What Is Your Source of Confidence in the New Year?
Lord God, as I begin a new year full of Your grace and mercy, remind me of the many gifts and blessings You have showered upon me in the past year. May they serve as reminders of the sure and certain faithfulness that You are my God and I am Your humble child. May Jesus be the main focus of my life this year and may that light shine forth to everyone I meet. Amen!
For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
Have you ever done a "trust fall"? A trust fall is a team building activity that is often used to try and build relationships in between people and groups. We used to do them all the time when I was a camp counselor. The basic idea is that one person stands straight up with his arms out and falls straight backward without hesitating or trying to catch himself, meanwhile, one or more people stand behind him and catch him before he hits the ground.
You can see how this would be a pretty fun activity, especially if you have someone a little nervous and anxious in the group. But it really all comes down to the question of whether you trust, whether you have confidence in the person or persons who are supposed to catch you.
In a way, this new year and every year is a "trust fall" for all of us. Think about it this way: look at this past year, 2016. How many difficult and stressful times did you have? Did you always see them coming? Or did they seem to catch you with a blindfold on? The sad truth is that we can expect these trying and tough times in this sinful world. Be it family disagreements, marital disputes, financial difficulties, career problems, arguments with parents, arguments with children, struggles in school, addictions to drugs or alcohol, the list can go on and on.
2016 held special difficulties for all of you and I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be difficulties to come in 2017 as well. The question before us today is: “Who do you trust to catch you when the floor seems to fall out from under you?” Or another way: “What Is Your Source of Confidence in the New Year?" The Apostle Paul lays before us this morning three reasons to put our trust and confidence in God: Your Hope of Heaven; Your Guarantee from the Spirit; and Your Faith in Christ. May God bless this study and give us confidence in Him.
I. Your Hope of Heaven
Growing up, one of my family’s favorite things to do was to go camping. We’d drive to a state park, set up a tent, go swimming in the lake, start a campfire, eat smores and hot dogs. Camping can be a lot of fun. But one of the most essential components of camping is that camping is temporary. It is not permanent. If the rain puts the fire out or the wind blows the tent over you can always throw everything back into the car and go home.
This is the exact point that Paul is making in our sermon text. Just as tents are temporary, so too are our earthly bodies temporary. Verse 1 reads, “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” We, as Christians, have been given the privilege to know that there is more to life than just this earthly life.
This is Paul’s first reason for confidence in God. This is the first reason why you can put your confidence in God in the coming year: because you have the hope of heaven. You know that even if you should die in the year 2017, your earthly body, your earthly tent will be replaced by a building in heaven. And as more permanent as a house is than a tent, your house in heaven will last even longer than that.
Paul describes it as “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This is describing your perfected body that you will receive when Jesus comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. You will be perfect not just in soul, but in body as well. In a perfect, eternal state we will live forever giving praise and honor to the perfect Father in heaven through everything that we do. Paul also described it in his first letter to Corinth saying, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”(1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
The big difference, however, between camping in a tent and our earthly life is that we can’t just pack it all up when it starts raining. Paul notes that in verse 2, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” As we said at the beginning of the service, there is no avoiding the fact that we will face trials and tribulations in this coming year and throughout our lives. However, God has given us the gift of the hope of heaven.
And this groaning, this longing for heaven, for our eternal home is not a sinful complaining, but rather it is an inward desire and yearning to be with the Lord. Paul also described it to the Romans, saying, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
It kind of seems like an unnatural thing, doesn’t it? To groan, to long, to yearn for the end of this life. That is the opposite of the way the world thinks. The world does everything it can to extend this life as long as possible. Think of the medical advances that have extended life expectancy. Think of the individuals who have their bodies frozen so that they can be revived when medicine catches up with their particular disease.
The world is naturally afraid of death and does everything it can to live longer. Yet we Christians have a different perspective. As Paul says in verse 4, it’s not that we desire to be unclothed, that is, it is not as if we really, really want to die. Rather we would be further clothed. We would rather be in our perfect eternal bodies than struggling in these sinful ones. And that is the hope of heaven that God has blessed us with and that we can put confidence in throughout the year 2017 and throughout our lives.
II. Your Guarantee from the Spirit
As unnatural and strange as it may be to be looking forward to our death, we have an explanation in verse 5, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” It is God who has gotten us to this point in our faith-lives that we are able to put our trust and confidence in Him. But what does it mean that we have the Spirit as a guarantee?
Well, in the original this word for a guarantee was actually a loanword. It was used to describe a first installment or a down payment on a loan. Paul uses this word two other times to describe the Holy Spirit. Earlier in 2 Corinthians he says, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ESV). And we also read from Ephesians, “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory”(Ephesians 1:13-14).
So how is the Holy Spirit a down payment of your eternal inheritance in heaven? Well, just as the down payment of a loan secures the full sum of the loan, so the gifts of the Holy Spirit secure the full inheritance of heaven. Everything that the Holy Spirit does in our lives, creating faith in your heart, sanctifying your life, comforting us in our affliction, all of this is the beginning of our eternal inheritance in heaven. The Spirit’s light in our hearts is the first down payment of the everlasting light of heaven. The Spirit’s work of sanctification in our lives is the first down payment of our eternal perfection and holiness in heaven. The Spirit’s comforts here on earth are the first down payment of the eternal comforts and joys we will experience in heaven.
The Holy Spirit’s work among us and through us is a part of God’s plan to assure you that you can put your trust and confidence in Him. Look at your life in the past year and see the Holy Spirit working in your life. See how He strengthened your faith, see how He motivated you to live the sanctified life He desired, see how He comforted you through the Word at times when you thought all was lost. The Holy Spirit is here present among us as a guarantee, as a down payment.
Lord, enable us to see the evidence of Your Holy Spirit in the past year and give us confidence that you will do so again in the coming year.
III. Your Faith in Christ
God has given us the hope of heaven, He has given us the guarantee of the Sprit, and finally He gives us faith in Christ. It is interesting that two times, in verse 6 and verse 8 “we are of good courage,” in fact in verse 6 it actually says, “we are always of good courage.” That word can also mean confident. So, are you always of good courage regarding your eternal life? Are you always confident in your heavenly home?
Well, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we can only conclude that there are times that we fail to have courage and confidence in our God. There are times that we doubt the extent of His love and faithfulness. There are times that we wonder whether His grace and mercy could really extend to me – TO ME! The chief of sinners! We doubt, like Thomas all those many years ago.
Yet, we arrive at verse 7 and it is there that we pin our trust and confidence. The world puts its trust in things it can see. In a security system, in weapons, in the military, in the government, in muscle, in power, in influence, in success, in walls, in guards, in medicine, in technology, you name it.
But how do we walk? We walk by faith, not by sight. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This is what it all comes down to--the faith worked in your heart through the working of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. That is what gives us confidence in the Lord in the coming year. That is what gives us good courage. Not our own strength or might, not even our own faith, but a faith given to us by God.
This is the faith that hears the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and clings to that message. This faith is like an extra hand that God has attached to your heart. When this faith hears that saving message, it clings to it and does not let go.
This faith hears the good works that Jesus did throughout His life. This faith hears of the suffering and agony that Jesus Christ suffered on our behalf by going to the cross. This faith hears of Christ’s resurrection and ascension and knows that one day soon we too will be raised and will ascend into heaven to live and reign with Christ forever.
You know, all of these assurances from God, the hope of heaven, the guarantee of the Spirit, and faith in Christ are not tangible. That is, you can’t pick them up and touch them and be assured by them. And that is what Jesus was referring to when He said, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
It reminds me of my daughter. She is just now learning how to get down out of a bed. She backs up to the edge of the bed and puts one leg over and then the other. Then she slowly, ever so slowly, lets gravity do the rest until she slips out and lands on her rear. She hasn’t stuck the landing yet. It is funny because she will hang there, inches from the floor, not quite brave enough to let go.
In this coming year, let us be able to let go of this world. Let us remember that it is better to be away from this body and to be at home with the Lord. Let us put our confidence and trust in God, knowing that He has given us the Hope of Heaven, the Guarantee of the Spirit, and Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastor Joe Naumann