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AIM BEYOND THE VISIBLE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, October 22, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).


This verse is a real gem, because in it we find the key to success as a Christian. The Apostle Paul is giving us the explanation of what kept him going. Think of Paul’s life. In the beginning he was well known and successful. But when he became a Christian he lost his reputation and began a life of suffering and hardship. He was stoned and left for dead. He was flogged five times. He was beaten with rods three times. He was robbed. He spent a day and a half in the ocean, clinging to a piece of wood. All of his friends abandoned him. He had no home. He spent the end of his life in prison. He was finally beheaded by the Emperor Nero. The Apostle Paul lived through intense struggle, agony and suffering. Yet he never gave up. Surely anyone thinking about Paul’s life must wonder – what kept this man going? What kept him so calm and happy in the midst of all this violence and disaster?

If you discover the answer, it will help you not only to become a Christian, but also to live the Christian life. And Paul does not keep this a secret. He tells us in a straightforward manner the key to his calmness and strength in the midst of a stormy life. There it is in our text,

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”
      (II Corinthians 4:18).

The first thing we need to know is what the word “look” means. Once we know the meaning of the Greek word translated “look,” the rest of the verse is comparatively easy.

“We look not at the things which are seen…”

The word “look” means “to take aim at” (Strong #4648). I think we may say, with John Trapp, that “look” means “to aim at” (John Trapp, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Tanski Publications, 1997 reprint, volume 5, p. 559). Therefore, the Apostle is telling us not to "aim at" the things which are seen, but to aim at "the things which are not seen.”

If you wish to be a Christian, and live the Christian life, you must aim at eternal things, not at temporary things. And so our text can be divided into two points.

I. First, aim beyond the visible to the invisible.

Direct your attention and aim your life beyond what you can see with your physical eyes. Do not aim your life

“at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” (II Corinthians 4:18).

This is what the Apostle tells us to do in Colossians 3:1-2,

“Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection [your mind] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

“Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Set your heart, and the aim of your very life, beyond the material, visible world. Set your heart and the goals of your life, and the desire of your heart, “not [on] the things which are seen, but [on] the things which are not seen.”

Most people never do that. We are told earlier in II Corinthians that Satan blinds the minds of the unconverted.

“The god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (II Corinthians 4:4).

Unconverted men and women are blinded by Satan in such a way that they “[receive] not the things of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14). That’s why the Apostle calls them “natural men.”

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” 
      (I Corinthians 2:14).

Only that man or woman who has been set free from the blinding power of Satan is capable of understanding Paul when he says,

“We look not [we aim not] at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Only the converted man or woman is capable of looking beyond the physical world to the invisible world. And only the converted man will aim his life at that, “the things which are not seen.”

Henry Alford pointed out that the early Christian preacher Chrysostom made it clear that we are not to aim our lives on earthly things. The ancient preacher Chrysostom strikingly says, “All things that are seen, whether they be torment or ease [should neither] relax us by one nor bear us down [and torment] us by the other” (Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, volume III, p. 1111). Again, Chrysostom said, “that he [the Christian] may [not be] deterred by the one, and encouraged by the other” (ibid.).

We must lift up our minds, or look not at 

“the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (II Corinthians 4:18).

In simple language, the Apostle is telling us to point, or aim, our hearts and lives beyond what is physical and visible to those things which are invisible. Point or aim yourself beyond the visible to the invisible!

Many in the Third World, in China and Southeast Asia, in parts of India and Africa, and Latin America, have a far greater understanding of this text than do Americans and Europeans. Christians in China and other difficult places are put in a better position to see this. If they expect to receive grace and help from God in time of trouble and persecution, they are, we may almost say, “forced” to fall back on what Paul said in our text. If they didn’t, they would not be able to go on under heavy persecution. But, thank God, they do go on, and are “more than conquerors” in doing so. Their secret is that they do not focus and aim their lives

“at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” (II Corinthians 4:18).

What, then, are the things “which are seen,” that we are not to aim at in our lives? Dr. Gill tells us that we must not aim and strive for “the things which are seen. These are the things of the world, such as [money], honors, pleasures, profits, which are visible to, and strike the senses of a natural [unconverted] man” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume II, p. 783).

You can see and feel the things of the world, such as money, honors, pleasures and profits. These are visible things that most people aim at in their lives. But the person who wishes to become a Christian, or the Christian who seeks to make a success of the Christian life, must not aim at these “things which are seen.” His aim and goal must be far higher and far better than the aims and goals of the lost world. He must look beyond the visible to the invisible world if he wishes to succeed in the Christian life, as Paul did.

“Look not at the things which are seen [set not your heart on them, make them not your goal in life], but [aim] at the things which are not seen” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Then you will succeed as a Christian, even as Paul did in all his troubles, tortures, and the great problems that confronted him in his life and ministry.

John Trapp, the Puritan commentator, told of Basil (an ancient Christian writer who) “Tells us how the martyrs that were cast out naked in a winter’s night [about] to be burned [by the pagans] the next day, comforted themselves and one another with these words. [They said to each other] Sharp is the cold, but sweet is paradise; troublesome is the way [of living for Christ], but pleasant shall be the end of our journey; let us endure cold a little, and [Abraham’s] bosom shall soon warm us; let our foot burn awhile [in the pagan’s flames] that we may dance for ever with angels; let our hand fall into the [pagan’s] fire, that it may lay hold upon eternal life” (John Trapp, ibid., p. 559).

No matter who finds fault with us for being good Christians, let us always, forever, remember this text, as those martyrs did:

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Let us say with the Apostle Paul,

“What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

He could say that because he knew the secret of overcoming the world through Christ, summed up in the first part of our text,

“We look [we aim] not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” (II Corinthians 4:18).

The aim and goal of Paul’s life was beyond the visible. He was aiming at the invisible riches of God, in Christ Jesus. He was aiming at Heaven – and the eternal glory that awaited him in the Kingdom!

II. Second, aim beyond the temporary to the eternal.

I left out the last part of the text, but I will put it back here, for it is the message of our second point. Please stand and read II Corinthians 4:18 again, out loud.

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

You may be seated.

We should aim at the things which are not seen because the things which are seen are “temporal,” that is, “temporary, [lasting only] for awhile” (Strong #4340). The things which are seen only last for a short time.

Isn’t this the very essence of faith?

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

John Bengel pointed out that “many things which are not…actually seen now will be visible when the journey of our faith is [over]” (John Albert Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, Wipf and Stock Publishers, n.d., volume III, p. 374). We will one day see Jesus. We will one day see the Heavenly city of the New Jerusalem. We will one day see Satan bound and Christ reigning over all the earth. These are among the things that are eternal. These are among the things that we should aim at and look forward to, and seek by faith.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).

Therefore, Spurgeon said,

Pursue eternal things with a concentrated mind. You must look right on to the end of the race for the prize. The runner does not glance to the right or to the left, or to the flowers that bespangle the pathway, but he keeps his eye on the prize, and that helps him to run. He stretches every nerve to reach the end, and win the prize…Make eternal things the scope of your life at all times…Make them that for which you plot and plan; that for which you think and consider; that for which you live and act; throw your whole being into eternal things (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1996 reprint, volume 23, p. 599).

I wonder if that isn’t what keeps a few of you from coming to Christ. I wonder if you may have your attention and focus on the temporary things of this world, rather than on eternal things. And if that is true of you, I pray that you will turn your heart away from this passing world, and come to Christ by faith. Then you can heartily sing with us,

I am bound for the promised land;
I am bound for the promised land;
O who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.
   (“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” by Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795).

Turn to Hymn #7 on your song sheet, "I Am Bound for the Promised Land."  Lift up your song sheet and sing "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" with gusto.  And if you are not converted, I pray that the appeal, "O who will come and go with me," will reach your very heart, and inspire you to join us in our quest for "the things which are not seen [for they alone] are eternal."  

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Corinthians 4:8-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“My Faith Looks Up to Thee” (by Ray Palmer, 1808-1887).


THE OUTLINE OF

AIM BEYOND THE VISIBLE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

I.   Aim beyond the visible to the invisible, II Corinthians 4:18a;
Colossians 3:1-2; II Corinthians 4:4; I Corinthians 2:14;
Philippians 3:7-8.

II.  Aim beyond the temporary to the eternal, II Corinthians 4:18b;
Hebrews 11:1; 12:2; 11:6; II Corinthians 5:7.