Early on this week I started living with this scripture, I started gathering information, I ran across the little story of Michelangelo. Mid-week I met one on one with a number of people and listened to concerns, situations, questions…and as I talked, and as I listened to some of life’s struggles, the idea kept running through my head, “there’s an angel in this rock that is wanting to come out.”
You want to help someone. Help them see the angel within trying to get out. People need to see the future, they need to see God. Half a dozen times in the past few years, as I have worked with families for funerals that told me they did not want a lot of religion, I’ve read the scripture from Ecclesiastes 3: “A time for everything, a time to live, a time to die…” and I end with what I consider a summary verse to bring it all together. One of my favorite of all scriptures, Ecc. 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the hearts of men…”
An angels waiting to come out. God is even now working within you to fashion something beautiful, you have a sense of the eternal that has perhaps been suppressed. A sense of God, a sense of greater things. There is an angel that wants to come out. Undoubtedly there is sin, a sense of pessimism competing to overtake your heart, but greater still is the renewing of the Spirit of God… I was at a little girls birthday party a few weeks ago, and one of the gifts, an angel.
Paul’s words are not so different from the Ecclesiastes verse: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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.” Fix your gaze. How do you see the cup with water half-way – half empty, or half full. When you see your friend with problems how do you see them… when you experience hardships, brokenness, where do your fix your eyes… What used to be and is no more, or what will be…
When you are in the middle of problems, when you are in the middle of stress, when you are in the middle of a broken relationship, its so easy to lose focus and be consumed and see the worst of everything. Let’s be clear, Paul is NOT saying forget about your present problems and know that there is a better future and just live for that what might be someday. On the contrary, he is saying, never forget that there is a glorious future, the Lord is making everything beautiful in its time, and let that knowledge impact your life today. I love the phrase, “temporary troubles.” This too shall pass. The Lord will bring you to a place of peace if you let him.
I know there are many serious problems out there, and for a time they may seem consuming: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed…” Paul says (2 Cor. 5:1). Living by faith does not mean every problem goes away, we still may struggle with finances, relationships, health, hurts…Living by faith means we live with the knowledge that God is working things out, he is making everything beautiful in his time… Faith gives us the ability to endure. God sometimes chooses to bring healing to our body/relationships and other times we are called to endure. “Meanwhile we groan…, longing…” That’s faith, to see that which is coming even in the middle of the heartaches and hurts. I cannot tell you that becoming a Christian means every problem disappears, every bill is suddenly paid, every relationship magically restored, but I can tell you, faith allows you to see something greater.“ we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed…” That’s living with faith. The desire for the greater things of God. Faith is easy when you life clicks along like clockwork, but when troubles hit, faith allows us to see them as “momentary.”
Without Christ its too easy to give up, or to look for easy answers, or to think too narrowly as if our problems are the only issue at stake, as if we are the center of the universe. I like what Corrie Ten Boom says, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” 5:6 talks about confidence, and again in 5:8 the word “confidence” is used. living with confidence in spite of the problems.
Way back in the days of San Fransisco Sally and I had a friend named Mark. This man lived with confidence! Just as Sally and I were arriving to the church, Mark, who had grown up in the church, was returning to the Church. After a few months Mark and his family revealed that he had contracted AIDS. As he struggled with AIDS, we watched a life transform. Mark found peace. Mark stayed friends with many in the gay community, and he told us one day that his friends used to say to him, “Now that you have AIDS, it seems like you are more content, happier, than when you did not have AIDS.” And he would tell them about Christ in his life. By reaffirming his faith in Christ, by coming back to the God he knew as a child, his eyes were open to greater things beyond his own present circumstances. Living by faith is to live with confidence.
“We live by faith, not by sight.” (5:7). There’s a short verse to memorize. Paul is challenging this world’s preoccupation with the present, including in our churches, we worry so much about the now. We worry about what people will think. In broken relationships/difficult situations, to be able to see the future is a gift. It’s liberation. It’s faith. The promises for which Paul longs are made real by an encounter with the risen Christ and by an experience of the Spirit’s power and presence. It’s Paul’s knowledge of God in the present that makes him long to be with God for all eternity.
Sin and it’s destructive force is real, but the promise of God of a greater future is greater still. Problems are real. Living by faith means the problems are seen as temporary. Living by faith means seeing the greater future promised by God. Living by faith means to have confidence today. You know broken relationships are not always healed instantly, but living by faith and knowing God has the power to transform lives for the good and bring restoration, to bring something new, to make everything beautiful in its time, makes all the difference. What do you see when you confront pain and hurts? Pessimism sees everything spiraling out of control and getting worse. Faith sees an angel that is trying to come out. Amen.