************ Funeral Sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 14, 2006

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not loseThough 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) 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.
Funeral Message for Andy Dragt

Our text for this morning is full of contrasts. The main contrast is between our present suffering and the glory which is to follow. But there are other contrasts as well: outwardly and inwardly, light and weighty, momentary and eternal, that which is seen and that which is unseen.

As we mourn the passing of Andy Dragt and look for comfort it would do us well to focus on the Word of God in this passage.

What comfort do we have upon the death of Andy? We know that his suffering has ended. We know cancer no longer has any effect upon him. We know his every tear has been wiped away. We know his "light and momentary troubles" (vs 17) are ended. And, we also know that Andy is now experiencing "eternal glory that far outweighs" all of the troubles of this life (vs 17). We know that Andy and his family can look forward to the glory of the resurrection at which time they shall be united again.

There is so much suffering in this world. Yet life can also be good. Andy, for instance, enjoyed his farm and his horses. He loved to go hiking on back trails. He loved spending time with family and eating meals with them. In my visits he perked up when we talked about his horses. Yet, as we saw with Andy, suffering and pain is a constant in this life. Christians are not immune to the problems and trials of life. They also lie upon beds of pain. They experience the ravages of disease. They have loved ones torn from their side. Their sons and daughters die on the battlefield. They suffer accidents that leave them paralyzed. They give birth to children with severe disabilities.

In spite of all the advancements in medicine and technology to relieve pain and suffering, our hospitals and nursing homes contain the grim evidence that sickness and disease still bring pain, suffering, and death. In spite of all our attempts to bring peace to the nations of the world, the news daily brings word of death, destruction, and bloodshed. In spite of a growing prison population and increasing numbers of police, crime continues to be a growth industry so that it is dangerous to walk some of the streets even here in Visalia. There continues to be pain and suffering and hurt brought by drought, famine, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, and fire.

On top of this, Christians suffer for the sake of Christ. True believers in God and Jesus Christ are hurt when they hear God's name taken in vain, when they see person after person die without the name of Jesus on their lips, when they see attempt after attempt to take all mention of God and Christ away from the public square. In many places of the world Christians suffer persecution and death for the sake of Christ.

But notice what our text says about all these troubles and trials: they are "light and momentary."

Light and momentary? Is Paul kidding us here? Does he know what he is talking about? Is Paul a little too quick to minimize or downplay troubles and trials? Is Paul being superficial? Did Paul know what it means to sit for hour after hour by a hospital sick bed? Did Paul ever have to listen to the many friends and family during funeral home visitation? Did Paul have any understanding of what it means to lose your husband or wife or child? Did Paul have any inkling of how cancer eats away flesh and spirit leaving only an empty sack of bones? Would Paul have said this if he saw the last six months of Andy's life?

Paul knew about suffering. Paul knew firsthand. He knew that the suffering of God's people is not for a moment; he knew that it often lasts for weeks or months or even years. He knew about the bitterness and disappointments of life. He knew the pain of death. Listen to Paul describe what he all went through:
(2 Cor 11:23-29) I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. (24) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (28) Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (29) Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
This litany proves beyond any doubt that Paul knew troubles and trials are not light and momentary experiences.

In spite of this, Paul calls the troubles and trials of this life "light and momentary." Compared to the weight of glory that awaits God's children, today's troubles seem like nothing. Compared to the length of glory that awaits God's children, today's troubles seem momentary.

What can we say about the glory that makes today's troubles seem light and momentary? It is eternal glory! It is the heavenly glory of the new Jerusalem! This city is perfect in every way. There is no night there. No suffering and death and mourning and crying. No tears. The streets are paved with pure gold. Nothing impure has a place in this city. Nor does anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.

But there is more, much more. Because at the heart of glory lies God the great and glorious and awesome and mighty and gracious God. In fact, without God all the glory of heaven is empty and meaningless. Glory in the Scriptures always has to do with God. God is the all-glorious God. It is His perfections and His glory which are reflected throughout the heavenly city!

This is the glory, also, that God gave to Jesus as a reward for humbling Himself in the way of perfect obedience on the cross. Of this glory He was given a foretaste on the mount of transfiguration. Into that glory the resurrected Lord entered when He arose from the dead and ascended to the Father's right hand.

This is the glory that Jesus now prepares for all His saints. So great is this glory, so awesome is this glory, so wondrous is this glory, that the Apostle Paul can write:
(1 Cor 2:9-10) "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-- (10) but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
Next to this glory, our troubles and trials are light and momentary. As a believer in Christ, Andy is experiencing this glory. And, next to this glory, Andy's troubles and trials were light and momentary. What comfort it gives us to know this.

But there is more comfort too. Our Scripture reading shows us the relation between our present suffering and future glory. Did you catch what Paul says? He says "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Today's troubles achieve glory! Afflictions work glory! Trials attain glory! That's what Paul is saying.

It is hard for us to see this and to understand this and to accept this. When troubles and trials happen we tend to complain. We ask, "Why did this have to happen to me?" Rebelliously we complain that the way of the Lord is not right.

To get comfort in the midst of afflictions we need to realize that what happened to Christ must also happen to us. We all know that Christ could never have attained the crown of glory if He had not first gone the way of the cross and the grave. We read in Hebrews,
(Heb 12:2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf Phil 2:5-11)
The affliction Christ endured was an absolutely necessary precondition to the glory He received. And, the same thing is true for us (Cf 1 Pet 5:10).
Topic: Afflictions
Subtopic: Refining Influence of
Index: 496
Date: 11/1988.1

During the depression a man lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but tenaciously held to his faith -- the only thing he had left.
One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. "What are you going to do with that?" asked the man. The workman said, "Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit up there." Tears filled the eyes of the heart-broken man as he walked away. It seemed that God had spoken through the workman to explain the ordeal through which he was passing."
Do you see what God was doing? God was shaping the man for heaven. God was using pain to prepare the man for the glory of the future. There is no glory unless there is also affliction and trial and troubles and pain and suffering.

Coaches know this. So do athletes. "No gain without pain," they say. No gold medal without hour after hour of practice and pushing your body to the limit. No glory without suffering.

Oysters know this too. When the shell of an oyster is chipped or pierced, a foreign substance, usually a grain of sand, gets in. The inside of an oyster's shell is made up of a lustrous substance called nacre. When a grain of sand gets into a shell, the nacre cells get busy. They cover the grain of sand with layer after layer of nacre in order to protect the soft body of the oyster. The result is that a beautiful pearl is formed. No pain, no glory.

I have to admit that you and I can never truly appreciate the wonder of this truth. The reason is we tend to fix our eyes "on what is seen" (2 Cor 4:18). All that we can see are the things that are light and momentary. We tend to focus on our body and its pains. Or we focus on the trials we are going through. If all that we see in the midst of our troubles and trials is the suffering, the loss, the anxiety, then we cannot experience the truth that affliction works glory. What we need to do is fix our eyes "on what is unseen" (2 Cor 4:18).

Fix our eyes on what is unseen. Be like a pregnant woman. You can't tell a woman who is pregnant that the delivery is going to be fun. It is a magnificent experience, but fun is not a word that comes to mind. And through this extraordinary pain comes a beautiful child. The pain of childbirth is real pain. But we can never say the pain of childbirth is meaningless. As long as the mother-to-be focuses on the child and not on the pain, then it is all worth it; as long as she focuses on the unseen baby rather than on the delivery, then it is all worth it.

Fix our eyes on what is unseen. The unseen, of course, are the things of God's heavenly kingdom, the glory of His presence, the inheritance of the saints, the new heavens and earth. Andy and I talked about this a couple of times. Andy knew what awaited him as a believer in Christ. He knew that there was more to life than his hospital bed or his horses or his farm. He knew that after he suffered a while there awaited him eternal glory in Christ (1 Pet 5:10).

Fix our eyes on what is unseen. Then, affliction works glory! Then, like Andy, we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37). Then we realize that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor 4:17).
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