Yet I see some ministers serving another group of people who are hungry for heavenly things and labouring tirelessly in accordance to their pastor’s vision. Is God being unfair when faithful and talented pastors were given stiff necked people as their flock? Shouldn’t God entrust more resources and prosper the work of ministers who are faithful and talented? Yet God appoints his best men to the harshest of battlegrounds. Moses, under the burden of an obstinate people who would never stop complaining detested of life. Moses responded to God, “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once.” (Numbers 11:14-15). When you find yourself in a parched and weary land, remember that God is accustomed to committing his most resilient and capable generals to fight in the fiercest battles. He appoints his best ministers to reach out to save the most hardened of peoples. God sent His own begotten Son to unfaithful Israel so that the Gentiles may reap the harvest of His work.
I am sure that Paul would prefer his ministry to be less daunting, more fruitful and enjoyable. Instead, it brought him untold sorrow and pain on top of the constant worries concerning the churches. He might think that if he had been smarter or more capable, he would have achieved more and suffered less. As we know it, the ministry was far from thriving, it weighed exceedingly on him so much so he desired death. Should a successful minister be marked by a thriving ministry? More accurately, how does God appoint his ministers to their respective harvest grounds? God loves sinners and even those who are evil to the core. Hence, He sends to them those who will remain faithful even in the face of oppositions, persecutions, abuse and imprisonment. Therefore, count it all joy when we feel no pleasure in serving, when we feel like giving up and walking away from it all. As long as we have not received another command or vision, it pleases the Father if we continue to walk by faith, not by sight.
Are you accustomed to pleasing yourself by ignoring the calls of your pastor and the Spirit? God rewards those who choose to obey the word of the Spirit despite inconveniences and sacrifices. What did your pastor and the Spirit say to you in recent days?
Dear Lord, strengthen me to do the things that truly matter to you and stop deceiving myself thinking that I am doing God a favour. Create in me a divine satisfaction and significance in doing your will. Use me to serve the church and to reach out to the poor and marginalised. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.