What are you striving for in life beyond anything else?

Scripture References & Transcript

2 Corinthians 4:15-18

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Philippians 3:1-21

Every generation has a struggle, a difficulty, some type of a defining characteristic that when you look back, you can’t talk about that generation without talking about that thing. I, this is not an exhaustive list, just what I came up with from my own back of my mind. In the 1910s that you had World War I in the 1930s, you had the Great Depression. My grandmother grew up in the Great Depression. And so that was definitely one of those defining characteristics that defined a lot of who she was and how she operated. In the 1940s, you had World War II in the 1950s and sixties, you had the Civil Rights Movement in the 1980s, you had the Cold War. I was born in 84, so I grew up in the nineties, and I was thinking, what is that defining thing I came up with?

Dare drug awareness, resistance education, if you know, you know, it was a big thing back in the day, but it made me think, what is the defining characteristic of this current generation? And I really tried to wrestle with it and, and say, well, what is that struggle that they have? That if you look back on this generation years from now, people would say, Hey, this is that thing that they conquered, that they fought, they combated. And, and I came up with one word that defines this current generation, and that word is hydration. <Laugh>, they have a battle against hydration, and it is an epic battle that they wage. You go to any college, any high school, middle school, elementary, go look in, they’re lost and found. And this is what you’ll see right here. You’ll just see tons of water bottles just everywhere. Water bottles galore.

They are all over the place. Not just that but now even my third grade daughter, she, she carries around and not the name brand one, but she carries around a knock off one of 40 ounces of this that looks like that. And specifically this type of water bottle you can sell at eBay for like $300. And I don’t understand, except for the fact that we really take hydration seriously. And 2024 now, now, when we had kids, that’s what my wife, I’m never gonna be that dad. That’s like back in my day, back when I was growing up. And yet with this whole water craze, I find myself the other day saying, back in my day, this is all we had right here. That was it. We didn’t have anything else. You couldn’t carry a water bottle of school, your teacher get, get that outta here.

We had this thing and we only had three Mississippis. That was it. <Laugh>, like, I’m amazed. It’s a miracle that any of us are still alive twice a day. We got to line up at the school water fountain, and then you had three Mississippis and that end of it into that hydration. I mean, just crazy how little hydration I had growing up compared to just the, the volume of water that kids are drinking. Now, my third grader, she’s, she’s drinking 40 ounces in a cup at a time. That’s half her body weight and water every single day. And so that’s not really the thing that defines this generation. And yet you can’t talk about this generation without talking about just our very strong interest in water. But it did lead me to ask this question, and I would challenge you to ask you this question. What would you say your defining characteristic is? Like if, if someone else, an outsider looked at your life and they looked at your relationships, the topics of conversation that you engage in, where you spend your time, where you spend your money, what would an outsider looking at you say that your defining characteristic is? Or to put it a different way, ask yourself, what is the singular thing you are striving for in life beyond anything else?

Just, just do a self-examination. Well, what’s that thing that’s driving, driving who I am driving my decision making process? And, and then it makes me wonder, does the Bible give us an answer? Would the Bible tell me it, it’s easy to get caught up in the world around me and all the things, but would the Bible give me an answer of what my defining characteristic should be? What, what that singular focus that should drive my decision making process? We’ve been in a sermon series on the Bible project. So this is the last week of it. It’s five weeks where we’re really looking at scripture and trying to understand that scripture, even though it’s 66 books all combined together, even though it was written by numerous authors over thousands of years, that scripture is telling one story. And so if you are gonna describe that story in a sentence, this is what it be.

The meta narrative of the Bible revolves around the creation, fall redemption and ultimate restoration of humanity through the divine plan and the covenant relationship between God and humanity. The the story of scripture applies just as much in 2024 as it did the day it was finished 2000 years ago. If you’ve got a Bible, turn with me to two Corinthians chapter four. We’re gonna look at the last two verses in chapter four of two Corinthians. And then we’re gonna look at the first 10 verses of chapter five in second Corinthians. This is Paul writing. And what we’re gonna see in Paul’s writing is that he has this certain bent, this certain perspective that is a defining characteristic of how he views life, of how he views the world around him, and how it affects his decision making process. This is what he says. So we do not lose heart, though our outer self is wasting away.

Now, if you pause right there, that is, that is, whew, a little sad and depressing. What’s he saying? He’s saying, your body, your outer self, you’re dying. When they do studies, five out of every five people die dead. Eventually. That’s the reality that we are all facing. Your body at some point’s gonna start breaking down. And some of you, even as I’m saying that, you’re feeling it because you, you can almost some days tangibly feel it. Like you wake up one day and you’re like, what was that? There’s a part of me that is hurting, that has never hurt before. And it is this reminder that our outer self is wasting away. But there’s some hope with it. He says, our inner self is being renewed day by day for this light momentary affliction. Or our body that is dying is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, he, he’s saying, okay, his perspective in life is not just to look at the temporary, the right now, but instead he’s looking ahead to what is next.

He says, for the things that are seen are transient, the temporary here for a moment, then gone. But the things that are unseen are eternal. This eternal perspective. If you add up all the years of the earth and the galaxy and all of history, the in comparison to eternity, human history, world history, it’s that it’s just gone. Eternity is going to last forever. Let, let’s continue. In chapter five, verse one and chapter five, he says four, we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. If indeed, by putting it on, we may not be found naked. So, so here’s this, this picture that, that Paul’s describing for us. Paul was a tent maker.

And so he’s someone who worked with 10. So he’s using a tent to describe our temporary human body. In the Old Testament, this is a theme as well, that you have the tabernacle, which was this temporary tent that they would set up and tear down and set up and tear down. And inside the tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God. And they would talk in the Old Testament about one day they would build a temple, which would be a permanent residence, so it would no longer be transit. So he, he’s taking that same picture and he’s bringing it forward to us. And Paul is saying that our life is like a tent. It’s not a building, it’s not permanent, it’s not long term. It’s just set up, tear down, set up, tear down. How do you like to go camping in a tent?

How many out there? Alright, it’s like four of you. Oh, that’s great. I, I grew up camping. I used to think that going on vacation was going to Gardner State Park. ’cause That’s what we did as a family every single summer. So other kids would say, what are you doing? We’re going on vacation. I’d say, enjoy Gardner State Park. ’cause I just didn’t think there was another option. If you’re going on vacation, anybody ever been to Garden State Park? All right. Yes. In the back. I like it. If you, if you’ve, if you’ve been, you’ve been all right. It’s, it’s a big in the know. So we would go tt camping every summer. We’d go for like a week, and then I grow up and I get kids and we’d go t camping. We’ve got this guy right here. This is called a popup tent, and it’s called a popup tent. Let’s see if this works because of this.

Pretty close, pretty close. And there it goes. So we will go, we actually got this tent to camp in our backyard originally, and then we’ve gone camping with it a handful of times. You stake it down. And, and when I was a kid, we’d go for a whole weekend, I’d sleep totally fine, and then I became an adult <laugh>, and I go tent camping. And I found that no matter what I do inside the tent in terms of bedding, it’s still uncomfortable. So I, I can have a cot, I can have a memory foam mattress, I can have a sleeping bag. I, I’ve tried them all, none of them work. And somewhere in the middle of the night, I am wide awake. Because it’s hard to get the bedding right. It’s hard to get the temperature right, that no matter what the temperature is, it’s, it’s not right inside the tent.

So if you’re, you’re camping outside and it’s hot, it’s, it’s a thousand degrees in the tent. If you’re camping outside and it’s cold, it’s freezing cold in the tent. I know some of you out there are like, not me, not my camping set up. Well, I can tell you my camping set up has always been bad. And then when you’re, you’re sleeping in there with kids, at some point in the middle of the night, I get a foot in the face no matter what, no matter what is happening. And, and, and so every time I’m sleeping in a tent, we, we go two nights max. And the reason is, ’cause I can’t go for more than two days without any sleep before I just start to physically die. Like my body, just like Paul was talking about, starts to deteriorate. Every time I’m in a tent, I’m thinking ahead of, I just cannot wait to get back to my house and in my bed.

I’m glad that we got the fire and the experience for the kids, but there’s a part of being in a tent that is miserable. And I know some of you are like, no, not me. I love sleeping at a tent. You’re crazy. If you think that this is as good as your bed at home. If you would say that sleeping in a tent for you is easier than sleeping at your bed at home, you need to buy a new bed. You got the wrong bed. That’s the problem. That’s the challenge that you’ve got. But the picture that Paul is trying to get us to see is he’s saying, this body, this life that we have here on Earth, it is just a 10th. It’s flimsy. You know, they got all kinds of different styles of tint. So this is kind of the cheaper tent. You got like the Rolls Royce of tents, that’s super crazy expensive at REI.

But here’s the thing. Even if you get a really, really fancy tent, it’s still not as good as an actual house. It’s still is not comparable to a permanent structure with a bed that is easy to sleep in. It’s still not the same as being able to be at your home and say, I want to sleep at exactly 68 degrees and leave it there all the time. No matter what he, he’s saying that while we’re on this earth, we are just a tent. It’s temporary. It’s not as good as what can be. It’s not as good as what will be. Let’s keep going. He says, for we know, oh, excuse me, for a while, we are still in this tent. We groan being burdened when we struggle in this life, when we struggle in this human body, right? When you go through challenges in this world, Paul’s pointing that out.

He said, where’s as long as we’re in this tent, as long as I’m in this body, we will grow and we will be burdened. Not that we would be unclothed, but that we will be further clothed. So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared for us this very thing is God who has given us this spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. It, it’s this picture. He’s saying that as soon as I’m away with the body, I’m in heaven with the Lord. And, and he’s longing for it. He’s saying, that’s what I desire.

That’s what I want. He can’t wait for the day until he is in heaven in the presence of God. Then he finishes it with this. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him at home or away. He’s saying, in heaven, we’re gonna be worshiping God in spirit and truth. He said, while we’re here in this 10, in this temporary residence, we should be doing the same. We make it our aim to please him, to worship God, please God, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. So that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evilness, some, some clarity there. This specifically that verse is talking to Christians. So, so understand He’s not talking about salvation. ’cause Scripture’s really clear that we become a Christian because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross by, by grace alone, not by good work so that no man may boast.

So, so Paul’s writings are really clear. But what he is saying is that as a Christian, if you are a follower of Jesus, that there is an accountability that will happen at the end of your life on what you did with your tent. Now, what did you do with your body? What did you do with your time? What did you do with the season that God gave you on earth as CS Lewis describes this tension, this this aiming for heaven like this. He says, amen, heaven, and you’ll get earth thrown in aim at earth and you’ll get neither. He says the exact same thing in a different way. In one of his other writings, he says this, if you live for the next world, you get this on this one in the deal. But if you live only for this world, you will lose them both.

So Paul, and we see this throughout all of his writings, he’s highly influenced by the destination of heaven. He’s highly influenced by this idea that the body that we’re in the world that we’re in is temporary. It is a tent, but there is an eternal building that exists that is next. And that changes his outlook. To put it another way, you could say the destination of heaven should change our perspective of life on earth. And growing up, one of my favorite things of the arcade was one of these bad boys right here. Anybody remember the claw? Anybody? And if you’ve got kids, you know the challenge of the claw because they, they’re everywhere. They’re not just at arcades, they’re at pizza shops. They’re they’re at, you’ll be at some random place and they’d stuck a claw in the corner. We got one in the lobby at the church.

We just added one yesterday. No, I’m just kidding. We don’t have one of those, but they’re just everywhere. And what does a kid do when they see that? They, they run over to it and they start looking inside the window and inside the window they say all this stuff to animals and they come back and they say, can I please have a quarter or 50 cents or a dollar or the newer ones, I need your credit card ’cause it’s $7 a swipe. If you just, can I just do it one time? And then, then eventually, sometimes you say, okay, you can do it one time, but only one time. And what do they do that they lined up and they put in their coins and then they look this way and they kind of aim it around, and then they come around to the side of the box and, and then they kinda move it and line it perfectly up, and then they smash the red button.

And what happens? That claw from the sky comes down and then whatever thing that they want, it, it kind of messes with it. And typically what it does is it grabs it and moves it just enough to give false hope. Like just enough to make the kid think, I got it. I got it. It’s pick it up. It’s pick it up. But the way they’ve designed those claws is that they can’t actually hold any weight. And so what happens is it’s moving over towards the, the reward drawer as it drops. And it’s like they, they designed them to drop right at the window and almost make it out. And so then what happens Now the kid’s like, oh, I gotta do it one more time. I was so close. It was right there. Just one more. And if you allow a child, they, they will spend $150 and quarters.

And then what happens when they finally actually get the thing, like they actually get that thing they’re going for and it drops in and there’s like celebration and they open up the thing and they pull it out and, and it’s not one of those plush, soft, stuffed animals like it’s filled with sawdust on the inside <laugh>. And, and they look at it, they’re like, okay, that was great. And they say, Hey, can you hold this? And then you take hold of it and they never touch it again for the rest of their lives. <Laugh>, you just casually throw it away at, at Chuck e. Cheeses because they’re never gonna know the difference. And, and can, can I just tell you that what Paul is trying to get us to understand is that so often the way that we approach life is the same way that a child approaches the claw machine that we’re staring inside and we’re like, I need that thing.

I want that thing. And all of our striving is after that thing. And we’re close and we’re close and it’s almost there. And so I, I keep investing more and more and more of my time and my energy and my effort and my money, and I keep thinking I’m about to get it. I’m about to get it. And then guess what, when we finally in life get to that point where we feel like from a worldly perspective we’re successful and we’ve checked all the boxes and we’ve done all the things, and the call drops that prize into our lab, we look at it and it’s filled with sawdust and we toss it aside because it was meaningless. And he’s saying, don’t have that same perspective. Don’t waste your time, energy, and effort on things that don’t matter. Paul’s riding over and over again to help us have this eternal perspective that we should live for heaven.

So what then does living for heaven look like? Well, well, living for heaven should at first look different from the world around us. That if someone was take an audit of my life on that defining characteristic of my life, that singular focus that I’m striving for in my life, that if it looks the same as everybody else around me in culture, then, then I’m really not living the life that Christ has called me to live according to scripture. So my, my likes, my dislikes, my thoughts, my words, my attitudes, my actions. It should look different than how everybody else lives. That that’s life called to live according to the Holy Spirit inside me. That it should influence and have a different looking lifestyle. That that number two, it should remove the anxiety and stress of this life. Why? Why should having a kingdom mindset a focus on heaven change the anxiety that I have here on Earth?

Because you’ve got an eternal perspective. I’ve got a third grade daughter. She is a perfectionist. She likes to get a hundred on everything. And so sometimes she’ll come back and she’ll have say, a spelling test and she will have missed one. And so she doesn’t have that a hundred. She’s a few points off and it will drive her crazy. She doesn’t like it. And I try and be this voice of reason where I’m like, Hey, I, I get that right now in this moment that that feels like a big deal and gives you stress and anxiety. But in this scheme of things, your a third grade spelling test just doesn’t matter. And probably something maybe parents aren’t supposed to say. The kids, I’m like, Hey, lemme tell you a secret. All right? Elementary grades doesn’t matter at all. You like, like no, no one’s ever gonna ask about your elementary grades.

And hey, even guess what? Junior high grades, they don’t matter either. High school, it sort of matters ’cause getting into college, but, but it doesn’t really matter either as long as you get in. And then once you, once you get to college, those grades only matter to get you a great a job. And then once you get a job, those grades don’t matter. Like, like, it’s just, it’s not as big of a deal as it feel. I want you to try hard. I’m not telling you not to try, but, but don’t, don’t worry about it. Like how many of you know someone as an adult occasionally, like you, you’re having coffee or sitting down with them a meal and they’re like, I’m just so stressed, I’m so anxious in life. They’re like, what’s, what’s stressing you out? And they’re like, ah, when I was in the third grade <laugh>, I took this spelling test from Ms. Sampson and, and, and I spelled lettuce with one T instead of two T’s.

And it’s just, it just keeps me up at night. Like my whole life. I’ve been looking back and saying, why, why couldn’t I have done that better? Like, that’s not why what your life perspective has changed you. You can take a step back and look and say, what, what stressed me out? What caused me anxiety as a third grader no longer causes me anxiety as an adult because I have a perspective that’s bigger than that. And Paul is trying to get us to see that if we have a heavenly perspective, then whatever struggle you have right now on this earth in your tent, from a heavenly, eternal perspective, it’s just not that big a deal. So, so hear me because some, some people right now, you’re going through something in life that is causing you anxiety and it’s causing you struggle, struggle and it’s causing you stress.

And Paul would say, Hey, hey, I’m not denying the feelings that you’re going through, but he’s saying in the eternal scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Let it go. And not only that, he’s saying, if your eyes are focused on Christ and Jesus in comparison, nothing, you’re going through comparison to that and connected to that. Living for heaven should give us beauty to loss and death. It hurts when people get sick. It hurts when loved ones that you know die. It’s a terrible feeling. I’ve walked with countless families through that season of grief. My own family has walked through that season of grief. And it, it’s challenging and it’s hard, but if you have a purely secular perspective, then life is here for a moment, it’s gone. We just turn back to dust and, and that’s it. But if you truly have a heavenly perspective, if you really believe what Paul is writing, he’s saying that that whatever sickness, whatever ailment, whatever death we face on this earth is a momentary affliction compared to the eternity that waits for us in Christ Jesus.

It, it can give beauty to things like death. It also should give us a zeal to share our faith with others that if I really believe that what’s next is so great and so incredible and so amazing that I should be passionate of everyone that I know in my life that doesn’t know Jesus, of being that one that wants to introduce them to Jesus because time is running out. And then lastly, living for heaven should bring a stroller. My old pastor used to say, do you hear the trumpets when you wake up in the morning? I mean, you, we all know people that they just complain about everything all the time and they wake up in the morning. It’s like, oh, I dread my job and I dread the way I feel and, and I dread relationships and I dread that I gotta go talk to that person today.

But if we have this heavenly perspective that here’s what it should change in our life, we should be able to wake up every morning and say, woo, today is the day the Lord is made. And I’ll rejoice and be glad in it. Like I, I’m in a tent and this tent is dying, baby. This tent ain’t gonna be here for much longer. But so long as I’m rocking the tent, I’m gonna go a hundred percent. I gonna live up out like at the end of my life, I wanna be that tent that’s held together by duct tape. You know what I’m talking about? Like you don’t wanna be the tent when it’s all said and done that’s packaged nice and looking good and didn’t have any life to it. Now you wanna be the tent that lived and take advantage of every second that God has given you.

And if I have a heavenly perspective, it helps me to do just that. Paul’s writing is highly influenced by this idea of heaven. And Philippians chapter three, it’s really famous chapter in scripture in chapter three. This, the whole chapter really has this idea. I’m gonna start halfway through verse four, for the sake of time. He says, if anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews as to the law of Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church as to righteousness under the law, blameless. So, so we lose the cultural context, but if you look at the resume of Paul for a first century Jew, it was just off the charts. Like he’s one upping everybody here. I mean this, this is like a guy that’s described me like, oh, you’re, you’re educated.

Okay, well I’ve got, I’ve got a Harvard degree, well, and, and an MBA oh and a law degree, and I got a PhD from MIT, like I got all the things, I’ve got all the accolades, I’ve got all the success. And so from an earthly perspective, he’s saying, I’m more successful than all of you and all of you will ever be. That’s, that’s what Paul is saying. And why does he say that in verse seven? But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as lost because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. He’s saying, once I was introduced to Jesus, I’m looking back at the stuff that I thought was valuable and I, I thought was the definition of success. And he says, it’s a sawdust toy. It’s meaningless, it’s rubbish. Verse eight, indeed I count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings becoming like him and his death, that by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own brothers. I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind dropping all those earthly accolades, he says, I’m forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Then skip down to verse 19, and he says this, he’s describing the non-Christian. He says Their end is destruction. Their God is their belly and their glory and their shame with mindset on earthly things. But talking to Christians, he says, our citizenship is in heaven. And from it, we await to savior the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies, our tense to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul has this heavenly perspective that changes how he lives, changes who he is. Hey, he’s saying, I’ve taken the things of the earth and I’ve left them behind. I I’ve focused my eyes on Jesus and I’ve pressed ahead towards him. I remember on my wedding day my wife and I have been married for 18 years. On our wedding day, I was working as a youth and a children’s pastor, and then I was working full-time in corporate banking. I had a degree in finance. And because I was working part-time as a church, as youth and children’s pastor the day that we were getting married was on a Sunday because it was cheaper. So Saturday, Friday, more expensive for the wedding venue. So we did Sunday and leading up to it, they were like, Hey, do you need to sell for that Sunday? We’re gonna, and I was like, no, I’m good.

I mean, wedding’s not till four. I got plenty of time. Like, I’ll just go to youth group in the morning, do wedding in the afternoon. I I can do both. They’re like, you sure? You sure? I was like, yeah, I’m good. I had never been married before, so I didn’t know all that was evolved in a wedding. And that weekend, I mean, it was just stress, like so many different things. Like I did not realize the amount of family activities and dinner activities and, and Gruman activities and like all these things just spinning all over the place. And so I just remember being, being anxious and stressed and just all the craziness and even getting to the wedding day. I had a gman that was late, like hours late. And so, you know, there’s all that stuff that’s going on and then you’re freaking out about all the things.

And then I, I remember standing at the front and just sweating and being stressed and then all of a sudden the doors open at the back of the room and my bride walks in and all of a sudden all that stress, all that anxiety, all that stuff just whew, goes away because I was looking at, here’s a picture of my bride on our wedding day. I was looking at that, nevermind the fact I looked 14. Ignore that she looks the exact same and she changed everything. ’cause All of a sudden in that moment it’s like, Hey, no, this, this is what it’s about. None of none of that other stuff mattered. The fact that my grooveman was wearing the wrong, wrong tie and, and it doesn’t fit right, and he, he almost missed the thing. And none of that stuff matters when you look at the bride.

And what Paul is saying is he’s saying, man, we get so caught up in all the different stuff. And he said, if we would fix our eyes on Jesus and press towards him, then all of a sudden with a heavenly perspective, we realize all that other stuff doesn’t matter. Heavenly father, I pray for anyone in this room that does not know you, whether that today can be a day that they take a step back and evaluate and have that heavenly perspective. Maybe they’re in the midst of, of the claw game where they’re trying over and over and over again and they feel so close. Maybe they’ve even finally achieved that prize and they’re holding onto and they’re realizing that it’s rubbish, it’s meaningless. Gotta pray that today can be a day that they can experience you for the first time, but their whole faith and trust in you gotta pray for anyone in this room that is a Christian God, that we would live life differently when we recognize the perspective of eternity. Recognize the perspective of heaven or help us to be a, a church that values the Bible, values your word, understands that the story that you have for us, understand that it applies just as much today as it ever has, is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.