With the NCAA basketball tournament underway for this year, it is a tremendous time to focus on not losing heart. One of the greatest life lessons to learn is probably learned best in sports. It is so often the case that at the beginning of a game when the talent is high and the expectations are in the clouds, everyone is full of energy. They feel as though they could play all night long and still have strength left to plan the next round. But, it is pretty common as the game wears on and each team has made multiple runs for the lead in the game, to see the energy level beginning to fade. Hope seems to be draining like water from a leaky bucket. The actions of one team or the other become routine rather than inspired. The heart is dying and the end of the game can’t get here soon enough. Often, the other team is still charging up and down the court as though they haven’t lost any energy since the beginning. Their heart is still fully into the game. If you are pulling for the team that has lost heart, you know that something must change quickly or your team has no hope to win the game. It is normally at such a time that the coach calls a time out and does everything in their power to restore the hearts of his team into the game. Different coaches use all kinds of different means of trying to restore heart to their players. Some scream at the players and hope to resurrect their fire by shaming their team. Others strive to rebuild the fire with faith in the players. The coach reminds them that he believes in them and knows they can summon the reserves of energy that are left and make a final run for the game.
In so many ways, this illustrates life. In the game of life it is easy to have those runs when everything seems to fall into place and even the shots that at other times would have felt impossible fall into the basket. But there are also those times when you feel like you have used every ounce of energy you had in reserve and the tank is empty. You continue to take one step after another but you left your heart several steps behind and the sense of hopelessness is invading your mind more and more. Nothing is more difficult or discouraging in life than to face whatever is coming without our hearts in it. Let’s face it, you can lose heart in every aspect of life.
You often see the loss of heart in marriages that were once thriving. The couple that married with so much hope, joy, and love that you thought they were destined for a life full of meaning and purpose forever. But years pass. The twinkle in the eyes dims. The sense of excitement just to see the partner and to be together at the end or beginning of the day has died down. Now the love life feels routine. How can a couple keep from losing heart in their marriage? How can parents who start down the road of parenting with so much excitement about what this bundle of Joy will mean in their lives turn into parents who lose all heart as their children grow up and aren’t at all what they always dreamed they would be?
Who hasn’t taken a new job at some point with tons of enthusiasm about what it will be like, only to look back after a few years and think that it hasn’t turned out to be anything like what we dreamed of it being? How can a person keep from losing heart in life? Focus with me on two statements from the pen of the apostle Paul on how not to lose heart in life. Both these statements are found in 2 Corinthians 4.
The first is found in 2 Corinthians 4:1. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” Notice the beginning of the sentence ties it to what he had been saying back in chapter three. Since he begins with “therefore” it is vital we look back to see what the basis is of the point made. Back in chapter three, Paul had described how God had given us the New Covenant and had made him a competent minister of the New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (Verse 6). Unlike the Old Covenant that produces death this new covenant gives us life and when we behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, in the New Covenant, we are being transformed into the very same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of God. Having this ministry of the New Covenant to share with others, Paul declared, kept him from losing heart in life.
It shouts the message to us that having a sense of mission or purpose that is so great that it molds our whole lives and the lives of others to follow the teaching keeps us from becoming discouraged and losing heart in life. We may serve God in a multitude of ways in life. But the truth is, God calls each of us to a work of ministry in his body. There are many list of ministries one might have in Romans 12; I Corinthians 12 and I Peter 4. Each describes how we have different spiritual gifts from the Lord and are to use them as our ministry for him. Just knowing I have a job or ministry or calling from God on how to serve him in the world keeps us from losing heart in life. His mission for us is life-changing. We become means of His for blessing the world for good.
The other text is found in verses 16-18 of 2 Corinthians 4. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” There may not be a more disheartening time in life than when we grow older and all the things we have been good at, seem to be beyond our reach now. Our body begins to grow old, decay and so many of the things we used to do capably, become out of reach for us. It is easy when we feel we aren’t needed or useful in the world anymore to lose heart in life and want to give up. Having a sense of mission or purpose gives us heart. But even when we aren’t able to do the things we once did, God tells us we don’t need to lose heart, because we having something waiting for us in the future that far surpasses any blessing we have in this life. As the body decay’s the inward person is being renewed day by day. We won’t find that fountain of youth for the body in this life. But, I want to tell you that for the soul or inward man, we can find that fountain any time we are ready to look for it.
Haven’t you met some older people in life that never seemed to get old in their mind or thinking? The body became feeble but their mind and heart seemed to stay young, alert and alive every day. If you search for their secret you will find they have a since of purpose, ministry and mission. And you will find they look forward to the future with glee since they know that this life isn’t all there is. Instead there is a life beyond the grave that is far, far better than anything we have ever known down here. When this tent is dissolved or destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, waiting for us in glory and it excites us to anticipate an eternal home in heaven.
Don’t lose heart! Something better lies ahead!