“For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal… For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” [2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:1 NASB].
Part-time tent-maker Paul certainly put things into perspective for us by comparing the value of temporal things to those eternal. Paul was always mindful of God’s course correction for him that would remain his personal mission and spiritual vision until the day he folded up his earthly tent and headed home to heaven.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us of another visionary and full-time tent dweller, Abraham, who considered both the future as an heir to God’s promise… and infinite eternity, “for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” [Hebrews 11:10]. That city is the New Jerusalem whose foundation stones, described in Revelation Chapter 21, are a far cry from the drab concrete we are accustomed to seeing. Solid? Yes, but nothing to write home about.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was worth writing home about. Paul reminds us of whom—not what—is our foundation: Jesus! “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 3:11]. Paul went further to caution believers about how they should build upon that most solid of foundations. Jesus issued His own cautionary warning to His disciples that precedes the familiar example of a house builder who “dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock.” [Luke 6:46-49].
Likewise, if we call Jesus “Lord” then we must do more than simply nod our heads while ignoring what He says. Few surfaces are ready-made for laying a foundation. Often, it takes hard work to accomplish what God has prepared for us to do through His strength. Paul’s ministry work began with prayer, depended on it throughout and ended with it: “…to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” [2 Timothy 4:18].
Now at last, we can see the newly-remodeled church building. Countless people have prayed, paid and provided helping hands along a decades-long journey. Sadly, not all who were there in the beginning are able to witness its completion. But that is often the case for things of lasting value. What matters most is that God receives the glory resulting from this visionary faith brought to fruition. The building itself will not survive eternity, yet its use in the hands of God, can have a lasting impact upon the souls of many— now and forever.
Remodeling a circa 1965 building was no easy task. Huge challenges included melding old and new architectural styles, differing roof lines and structural components together—all within code requirements and budget constraints. It might have been easier just to move a mountain.
But, God seldom calls us to the easiest route for our sojourn here. When our sagging earthly tent is collapsing under the weight of our daily “light affliction” and getting harder to prop up and tearing apart at the seams, we can be encouraged by Paul’s words read by weary Corinthian believers: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” [2 Corinthians 4:16].
A renewing of our “inner man” as Paul liked to say, or that Peter referred to as the “hidden person of the heart” [1 Peter 3:4] will eventually overtake what currently seems like a losing battle between body and soul. Although the decay of our tattered earthly tents is inevitable, it won’t really matter if the “words” to describe our temporal life here are a “letter of Christ… written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” [2 Corinthians 3:3].
The prefix “re-” recreates many words that describe the work done on the church building. “Remodeled” has undoubtedly been the runaway winner. Other contenders include: renovated, reconditioned, revitalized, renewed, restored and re-purposed.
Man re-purposes merely by changing usage, while God restores His purpose through the changed heart and renewed mind of a believer. The church’s exterior face lift hardly compares to four well-known portraits chiseled into a Midwestern granite mountain side. Yet, it may help chip away at seemingly impenetrable fortress-like walls built upon the shaky foundations of stereotypes, perceptions and cynicism. Barriers that all-too-often lead to pointed questions such as: “Okay, so the outside looks different, but what about the inside?”
What tremendous opportunities await us for showing skeptics what genuine Christianity is all about! That potential exists regardless of its surroundings because effective ministry is built upon the cornerstone of Christ. Abiding in Christ, the firmest of all foundations, can prayerfully produce results otherwise impossible. Enough to soften even the hardest of hearts. But this, of course, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is simply to believe God and act upon that belief by telling others about Jesus.
Jesus gave everybody this invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” [Matthew 11:28-29].
Since God’s desire is that all would accept Jesus as Savior [1 Timothy 2:4], how then can our desire for reaching the lost be anything less important? You likely know somebody who needs the Savior, who is weary and burdened by what this world offers in place of God. So, the question is: “What will you do about it?”
If we can raise the funds and give an enormous united effort for a temporal building, then surely we can trust God for more eternal things. As we prayerfully seek God for His answers, consider what precedes the “Therefore” in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “…that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”
We stand at a crossroads of faith or failure. If we choose to share what is renewing our inner man through Christ with those who are living apart from Him—outside the walls of this newly remodeled church— that is when the Lord can begin turning us inside out!
Alan Summers, GBC Elder