“and even if our gospel is veiled” 2 Corinthians 4:4
Months have passes since I had my first taste of a Job crisis. God forced me to confront my trust in false security and selfish independence by stripping away the financial storehouse of my existence. Since that day, I have committed myself to a passionate pursuit of knowing Him. He has given me a peace that I cannot explain. When everything in my world appears to be falling apart, my confident expectation in His faithfulness keeps growing.
But I am nothing more than a disciple and all disciples must learn.
A few days ago I wrote about the Hebrew word ma’ aklete, the knife that Abraham took to slaughter Isaac on the altar. That image points toward the requirement for each one of us to place our future on God’s altar and sacrifice our vision of what we will become in order to accept God’s vision of what He wants us to become. I thought I knew what that meant for me. After all, all of my future plans prior to Job’s visit have vanished in my financial loss. But those plans were not my offering. There is a big difference between an offering of sacrifice and an awakening from disaster. It seems that God often needs to bring about crisis before we can offer sacrifice.
Over the months since my awakening, I have struggled with plans to rebuild my finances. My goal was to implement a process that would allow me to develop my commitment to God’s direction and provide needed income. My plan was to combine what God wanted me to do with what I thought I needed to accomplish. Even though I wrote about the lesson in the knife, that lesson was not yet a reality for me. Yesterday, all the plans that I thought could be combined with God’s direction were halted. They simply fell apart.
Oswald Chambers’ devotional is a daily routine. He often says that a man in obedience to the Lord will strike out on a path that seems right. If it is not the right way, God will check. I am reminded of the picture of the Hebrew view of the future – rowing in a small boat. My back is to the future and I spent most of my time looking into the past and making small course corrections. That is what rowing really is. Holding to a steady point on the distant shore and making corrections.
Now I see that my plans need to be made an offering. This is an opportunity for me to deliberately put my version of the future on the altar and let God show me His version of my future. My sight needs to be firmly focused on the past, that point of faithfulness that I use to make course corrections. I don’t need to see where I am going as long as I concentrate on what I am leaving behind. God has my future in His thoughts.
And His thoughts quite often turn out to be very different than mine. Do we really live in ways that turn our plans over to God or are we more inclined to pray, “God, help me make my plans come to pass”? The difference is more than one of perspective. One is an attitude of ownership; the other an attitude of servitude. It is very difficult for us to really become servants of God. We are much more inclined to think that God is somehow the power source for our designs on the future. But God is asking us to join Him in His purposes as servants. That means He decides what we do, not the other way around.
Paul helps me understand the tension between present and future in this small phrase from his second letter to the Corinthians. The word that he uses for “veiled” is the Greek word is kalypto. You will recognize the root in the word “apocalypse” – a Greek word that means, “to uncover”. In a general sense, kalypto means “to cover or hide”. Its original meaning was associated with burial. The earth covered those who were dead. It hid them in a secret world. Here Paul uses this picture to draw attention to an essential element of Christian living. There is a part of what we are doing that is buried away.
Paul is really saying, “and even if our gospel is buried away from sight”. In this passage, Paul remarks that the good news of Christ Jesus is buried away from the sight of unbelievers. They do not see what is offered because their minds have been blinded by the appeals of the world. In the true sense of the word, they have been buried away from reality. We would say, “They have their heads stuck in the sand”. The gospel is hidden from their sight because they refuse to see.
It is important to notice that Paul never argues that unbelievers are simply ignorant. Their inability to see the truth is not because they have not been educated. The blindness is morally culpable because they have refused to honor what they did know, and as a result, their blindness intensifies.
While this passage is part of Paul’s message about the universality of sin, it also contains a truth that I need to incorporate into my life under God’s care. Many times the gospel for me, my personal good news, is buried from sight. The fact that I cannot see God’s good news for me does not invalidate the truth of His provision and protection. In fact, if I act as though my inability to see God’s care means that it is not real, I am in no better position than those people Paul addresses. I have my head stuck in the sand. I am spiritually culpable for my unbelief.
This is really the battle that I fight, almost daily. It is the battle of trusting God’s word without the physical evidence that I have become so dependent upon. When I trusted in my own resources, I could consult the bank statement. There were the numbers in black and white. I could look in the garage and see the cars. I could look in my closet, my living room and my kitchen. All around me was the physical evidence that things were good. Life was full of possessions. I came to believe that the presence of these possessions was the essence of security. I forgot that all of these things are nothing more than illusions of permanency. In a moment, they can be swept away.
Yesterday there was an earthquake on an island where we have some property. In less than one minute, all of those “permanent” possessions were reduced to rubble. Useless. Junk. One minute – everything was fine, secure and comfortable. The next minute – nothing remained. That earthquake was a reminder that human life is a fragile balance between the travail of the earth and the inevitability of the grave. We are so tenuous. We are so vulnerable. Perhaps that is why we put so much effort into masking of our true dependence.
God keeps His good news veiled. He does not do this to be capricious or vindictive. He does it in order to lead us to the truth of dependence. More than anything else, God desires to be the provider to His children, but most of His children are running around madly scrambling to re-organize the world in support of self-independence. God shakes His head (and the earth trembles) over this intentional stupidity. No man is in control of his destiny. The smallest shift in a geological plate can topple any man’s effort to be in charge. A little too much wind, a little too much cold, a few degrees of extra heat, a few too many days of rain and our world is thrown into chaos. Our storehouse of “security” plummets into the abyss. You would think that we would have realized by now that life cannot be lived on our terms.
The Bible tells us that only one thing is absolutely permanent. It is the spoken word of God (rhema). The permanence of God’s word means much more than temporal endurance. The permanence of God’s spoken word means that what God says is utterly reliable. It will not change because of circumstances, time or geography. It is the “flat-out” truth.
This is something that I must know. And if I really know that God’s word is His permanent declaration of the substance of what really counts, I can stop struggling with my quest for security. God is my security. Why? Because He tells me that
1. I can throw my cares on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7)
2. I can stop being self-concerned about life and let God know my needs (Phil. 4:6)
3. I can put all my thoughts of Him and enjoy peace in my heart (Isaiah 26:3)
4. I can count on God’s provision (Phil. 4:19)
5. I can rely on God’s faithfulness and good intentions toward me (Matt. 6:33)
I might not see it now, but God’s handiwork is real even if my eyes aren’t able to receive the right wavelengths of spiritual light. That’s why He told me that He cares. I might be blind, but I am not deaf.
“but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory;” 1 Corinthians 2:4