Series: Don’t Waste your Waiting (Part 3/4). By Rosie Moore.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for” (Heb 11:1).

As children, many of us learned about the wonderful process by which a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. One day the caterpillar stops eating and hangs upside down from a twig and spins itself a silky cocoon. Within the protective casing of the chrysalis, the caterpillar transforms its body, eventually emerging as a butterfly or moth with fully developed eyes, legs, antennae, and wings.

Inside the chrysalis.

With the naked eye, we can’t see what’s happening to the moth in its season of dormancy. But if we had x-ray eyes to see inside the invisible world of the cocoon, we would be amazed at the massive disintegration of tissue and rapid cell division. A powerful metamorphosis is taking place in the unseen world, but we only see the effects when a butterfly finally emerges.

How can a follower of Christ be sure that our waiting is not wasted, but transformative instead? Hebrews 11 reminds us that God is doing far more than we can see in our difficult labours in this world. As we wait for Him, we are urged to put our faith in things not seen (Heb 11:1). Until the cocoon of this age bursts open and we finally get to see Jesus face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12), we must learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

Things not seen.

In 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, Paul gives suffering Christians bifocal lenses to see their ‘momentary troubles’ in the light of an eternal, invisible reality, so that they do not lose heart but are instead inspired to faithful service. Using words like ‘groan’ and ‘burdened’, Paul does not dismiss or minimize their present troubles (2 Cor 5:4). Rather, he urges them to fix their eyes on things not seen, as they eagerly await their glorified bodies and heavenly homes.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:16-18).

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 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. 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 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.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:6-8).

As a culture, we are obsessed with optics. But to live by faith and not by sight, we need to topple the idol of focusing on only what can be seen, felt, praised, and noticed, in the here and now. With eyes of faith, we will see that “the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (2 Cor 4:14). The reality of the resurrection is why Paul says “we are always confident.” Paul’s heavenly perspective changes everything.

Because of Christ’s bodily resurrection, followers of Christ are being inwardly renewed by the Holy Spirit day-by-day (2 Cor 4:16). Our sanctification is even more real and wonderful than the caterpillar’s transformation in its silky cocoon: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17).

As a Christian, it is easy to lose heart and quit, but Paul says effectively,

“This cocoon you’re in is not all there is! It’s just a temporary shelter, a flimsy tent. Open the flap and you’ll see a whole world out there—a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. So, don’t let fatigue, sickness, persecution, or suffering force you off the job! Don’t let your current situation cloud your lenses! There is a purpose in your labours. Your weakness is allowing the resurrection power of Jesus to strengthen you moment by moment. It is keeping you from pride. It is proving your faith to others. And as you persevere in obedience, the Holy Spirit is transforming you into the likeness of Christ! Look and see the metamorphosis taking place in the cocoon.”

A 19th century pastor, James H Aughey once wrote: “As a weak limb grows stronger by exercise, so will your faith be strengthened by the very efforts you make in stretching it out toward things unseen.”

Troubles are a gift. They are opportunities to stretch our faith towards things unseen. Knowing that we will live forever with God in a place without sin and suffering enables us to live above the groans and burdens of this temporary tent. Death is only a prelude to eternal life with God, and we have this eternity in us now.

This is especially true for God’s children in uncertain and painful times. We will become like Jesus to the extent that we focus on the unseen person of Christ and his resurrection power to transform our lives. After all, didn’t God unleash the greatest blessing the world has ever known when Jesus was raised from the dead?

No bumper sticker faith.

“Walk by faith and not by sight” may sound like a bumper sticker for those living a life sheltered from pain, trauma, and loss. But nothing is further from the truth. This is no platitude.

A friend of mine with cancer is stretching out her faith towards the unseen truths of the gospel, as she trudges through the anguish of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and an uncertain future. Despite her suffering, she is walking in the faithful confidence of 2 Cor 5:6-8. Jen is a picture of ‘good courage’.

Nigeria is currently the most persecuted nation on earth. Every day a hundred million Nigerian Christians are walking by faith and not by sight, as many among them are terrorized, stripped of their livelihoods and face abduction and sexual violence.  2 Cor 4:16-18 is not a platitude, but a life and death reality.

Living by faith and not by sight is not about ignoring the difficult afflictions we endure, nor convincing ourselves of something that isn’t true. It is not about claiming fake promises of prosperity that God has not given us, nor about ‘manifesting’ a bright future for ourselves. Rather, it is about training our hearts and minds to see that our afflictions are producing for us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).

Living for the unseen is actively trusting in God’s sovereign purposes over all things for our good and his glory, even while “hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down” (2 Cor 4:8-9, Rom 8:28). We may not see what God is doing, but we know that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself mighty on behalf of those whose heart is whole toward him” (2 Chron 16:9). “No eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isa 64:4).

Living by faith is trusting that through the labours inside the cocoon, God is transforming his people into the likeness of Jesus, to make us fit for our eternal home (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 5:5).  He is faithful to complete this work of transformation. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thess 5:24).

When followers of Jesus actively walk by faith and not by sight, we begin to see that we can’t lose. Whether alive on earth or alive with Him in heaven, we’re in the cocoon of a God who is perfectly sovereign, infinitely wise, and always faithful. There is great victory in this certainty (2 Cor 5:8; Rom 8:37).

In just a little while.

Our motivation in the waiting room is to draw courage and patience from things unseen.

Our goal in the waiting room is to persevere in pleasing God, as we trust his faithful character and promises (2 Cor 5:9).

Our wait will surely be rewarded when we finally see Jesus face-to-face. He will come “in just a little while,” but in the meantime, the righteous will live by faith.

“The righteous will live by faith”: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

37 For, “In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

38 “But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.” (Heb 10:36-38).

Join us next week as we camp on the third step in the waiting room— “A month of promises you can depend on.”

 

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