Things That Are Eternal

2 Corinthians 4:18: "Because 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
."

There are triple doorways in an ancient cathedral in Milan Italy.
Over one of the doorways is a carved wreath of roses with the words,
"All that which pleases is but for a moment."

Above the second doorway a cross is sculptured upon which we read,
"All that which troubles is but for a moment."

And over the central entrance that leads to the main aisle of the sanctuary is engraved these words:
"That only is important which is eternal."

As the apostle Paul reviewed his past experiences, and while surrounded by his present difficulties
and involved in trying circumstances, focuses his attention upon the unseen,
and lifts his thoughts to the rarefied atmosphere of the eternal and abiding.
To Paul, the physical environment, with its challenges and allurements faded into significance
when compared with spiritual values to which his faith gave tangibility.

"All that which pleases is but for a moment."

People are great lovers of pleasure, and it is right that they should be.
Life would be drab and routine without some wholesome form of entertainment.
The appeal to the eye by the beauties of nature will always be a source of deep joy and satisfaction
to the lovers of the aesthetic.

The Master Artist, who is God, with the pigments of the sunbeams paints the most exquisite pictures for us
in the Western galleries of heaven just before the golden sun sinks below the horizon.
The duration of the sunset is so short.

The tropical orchid, with its fragile beauty is a vision of brilliance, perfection and freshness.
But its blooming is measured by limited hours.

The happiest day we spend quickly fades into history.
Vacation has a way of running out on us.
Birthday parties have a short life.
The anniversary is over too quickly.
Parting times come before we are ready for them.
Memories only remain and, as pleasant as they may be, are shadows of the real enjoyment.

As Robert Burns observed:
"But pleasures are like poppies spread;
You seize the flower, its blooming is shed:
Or like the snow falls in the river –
A moment white – then melts forever."

So sad for the man or the woman who finds enjoyment only in gratifying the desires of unrestrained passion.
For a few moments of satisfaction, they spend hours of invention and scheming,
only to find that at last their indulgence "bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder."
They call it pleasure, when in reality, it is sensuality.
The mask falls off, revealing the wolf within.

Seek recreation which is clean – which is stimulating and thought-provoking and health-generating.
Make your pleasures worthwhile.

"Live while you live, the epicure would say,
Enjoy the pleasures of the passing day:
Live while you live, the sacred preacher cries,
And give to God each moment as it flies:
Lord, in my view, that each united be –
I live in pleasure, only, when I live in Thee."

"All that which troubles is but for a moment."

The apostle Paul said, "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison
."

Paul knew what he was talking about.
His view was not that of an idealist theorizing from his ivory tower.
His experiences were those of a lifetime of hardship and privation.
He was reviled, scourged, stoned, imprisoned, shipped-wrecked, hungry, cold and thirsty.
But that did not discourage him.

He bravely held his head up high, and says,
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed.
So we do not lose heart.
Though our outward nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day
." (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

At one time or another all of us will be confronted by troubles.
Without being pessimists we can say that, "all our joy is touched with pain."
Sorrow and grief, are unannounced.

We live in a changing world and, were it not for the assurance of a better life beyond the grave,
we would exclaim with the selfish egotist, "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die."
The ones who are dear to our hearts leave us.
Friends disappoint us.
We meet with fraud, hatred and jealousy.
No one is exempt.

"All those who journey, soon or late
Must pass within the garden's gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there
And battle with some fierce despair:
God pity those who cannot say
'Not mine, but Thine' – who only pray
'Let this cup pass,' and cannot see
The purpose in Gethsemane."

These things are only eight of the moments to duration, as compared to that vast eternity of God.
They work for us "an eternal weight of glory."
A reed will be broken by the same blast of wind which causes the sturdy oak tree to send
its roots deeper into the soil.

Adversity strengthens character if rightly utilized.

Let the failures of today be the stepping-stones to the success of tomorrow.
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory
that is to be revealed in us
." (Romans 8:18)

"That only is important which is eternal."

"The things that are unseen are eternal."
Therefore, the invisible values are real, worthwhile and lasting.
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Matthew 24:35)

The myraid stars of the firmament, estimated in multiple billions by astronomers,
which sadly pierced the blue sky above us will someday be no more.
The sun, the center of our planetary system, and the golden moon will vanish.
The earth, rock-ribbed with mountain peaks which seem to defy the erosion of the ages, will cease to exist,
but the Word of our Lord will endure forever.

That word is His revelation to man.
His covenant with His people.
The message of salvation.
These are important, and they are everlasting.

The story of the Cross is for sinful men whose souls are eternal.
Therefore, preparation for the future is of prime and urgent consideration.

God is eternal.
His Word is eternal.
The soul is eternal.

These three things are of superior consequence.
The attitude of the man toward God and His covenant will determine whether that soul shall enter
the Kingdom which is an eternal realm.
We are too much engrossed with things that are visible.

"See how we grovel here below
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls, how heavily they go
To reach eternal joys."

Guy De Maupassant tells about a poor woman whose vanity led her to borrow a diamond necklace
to put around her neck for a social function.
Upon returning to her home, she discovered that the necklace was missing.
She could find no trace of it.
She borrowed the money to replace it at great cost.

For ten years, she and her husband grudged and saved, denying themselves every comfort, to pay the debt,
only to learn that the original necklace was not genuine – it was only a cheap imitation.
When will we learn to distinguish between baubles and jewels?

The adulation of society is so empty and passing.
One day, the hero rises to the heights of popularity – the next day, he is forgotten.
Joan of Arc, saviour of France, was burned at the stake.
Napoleon, a military genius, was exiled.
The seat of power that is so coveted by men of political aspiration, is fraught with uncertainty of tenure.

The acquisition of wealth is the utopian dream of many.
They gamble their all to make it come true, but find that it is a snare and a delusion.
They follow an elusive will-o'-the-wisp, and their impoverished souls miss the highest good.

Jesus summed it up for us when He asked,
"For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and (forfeit his life) lose his own soul?
For what can a man give in exchange for his life
?" (Mark 8:36)
Where is your emphasis?

The things that are seen are transient.
Government should be but a disciplinary process preparatory to the Divine Kingdom of the hereafter.
Our lives are but a period of probation for the next.
Everything we experience makes for, or mars, our fitness to enter.

Conditions around us may be far from pleasant or agreeable.
We can feel calm and confident, knowing that they are of limited duration.
We can look with the eye of faith beyond the horizon of the earth and see the amazing realities
that are waiting for us as promised to us by our Redeemer.

To the man of the world, things of the present are real and vital, and those of the future
are vague and imaginary.
He, like the rich fool in the parable, lives as though God did not exist.
To him heaven is a fanciful myth conjured up by childish minds of the race.
To him the Bible is a closed book because he does not seek the aid of the Holy Spirit in reading it.

Death is the consummation.
He will go;
"To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon."

But to the Christian, the present order of things is but the avenue of approach
to the perfect community of heaven.
God is real to the Christian – the unchanging, all-wise and all-loving Father;
and the Bible is the priceless guide-book to direct his path unerringly
through the mazes of this temporal sphere.

The Christian is traveling to that heavenly city where everything is genuine.
That city with everlasting foundations whose Builder and Maker is God.

That he shall experience "what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him
." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

So while we're on our journey to that Holy City, amid the ruin and decay, the commotion and tumult,
chaos and confusion of our groping generation, let us "look not to the things that are seen,
but to the things that are unseen: for the things that are seen are temporal;
but the things that are not seen are eternal
." (2 Corinthians 8:18)

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White