Focus on the Unseen Things

This will sustain you through anything.

2 Cor. 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, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Paul endured a great deal of hardship throughout his ministry. He was never without some kind of affliction. How was he able to bear up under these and persevere?

He tells us: By not focusing on his circumstances and the afflictions that were always present with him, but by “looking” to unseen things, setting his mind on things above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3).

Paul regarded his various afflictions as portending an eternal weight of glory, and he strove to enter  that glory by focusing the eye of his heart on the blessed vision of Christ exalted in glory (Eph. 1.15-23). I think we can assume at least three things concerning this matter of “looking” on unseen things.

First, we must gain some sense of what those unseen things are, what their role is in the divine economy, and how they relate to us. For this we will need to search the Scriptures; but we may also learn about such mysteries from the works – written and artistic – of those who have glimpsed that unseen world, and have recorded their observations and experience. The more familiar we become with the landscape of unseen things,the more sustaining power we will derive from our times of looking upon them.

Second, we will need to devote some time for this discipline of “looking” (Ps. 27.5). As this landscape is wondrously varied and infinitely beautiful, this should be an aspect of our spiritual disciplines to which we regularly submit, perhaps through study, meditation, solitude, singing, and the like.

Finally, we must practice to carry this vision of unseen things as the backdrop or framework within which we live and move and have our being – the spiritual “screen saver” for our souls. Let everything we see and do each day cue us to consider the glory of God and of the unseen realm (Prov. 25.2). Let us be ready to give thanks and praise for every glimmer or ray of the unseen realm that falls across our path – in the beauty of creation, the kindness of a friend, the genius of some aspect of culture, the manifold everyday blessings of the Lord. Let songs of glory be in our hearts and on our lips. Let us encourage one another with testimonies and reports from our “visits” within the unseen realm. And let us refer every situation or task to the throne of Christ, making a conscious effort at all times to live “under the heavens” and not merely “under the sun.”

Renewal and restoration begin every day within the souls of God'’ people (v. 16), and the renewing of our souls occurs according to the pattern and template of the landscape of unseen things. We deceive ourselves if we think that anything in the way of lasting renewal and restoration can be achieved without this ongoing revival of our souls, and we also deceive ourselves if we think this daily reviving can be realized and sustained apart from a clear and compelling vision and experience of the unseen things of Christ and His glory.

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