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6-2-24 What We See

What We See

David Peterson / General

Fortitude; Virtue; Faith / 2 Corinthians 4:5–12

Sermon Type: Textual-Topical

Proposition: Fortitude (and other virtues) is founded on faith which in turn is founded on Christ.


Key Text: 2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV1984

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

1. Here we meet a tremendous virtue in Paul, Fortitude (v. 8-9)

2. What is Fortitude?

fortitude. A virtue, sometimes associated with courage, that involves the ability to endure misfortune, pain, peril or adversity with steadfast resolve.

Grenz, S. J., & Smith, J. T. (2003). In Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (p. 44). InterVarsity Press.

Fortitude is the cardinal virtue that enables us to face difficulty well. “Courage” and “bravery” are synonyms of fortitude. (a Catholic book of Moral Theology)

3. A Cardinal or pivotal virtue alone with prudence, temperance, and justice. Paul prays for this for the Colossians and James says the testing of faith produces it.

I. Fortitude in the midst of life’s trials (v. 8-9)

1. Explanation

a. Paul had trials

2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NIV1984

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

b. In the midst of his trials he displayed amazing fortitude

2. Application

You will notice, of course, that you cannot practise any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one into play. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

3. Illustration

The Western World Has a Crisis of Courage

An article in The Financial Times claims that “the west is suffering from a crisis of courage.” The author notes:

And the problem is much broader than politics. Society itself seems to be suffering from a crisis of courage … Virtue signaling might be endemic, but courage, like honor, is not deemed a virtue worth signaling. Indeed, all the incentives are stacked on the opposite side: there is little to lose from going along with what everyone is saying, even if you don’t believe it yourself, and much to gain from proving that you are on the “right” side. Courage — sticking your head above the parapet and saying what you really think — can, conversely, get you into a huge amount of trouble, and, usually, you are not rewarded for it.

The mere mention of courage has been in decline for a long time. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Positive Psychology that tracked how frequently words related to moral excellence appeared in American books — both fiction and non-fiction — over the 20th century, found that the use of the words “courage, bravery and fortitude” (which were grouped together) had fallen by two-thirds over the period.

Moral courage does not equate to recklessness, and neither does it mean being a provocateur for the sake of it … But if we want our societies to thrive, we must be courageous enough to think for ourselves and stand up for what we believe in. The late writer Maya Angelou was right when she said: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Source: Jemima Kelly, “The west is suffering from a crisis of courage,” The Financial Times (8-22-23)

Right and Wrong Inescapable

The effects of virtue-free social policy have been devastatingbut we don’t seem quite ready to accept the alternative. Few politicians are comfortable about using words like “right” and “wrong,” especially when the subject is sexual irresponsibility (which remains the surest predictor of criminality, ill health and welfare dependency among the poor). … In fact, it isn’t easy. It requires the fortitude to sometimes cast people into the outer darkness. …

It has become near impossible for a polity as rights-conscious, and tolerant, as ours to admit that some people who behave badly, if not quite criminally, aren’t worthy of our support–to kick them off welfare, or out of schools and housing projects. But it is inescapable; the system can’t work without sanctions–even if they require the sort of stiff, humorless, un-American propriety that gave morality such a bad name.

Source: Joe Klein in Newsweek, (July 26, 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 13.

The week before September 11, 2001, America’s “Tuesday of Terror,” 32-year-old Todd Beamer and his wife, Lisa, had spent a romantic getaway in Italy. The couple, both 1991 graduates of Wheaton College, returned home Monday rested and relieved to be reunited with their boys David, 3, and Andrew, 1.

But extended family time would have to wait. The next morning Todd, an executive with Oracle, had to be at a sales reps meeting in Northern California. He kissed Lisa, who was five months pregnant with their third child, good-bye and headed to the Newark, New Jersey, airport, where he boarded United Flight 93 for San Francisco.

About 90 minutes into the westbound flight, the Boeing 757 was approaching Cleveland when three hijackers onboard identified themselves to the 34 passengers and 7 crew and proceeded to take control of the cockpit and cabin. The plane, now piloted by the would-be terrorists, made a sharp turn to the south.

Todd reached for the GTE Airfone in the back of one of the seats and was connected to a GTE supervisor on the ground. He explained to her what was happening and indicated that he and the other passengers would not likely survive. He presumed the pilot and copilot were already seriously injured or dead.

The GTE employee explained to Todd what had already happened at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Upon hearing this news, Todd must have realized that the hijackers were intent on crashing the plane into another prominent building near Washington D.C. (the direction they were now headed). Even though the hijacker nearest Todd had a bomb belted around his middle, the former Wheaton College baseball player told the GTE representative that he and a few others were determined to do whatever they could to disrupt the terrorists’ plan.

He then asked the person on the other end of the phone to call his wife and report their entire conversation to her (including how much he loved her). Before hanging up, this committed Christian and devoted family man, who taught Sunday school each week, asked the GTE employee to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him. With the sound of passengers screaming in the background, she complied. When they concluded the prayer, Todd calmly said, “Help me, God. Help me, Jesus.”

The GTE employee then heard Todd say, apparently to the other three businessmen he’d alluded to earlier: “Are you ready, guys? Let’s roll!” With that the phone went dead.

Within a few minutes, Flight 93 was nose-diving into a rural field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, where it left a crater 40 feet deep as it disintegrated upon impact. Because Todd Beamer was committed to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to put the needs of others above his own fear of danger and imminent death. Thanks to him and the three other businessmen who joined with him, the intended target in the nation’s capital was not reached, and who knows how many lives were saved because of that. No one on the ground was killed.

According to Todd’s wife, Lisa, “His example of courage has given me, my boys (and my unborn baby) a reason to live.”

That’s what can happen when we, like Jesus Christ, put the needs of others ahead of our own.

Citation: Greg Asimakoupoulos; Naperville, Illinois; source: Chicago Tribune (9-17-01), San Francisco Chronicle (9-17-01) (2003). More Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (pp. 53–54). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

II. The Source of Fortitude: Faith (v. 13)

1. Explanation

a. Paul explains why he doesn’t give up

2 Corinthians 4:13 NIV1984

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV1984

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

b. Hebrews 11, the faith chapter is about extraordinary things people did because of their faith, these things required fortitude

2. Application

Invisible World

To become a Christian is to accept an extra dimension to life. From the Christian’s point of view the notable thing about the unbeliever’s world is how much “smaller” it is. The unbeliever is imprisoned in a decaying universe.

Imagine you took a child to the theater to see some tragedy like, say, Hamlet, at the end of which the stage is littered with corpses. And suppose you had difficulty comforting the child afterward, so distressed was he at the spectacle of the deaths. “But the man who played Hamlet is not really dead,” you explain. “He is an actor. He also lives a life outside a theater. He has a wife and family and, far from being dead, he is probably now at home with them enjoying a late supper.”

If there is one word the Christian secretly wants to use to describe the unbeliever’s outlook, it is “literal” … like the child who takes the play for reality.

Source: Harry Blamires in On Christian Truth. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

3. Illustration

True Faith

Faith is not belief without proof but trust without reservation.

Source: D. Elton Trueblood, late Christian author. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

III. What We See Gives Rise to Faith (v. 6)

1. Explanation

a. What we see and what we’ve come to trust is Jesus

i. He embodied the virtues as in today’s gospel lesson. He displayed prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude.

2. Application

“The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine

3. Illustration



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