For anyone who thought we would have the presidential situation sorted out on election day, well, don’t forget…its 2020. Remember, this the year of “if it can go sideways, it will go sideways.” As if our nerves were not frayed enough from navigating a pandemic and dealing with social unrest, we now have to wait to find out who won the election.
At some point, the question about who will be declared the winner will be resolved. One way or another, a decision will be made and we’ll know who will be sitting in the White House in 2021. And, looking at how the votes have been divided up, approximately half the country will be pleased with the results; the other half disappointed. Such is the way of elections.
As Americans, I’m glad we get to participate in the voting process. What a privilege to be able cast a ballot for the candidate we deem most worthy for the job.
Yet, as a pastor and a Christian, I sometimes feel concern of how much stock that some put into a political system that, depending on the whims of the electorate, can feel a lot like riding a roller coaster. In one election cycle we may feel ecstatic, while in the next we may feel great disillusionment. Simply put, we can exhaust a lot of emotional capital on something we actually have little control over. Yes, our vote is highly important and should never be taken for granted. Because we get to vote, we should vote. But, at the same time. I’m realistic about the fact that my vote is tossed into a pool with around 150 million other ballots.
Because the United States is a republic. the governance of our nation will always be a moving target. Things will change all the time. Rarely will our nation maintain a particular course for very long. No wonder those who are deeply engaged in politics can count on a steady stream of highs and lows.
When it comes to placing our faith in systems of men , we better realize how easily the world can become unstable. One day things can be going our way; the next day the world feels like its falling apart at the seams. Realizing that the world around us is extremely wobbly, we should be driven to some very important questions: If the world we live in is so unpredictable, where should we place our hope? What foundation can we employ to build our life upon that will not shake, or crumble?
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul’s wrote about how, from a human perspective, everything seemed to be working against his ministry. As he and his team traveled about sharing the Gospel message, they we’re regularly confronted with resistance, harassment and persecution. Thinking about what Paul described, it would hard to blame him for wanting to throw in the towel. He and his associates were prime candidates for deep disappointment.
Yet three times in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul repeats this phrase: “We do not lose heart.” Which begs the question: “Why not?” What was it that kept Paul going full throttle in his ministry? Rather than sinking like a stone, what kept Paul so buoyant, always popping up to the surface like a cork? The answer is revealed in last few verses of the chapter:
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
So what was it that kept Paul in the game? Why didn’t he call it a day when things got difficult?
For one, Paul mentioned was something he described as inner renewal. This speaks to the idea that Paul’s relationship with God was something that was alive and growing. Even when the world around him was falling apart, Paul could draw inner strength, wisdom, courage and comfort from God. To me, this speaks to the quality of one’s devotional life. What resources can be drawn from time spent in God’s presence!
The second thing Paul writes about was the primary object of his focus. Paul rightly discerned that the things that are seen are temporal. They simply don’t last, thus they are not something to give too much of our time, energy and attention. How challenging it can be to not want to “hitch our wagons” to the things of the world!
Regarding a proper focus, a challenge to keep our eyes on the eternal is found in Hebrews 12:1-2:
1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This doesn’t mean that we avoid engagement with the world around us. As long as we have earthly breath, we should be involved in the pursuit of justice, compassion and mercy (Micah 6:8). As Jesus said in Matthew 5, we are to act as salt and light to a dark, decaying world.
The scriptural challenge is to keep the things happening in the world in proper perspective in light of the things that are eternal.
That’s how Paul kept from losing heart. His proper perspective allowed him to experience personal peace.