Suffering With Hope

Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on July 3, 2022

In a suffering world, where waves of disappointment, pain, loss, and grief can take our feet right out from under us, tossing us to and fro; where dreams can be so long delayed they die, or maybe worse yet, they come true only to have them snatched right from our hands, we “do not lose heart.” That’s Paul’s warning to us in II Corinthians 4:16 and Pastor Ian’s message to us as well.

II Corinthians 4:16-18
16 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 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.

If we are to endure suffering and not lose heart, we must understand what that means.

Let’s start with a closer look at the Hebrew word “heart” in the Old Testament, which is “לב” or “leb.” It is not the organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies. It is so much more.

Biblically speaking, the heart is made up of our soul—our mind, emotions, and will- and the most essential part of our spirit—our conscience. It is in our hearts that we discern right and wrong, make decisions, and develop moral character. Our heart is where we know, remember, reflect, and resolve. It is who we are.

Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

The Greek term for heart “καρδία” (or “kardia”) sounds more like the term “cardiac,” but its meaning aligns closely with the Hebrew “leb,” encompassing our thoughts, emotions, and will. All that we think, feel, and do flows from our hearts.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Salvation is a heart experience. It happens only when we believe in our hearts and then confess with our mouths that Jesus is our Lord.

Romans 10:9-10
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

When we believe and confess, our hearts are changed. It is justification—an event in which the finished work of Jesus is applied with immediate and eternal results. We experience a permanent status change from condemned to righteous.

But that’s only the beginning. God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us—in our hearts and continues the transformation process, making us more like Him.

We allow the Truth living inside us to change how we think, how we feel, and what we doWe begin to live “by the Spirit.”

Romans 8:6-11
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

So with that foundation, what does it mean to lose heart, and why does Paul caution against it?

The Greek word for lose heart is “ἀθυμέω” (athumeo, pronounced ath-oo-meh’-o). It means to be dismayed, disheartened, dispirited, or broken in spirit; spiritless.

If we are a believer, if we’ve been saved, that doesn’t mean the Spirit of God has left us.

In John 14:16, Jesus tells us that:
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. 

God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is a permanent indwelling.

But we can stop listening to the Holy Spirit, no longer allowing His leading to guide us and grow us. As we saw in Romans 8, we either give our hearts over to the control of our flesh—the external influences and circumstances of the world, or we give our hearts over to the control of the Holy Spirit. One brings death, while the other brings life and peace.

When we lose heart, we give up control of our hearts to our flesh—we become disheartened. The Spirit no longer leads us—we have become dispirited.

We allow ourselves to think the wrong way (to believe the often subtle lies of the enemy, sometimes heard in our own voice). “God really isn’t loving, or He really isn’t good. Or maybe He isn’t loving or good to me. Maybe I don’t deserve His love or goodness.”

When we start thinking the wrong way, we begin to feel the wrong way and ultimately act the wrong way. So much sin can come out of times of suffering, our woundings, and the doubts and ungodly beliefs that can come from them if the Spirit does not lead us through those challenges.

But there is a better choice. It’s right there in the same Scripture where Paul told us not to lose heart.

II Corinthians 4:16-18
16 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 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.

We can fix our eyes on the unseen.

In II Kings 6:17, as the warring armies of the King of Aram had surrounded the city of Dothan to capture Elisha, Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to the unseen all around him.

“Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We must understand that we never fight, and we never suffer alone.

A. W. Tozer writes, “These invisible unseen things are not figments of our imagination. We’re not talking about visualizing things that are not there but rather seeing things that are there. The spiritual unseen world is real. Jesus created it. We tend to think of the visible world as real and doubt the reality of any other. . . A spiritual kingdom lies all around us. . . waiting for us to recognize it. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to fix our eyes on it by faith.”

First, we fix our eyes on the Truth of who God is. If you missed last week’s blog, go back and remind yourself of these Truths: He is love, and He is good.

We also fix our eyes on the Truth of His promises. Yes, there will be suffering in this world—sometimes deeply sorrowful and painful. But He will be near to us in our suffering, and while He does not cause our suffering, He promises to use that very thing for our good and His eternal glory.

I Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

Roman’s 8:28
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When we begin to view our sufferings in light of how God will use them and trust His Spirit to guide and sustain us through them, we can make it through without losing heart.

Randy Alcorn writes that “life on earth matters not because it’s the only life we have, but precisely because it isn’t—it’s the beginning of a life that will continue without end. It’s the precursor of life on the New Earth. Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die; it has already begun.”

Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com

For further study, read: https://justdisciple.com/theology-of-suffering/.

Questions for reflection or discussion: 

How does understanding the Biblical meaning of “heart” affect the importance you place on guarding your heart? 

What are some of the subtle lies the enemy has spoken to you during times of suffering?

How have you allowed those lies to cause you to “lose heart?”

What are the Truths of God’s Word about those same topics? 

Will you ask Him today to strengthen your heart by replacing those lies with Truths?

How can you train and prepare yourself to remain focused and fixed on the unseen realities of eternity, even and especially in the midst of suffering?

What are you most anticipating about heaven? How does thinking about that steel your resolve to endure suffering and not lose heart?

 

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