For 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. 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. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the 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. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
2 Corinthians 5:1-9
I’ve been running back to this passage of Scripture all day long. Some days there are those passages—those words of eternal life—that simply capture our imaginations. Those places where the breath of God that’s been written on the page grabs hold of us and doesn’t let go. Today I’ve been captured by these words of Paul in 2 Corinthians.
At first glance they seem to be words about future hope and in truth they do speak of our future hope, our future destiny. This is a place in the Bible I’ve always resonated with. I’ve never, as long as I can remember, been afraid of dying. I’ve always seen it as a great and glorious thing to look forward to because of this hope. We die and we get to be with God, perfected and clothed in eternal life…what could be better?! So when Paul says he would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord my heart always cries out, “Yes! Yes! I want that!”
If we stopped at verse five we would be wholly convinced that this is just about future hope. But these words are so much more! These words are Paul’s commentary on daily living; on how the hope of our future and the beautiful image of being present with God fuels the everyday struggles and complications of life.
So we are always of good courage. (v.6)
In case we miss it, he uses the phrase again in verse 8:
Yes, we are of good courage…
Courage. Our future hope of being with Christ for all eternity gives us present courage. That is a freedom from fear. A freedom from trying to control. We are courageous in the here and now because of our future reality.
We don’t belong here. Our circumstances aren’t ideal. We want something better, something different…something more. And Paul is showing us what that longing actually is within us. It’s a hope for our future, a desire to be fully clothed in immortality with God. We would rather not be here, but we are here. So as we long for our future we don’t pretend we’re not here. We don’t hide from this life; we don’t try constantly to fill the longing with pathetic temporary pleasures. We live in this tension with great courage. We seek to please God, to gift him with our love and service courageously knowing that the day is coming. We have confidence and certainty and hope for today because we have tomorrow in view.
Paul Tripp says, “One of the things that often happens in people’s lives is that they have a gap in the middle of their gospel. They understand salvation past, they understand salvation future, but they don’t get the present benefits of the grace of Christ in the here and now. I think it’s very, very important to say that it’s not enough for me to believe in life after death. I need to believe in life before death.”
This passage isn’t just about what Jesus has done in the past that gives us hope for the future. It’s about harnessing that truth, that reality of our redeeming Christ, to fuel the present with courage. What a way to live! We have life for the here and now. We have courage for today’s circumstances. We have a confidence that we don’t have to control our outcome, we don’t have to dictate our situation, we don’t have to live in the misery of all of life’s disappointments and the confusion of feeling like we don’t belong here. We have courage to know that while we are away from our home with the Lord, while we are present in the body, we are here with opportunities to please him. And we know that all that is now is only temporary. One day we will put off this dying tent and not just be clothed, but literally be swallowed up with life. Knowing this, how could we not live with great courage?