2 Corinthians 4:18
While 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…
All on which the eye rests is temporal. Paul refers directly to the visible sources of his trouble, hunger, thirst, etc. But he includes other things — all he had ever seen in Tarsus, Jerusalem, or Corinth; things man has made, but and palace, encampment and city, clan and empire; things God has made — flower and tree, river and ocean, hill and mountain; things men dread and hope for, love and hate. Now if these things seen are temporal —
I. THE GOOD THINGS SEEN ARE NOT ENOUGH FOR US.
1. All that affects man is not visible. We are conscious that we are spirit, and not flesh. We know that reason is not the eye, nor faith the ear, nor will the hand or foot, nor emotion and conscience the nerves of sensation. We are conscious of commanding the eye, ear, hand, and foot. We say, instinctively, "I looked, I listened, I walked, I wrote"; thus tracing our actions to an inner self.
2. Now the invisible in man thirsts for the invisible. There are two kinds of rest — one in the body, the other in the soul; two classes of enjoyments — those derived from things, and those drawn from thoughts; and for the unseen sources of enjoyment and rest men thirst. Men will continue to live, when on earth they are no more living. We desire continued existence constitutionally, and we may infer that the object of this desire is provided by Him who implanted the thirst.
3. Now familiarity with what is seen would leave us unprepared for a future state of peace and blessedness. Yonder, God is more seen than His creatures. His will is the only law of conduct; His glory the supreme object. Pleasure, yonder, is spiritual and divine. Now if we be ignorant of God, if temporal things have been our end, if our enjoyments have been pleasures only of sense, there we shall be like living creatures taken from their native element, unable to rejoice, unable to live. Because there is more in man than what is seen, because the invisible in man thirsts for the invisible outside and beyond, because making things seen our portion will expose us to destitution in a future state, we say that the good things seen are not enough for us. We want living bread — water of life — raiment that waxes not old — houses not made with hands — treasure that moth and rust corrupt not.
II. THE GRIEVOUS THINGS SEEN SHOULD NOT MAKE THE CHRISTIAN FAINT. The afflictions of Christ's disciples are all temporal; the good wrought by their sorrow abides. "The peaceable fruits of righteousness" remain after the blossoms are destroyed. The fire of the refiner is transient, the refinement endures. To Christ's disciples there is no inextricable thorn in the body; their prisons have no everlasting doors, the breath of their persecutors goes forth. They weep now, but they shall sing. They are in much tribulation; but see, they are going up out of it. Their circumstances are complicated, but all are working together for good. Night is over them, but morning will be the daughter of that night. Compare the affliction with the glory — it is a trifle, and momentary. Then shall he faint under it? Of the glory it shall be said in every stage of consciousness, "More, more"; but of the affliction the Christian may say, "Less, less."
III. THEN IN NOTHING SEEN OUGHT A MAN TO FIND EITHER HIS HELL OR HIS HEAVEN.
1. No consuming fire here, mark, need be unquenchable. No gnawing worm here need be immortal. No pit here need be bottomless. You may carry fire yonder, and there it will be everlasting. You may carry a worm with you yonder, and there it will be undying. A temporal pit may lead to an eternal pit; but thanks be to Him who has given us a Saviour; all this is not inevitable. There is a fire annihilator, a worm destroyer, a Brother able and ready to raise you from the pit. No man need be buried in affliction, lost in sorrow, destroyed by grief. He may be saved by hope — for "the things that are seen are temporal."
2. And none can find heaven here. "Fulness of joy," and "pleasures for evermore," perfect peace, undisturbed rest — these are not to be derived from things temporal. Worldly things perish in the using. Wealth, honour, happy homes, all cry, "Heaven is not in us." The things that are seen are temporal. This common truth has long been in our Bibles; will it ever be written on our hearts? Hear the wise man (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Come to the feet of Jesus Christ, and hear Him say, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," etc. "Labour not for the meat which perisheth," etc. "I am the bread of life," etc. "If any man thirst," etc. Conclusion: There are two duties springing from this truth.
1. The duty of moderation in our use and enjoyment of all things seen (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Hold the good things seen with a slack hand. They are temporal, and they will be taken from you, or you will be taken from them. If you grasp them firmly, the removal of them will shake you from head to foot; if you hold them lightly, when they are taken away, although you may regret that they are taken away, you will stand unshaken.
2. The duty of seeking a heritage and portion in that which is unseen and eternal. Spiritual in our nature we are spiritual in our wants and thirsts. Immortal in destiny, immortality clothes our necessities and desires. Let us provide for the future. "Seek those things that are above."
Parallel VersesKJV: While 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.