March 23, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NRSV)
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Thinking about the age to come does not make us less concerned for the world of this age. If anything, the more we reflect on the future, the more we pray for God to grant us a bit more of the future today. Plus, we can be more attentive to moments in which God’s grace is seen in the kindness of strangers. We can be more appreciative of times when God’s people seek the justice of God’s kingdom. We can be more grateful than ever for moments when God’s love penetrates our yearning hearts.
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
I enjoy going to the movies with my son, Nathan. Partly, it’s good to spend time with him doing something we both like. But seeing films with Nathan is especially interesting because he sees them so differently than I do. I watch movies mainly to be entertained. Yes, I pay attention to characters and plot and I like to be moved with laughter or tears. I’m attentive to moral lessons portrayed in films. Nathan sees all of this. But he sees so much more. He pays attention to light and sound. He is aware of how a film is edited. He notices how a film portrays characters by the way they are visually depicted. He comments on the way space is configured in a movie. And so much more.
Why does Nathan see so much more in films than I am able to see? Natural gifts have something to do with it, for sure. But he is also highly trained as an observer of visual art. In a couple of months Nathan will graduate with a Ph.D. in Film and Visual Studies. He’ll walk across the same stage I once crossed when I received my Ph.D. in New Testament. While he may not understand the nuances of biblical Greek, he does see nuances in film and visual art that I will never see. From my point of view, he can see the unseen.
In 2 Corinthians 4:18 the Apostle Paul talks about seeing the unseen. He’s not thinking mainly about seeing visual things with unusual insight, however. Rather, when Paul writes, “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen,” he’s referring to a different kind of seeing. Physical eyes see physical things. But unseen things can be “seen” with the eyes of faith and through the lens of the Spirit. This is made clear in the final phrase of verse 18: “for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
So, I wonder, how do we see what is eternal? And what happens when we do?
First, we see what is eternal – what cannot be seen with human eyes – when we pay attention to what God reveals to us. What God shows us in Scripture about the future, for example, allows us to see the unseen. We catch a glimpse of the invisible future in Revelation 21, where God dwells among us and wipes away every tear. God can speak in other ways as well, through dreams and visions, through prophetic words, through art and music, and, yes, even through film.
I think, for example, of the 2005 film Joyeux Noel. This movie offers a fictional portrait of something that actually happened during World War I. On Christmas, as opposing troops celebrated Christmas, they laid down their weapons, sharing Christmas greetings, carols, and even gifts with their sworn enemies. For brief moments, the reality of the Incarnation of Jesus transformed this broken, violent world, filling it with love and celebration. Now, of course the temporary Christmas truce didn’t last. But when watching Joyeux Noel through the eyes of faith, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the world to come, when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
When I was young, I didn’t think much about the unseen world of God’s future. I had many things to occupy my mind besides Heaven. As I get older, I have a growing desire to “see” what lies ahead, not just for me, but for the world. When I see people in such pain, when I observe a world racked with violence and injustice, I want to know where all of this is heading. Plus, as I feel the weight of my own mortality more heavily, I yearn to know the greater heaviness of God’s future glory.
This desire does not make me less concerned for the world of this age, however. If anything, the more I reflect on the future, the more I pray for God to grant us a bit more of the future today. I am also more attentive to moments in which God’s grace can be seen in the kindness of strangers. I am more appreciative of times when God’s people seek the justice of God’s kingdom. I am more grateful than ever for moments when God’s love penetrates my sometimes hard but often yearning heart.
What helps you to “see” the things that are unseen?
Do you ever think about what comes after this mortal life? If so, when and why? If not, why not?
How might a biblical vision of Heaven help you to live more fully today?
Talk with your small group or a wise friend about Heaven/God’s future and the difference it makes.
Gracious God, I must confess that I find it much easier to see what is temporary than what is eternal. I tend to focus on what my eyes actually see rather than what my faith reveals to me. Forgive me for the limits of my vision.
Help me, I pray, to see what is now unseen, to catch a glimpse of your future, your glory, your kingdom. As I do, may seeing the unseen inspire me to live more fully for your kingdom now. And may I do so with confidence that my life is in your hands both now and forever. Amen.
Banner image by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Celebrate the Sanctified Imagination.
Subscribe to Life for Leaders
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.