For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight -- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.Most of us, I suppose, have mostly heard this passage read at funerals; and at a believer's funeral, it does seem appropriate. I myself read it eighteen years ago over the grave of my well-beloved father, who was not -- as far as I know, at least -- a believer, and that was a cheerless business indeed for me. But I really don't think that's primarily what this passage is about. It's written to first century believers who faced the very real threat -- the certainty, I suppose, for many -- of persecution directly unto death, and some very hard deaths at that. Death is a thing of the body ("this earthly tent"), but so are want and suffering, whether natural, such as illness and age, or man-made, such as beatings and execution. How is the believer, when facing such prospects, to be of good courage, as Paul says we are? The answer, it seems to me, is summed up in verse 5: Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. The Spirit is not only the way we know that death is actually good for the believer; but His presence and work within us actually powers that "good courage." God does not, I am sure, tell us to do things for which He has not equipped us; here, He equips us through His own presence, in the person of the Holy Spirit. And a good thing, too; otherwise, it can't be done.
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