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Groaning But Confident

2 Corinthians 5:1-5
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

For worldly people, death is the end. It was a prospect Paul faced often, but he was not afraid (Romans 8:36); it did not divert him from his mission. Both Paul and Peter viewed their bodies as tents (2 Peter 1:13); temporary homes which could travel with them. Paul was a tent-maker (Acts 18:1-3), regularly repairing damaged ones and making new tents to replace those which had worn out or were no longer fit for purpose. Likewise, human bodies cannot last for ever, but God has already provided an eternal permanent home for His people in heaven (John 14:1-3). The future is truly glorious.

But in the meantime, our tent-bodies are under threat from disease, war, persecution, natural hazards, violent people and troublesome friends (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). Likewise, our minds and emotions are stressed and distressed. We groan because the daily load is so great, and right minded believers long for the Lord (Matthew 11:28). In one sense, we feel uncomfortable in this sinful world, knowing that we have been designed to live eternally with Jesus.

People respond to stress differently. Some try to brave it out in their own strength, only to crush others or crumble at some point. Others, like helpless victims, flounder around hoping to attract help. However, Paul's response was very different. He fully experienced suffering and he groaned, longing for the Lord's presence (Romans 8:22-23). But he also longed for the salvation and blessing of the people he was called to serve (Philippians 1:20-26). He knew God's help in holding together the tension of suffering and his God-given purpose, as Jesus did. It was the Holy Spirit who provided his 'inner heaven on earth', God's glorious presence amid the gloom, so that Paul could fulfil his commission for the Lord.

Until Christ calls us, or comes again, our commission (like Paul's) is to live in our tent-body and serve the purpose for which the Lord has placed us where we are. But it is not easy. Even though heaven is our horizon, the pressures of our earthly life weigh us down. How are we to persevere here where so much seems to be against us? The truth is that we are not left alone. God has poured out His Holy Spirit so that every believer can know the strong presence of Jesus amid the painful mess of life (Ephesians 1:13-14). His indwelling, with us in our 'tent', is our guarantee that we belong to Him. He is not just with us but in us - to guide and comfort, protect and strengthen us every day so that we can serve Him with confidence until He calls us to our permanent home.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Jesus who did not let suffering deter Him from His salvation-purpose. Forgive me for either trying to handle troubles in my own strength or being defeated by them. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who lives within all who are trusting in Jesus. Help me to allow Him to strengthen and guide me, helping me to keep on track with Your purpose for my life. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams