Dustin Crawford, lead pastor of True North Community Church in Atlanta, continues our Weak is Strong series with a sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. Download the sermon guide at fouroakschurch.com/guide.

Hope in the Face of Death

Pastor Dustin Crawford

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Before I get started I just want to share a little bit about our church plant and just say thank you. Without your sacrifice and generosity giving to Sojourn Network, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We wouldn’t be able to share the gospel, so I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are overwhelmed by your generosity for us and for the other 14 church plants. I’d like to share a story so that you can rejoice with us because when you give, you are going with us. The salvations that we see and the reconciliations that we see in marriages and all the beautiful things that we see because of the power of the gospel, you are participating with us and so I’d like to share a short story.

There was a guy named Jonathan Walker, we call him Waka, and if you have ever seen our website, he is the guy who does all the photography for our website. He is a nonbeliever. He is one of the first guys I met once we moved to Atlanta. He is on Instagram and somehow someway, me and my wife went to a Braves game and he saw a post that my wife made about me wearing all my Braves gear. He sent me a message that said, “I just don’t understand the tattoos. I don’t understand that you guys want to move to the inner city and work among the down and out and the hurting and the poor and you are a pastor. I don’t get that so I’d love to meet up for coffee if you have time.” I was like “I’ve got plenty of time!” So we got to coffee and over coffee he shares his story. Over the course of about 3 years ago he was in the process of committing suicide. He was getting ready to walk out into the MARTA, which was the train system. His sister called him twice and since she called him twice he figured it must have been an emergency. So he answered the phone and didn’t take his life by the grace of God. Over the course of the next two months or three months as we are journeying with him and sharing the gospel with him, sharing our life with him he starts to wonder what the hope is that we have that he feels like he is just missing.  He’s got this deep hole within his heart that he is just longing to feel healed, to feel satisfaction, to feel joy in the midst of sorrow and he is thinking “What is it?”

So he pulls me aside after community group one night and he is wrestling saying “You are answering questions that I have. No one has ever done that. You are talking about things that I really struggle with and you don’t say it in a way where you are just blowing me off and saying ‘believe this’, you are sharing your doubts and your hurts and you are fighting to trust the Lord. What is this? What do I need to do to have my sins forgiven?” So I got to share the gospel with him and now we are walking with him. We don’t know if he is saved yet, but he is right there and your giving makes things like this possible. So we can rejoice with this, and without your giving, Waka would have never heard the gospel, so I thank you and I praise you for Christ in you so thank you so much.

Today we are going to be in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. This is a meaty passage, a weighty passage. I’m not going to be able to walk through it and pull out all of this beauty and the beauty of Jesus in the midst of all these heartaches and hardships, so I would encourage you over the next week to dive into this passage and read it for yourselves and just soak in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

While you are turning there I will set this up. All of us are afraid. There are all kinds of things that cause us to fear whether it be heights, whether it be the unknown, whether it be a new job, whether it be losing a job, whether it be sending our children off to highschool or college and leaving the home for the first time. Maybe it is having a child for the first time. There are so many things in this world that cause us to fear. For me, when I was growing up as a 10 or 8 year old, it was the dark.

The reason I was afraid of the dark is because our neighbors across the street were in gang. They were teenagers and they would always torment me because I stayed home alone. They would yell through the windows, they would pound on the door, and it brought such an intense paralyzing fear to me and it transferred over to the night time. In the night time I couldn’t see them coming and there were all the things that would roll through my imagination and it would bring about this paralyzing fear where I couldn’t sleep. I remember in our house we had the blinds that wouldn’t quite cover the whole window so there is a sliver that you could see outside and I believed that someone could see in. So my eyes would just be glued to that sliver and I would just replay the worst case scenario over and over and over and I couldn’t sleep. Then one night I finally fall asleep and above my bed, where the headboard would be, I have a picture frame with all my favorite baseball cards. One night somehow someway at about three in the morning, it falls off the hook and crashes down on me. My fear just goes through the roof. I pull the covers over my head I start kicking and screaming and yelling “Dad! Dad! Dad!” and my dad, by the time I got to the third “Dad” stormed into the room and flipped on the light switch. It was at that moment that my dad showed up that my fear started to subside.

The reason my fear started to subside is that there is something about fear that when you believe that someone that you trust has the situation in their hands, and you believe that they can change that situation, you don’t fear anymore. Fear starts to go away when you believe there is someone that holds it in their hands. The fear goes away. The same is true in the face of death. Death is a reality that we all must face. It is the great oppressor. It is the great equalizer. There is nothing that you and I can do to escape death. It doesn’t matter if we are young or old or rich or poor or educated or uneducated, it comes for us all. There is no escaping death. It is the great fear. It is the thing that makes us all cower if we are honest with ourselves. But the hope of the Christian is that God rules and reigns and holds death in his hands. Therefore to be a Christian, the hope of the Christian means that we don’t need to know fear in the face of death. To know God means that you do not have to know fear in the face of death because Jesus has conquered death and God holds it in his hands. So today, we are going to look at “What is our hope in the fear of death” and “How does this hope in the fear of death affect the way you and I live for today”. (not just for tomorrow and not for eternity, but how does it affect the very real life every day life of our journey through this world.)

So if you would, if you are able, please stand with me for the reading of God’s Word. Starting in verse 1 we read:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,if indeed by putting it ona we may not be found naked.For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for we walk by faith, not by sight.Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”


This is the Word of the Lord. You may be seated. So we are going to answer the first question, “What is our hope in the face of the great equalizer? What is our hope in the face of death?” We read this from Paul, in verse one he says

“For we know, that if this tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

So Paul is writing to the Corinthian church trying to encourage them in the face of suffering and even death. He doesn’t beat around the bush, he comes right out and says that your hope, my hope, the Christian hope in the face of death is that one day God will bring about the redemption of our bodies. One day we will have a new body. A pefect body. It says it is eternal. There is no way that body can decay, there is no way that body can fade or deteriorate. That body will be perfect and will last forever. Paul contrasts that with our earthly body as a tent. Many of you, if you are like me and you like to go camping, you know that a tent was never made to last. Me and my wife normally get our tents at Walmart and what happens is after one or two times of camping, the tent starts to have a hole in it. Next thing you know, you are sleeping in water instead of sleeping on dry ground. The tent deteriorates. It was never meant to last. Paul says that is our earthly experience in this body. We feel it every day as we get older. We start to get aches and pains. We start to deteriorate. We start to hurt in ways that we never though we could hurt. We aren’t 20 anymore and we’re not growing beautiful and growing more strong we are growing weak because of the frailty of our body. Paul says that the great hope is that God has handmade a house for you. We know a house is a safe place. It is a sure foundation. It is a place of protection. It is a place that can last. Paul says this house that God has made for you in all its perfections and beauty will last for all of eternity. Paul says that is our hope in the face of death, that when we die we have a God-made house a God-made, brand new, resurrection body. Paul would say in Phillipians 3, again, in Phillipians 3, he’d say that our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies, our tent-like bodies, so that we will be like his glorious body. It is certainty. It’s not wishful thinking. Paul says, “For we know.” Hope in our day and age has lost its power. Many times when we say I hope for something it is more like “I wish I would get this. I wish this would happen.” 

So, when we hear the word hope, sometimes it falls flat. There is nothing to it, but Paul says it is certainty. This hope cannot be taken away from us. It is similar to this, many of the men in here will understand and kind of resonate with me, especially if you are married. Every time me and my wife get into any type of debate or maybe a friendly argument about past dates, remembering the lyrics of a song, or trying to remember the way something happened or trying to remember some thing that I am 100% sure or certain that it happened, I mean I would bet everything on it, and 100% of the time I am wrong. 100% of the time, she is right without fail. God is saying here that because God has made us an eternal home, it is certain. For we know that in the face of death, we don’t need to know fear because we have a resurrection body waiting for us, and because we have this resurrection body, Paul says, as a response, we groan and we long to be clothed with that body.

We read this in verse 2 :

“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. If indeed, by putting it on, we may not be found naked.”

In other words, what Paul is saying is that because of the weakness of our earthly body, we groan inside, longing to put on our new bodies. It is like this, have you ever been to the doctor and gotten a physical examination?  Many times, when you get a physical they test your reflexes, and reflexes are supposed to test some sort of neurological functioning to make sure it is going great and you are healthy. I remember from being an athlete getting lots and lots of different tests and examinations and in the physical the test they do without fail is the knee jerk reflex. They take the little hammer, they hammer right below your knee on the patellar tendon and without trying to move it, without having to move it, without thinking about it, our leg pops up every single time. If he hits it right, the natural reflex is for the leg to go up. Paul is saying likewise, because we have such a great hope before us, our natural inclination, our natural response will be to groan and to long for that. That’s what we were created for. We long for it. We groan for it. It is just as natural as breathing. If you are a Christian, this hope is so glorious and so certain that your natural response is just to long for it.

Just to prove it, just to show how in our every day lives we constantly are longing and groaning for glory, we are groaning to be made new, and that to be a Christian is also to hunger and long for glory, long for our redemption bodies to be made new, to be made right, lets just look at a few examples of how this happens in our everyday lives.  We are in the season of Presidential elections right now. They are debating and now we are waiting to see and vote upon who is going to be our next president, who is going to be the ruler. If you are like me it stirs within you this natural response that, man, this time of year always stirs me to want a righteous ruler to usher in the good life. I long for it. I know that this ruler can’t do it. He isn’t perfect like our savior Jesus Christ, but I still long for it. It reminds me that I’m not home yet. Richard Lovelace says this about this very thing “In the hearts of the people is a groping inarticulate conviction that, if the right ruler would only come along, the world would be healed of all its wounds.” Creation is headless and desperately searching for its head. Our natural reflex to knowing that a ruler or a president is coming is to long for one who really can bring about the good life. It is our natural response. What about diets? We are coming into the new year and one of the big things we do is we diet. If we are really honest with ourselves, diets are just a longing for a new body.  Women, what about every time you put makeup on? It is a longing for new skin, skin that will never age, or skin that will shine so vibrant and beautiful so that makeup won’t be needed. You’ll be so beautiful and so glorious that you’ll shine like the stars, it says. Every time you apply makeup it is a longing for resurrection skin. What about tears? Tears have a way of reminding us that we are not yet home. Tears have a wide variety of things that we long for. Tears for the end of suffering, tears for the end of pain, tears for the end of miscarriages, tears for the end of that which causes us regret and shame and guilt. Tears in all its forms, many times, is a longing for the end of that which causes us to hurt.  

I remember my cousin passed away about a year and a half ago and I got the honor to do his funeral. I remember sitting there in the middle of the message and my aunt began to cry. Its not a type of cry where its normal and you ignore it because you hear that crying all the time. It was a wail. It rocked you. In that wail, you didn’t need any words. You knew exactly what she was longing for and groaning for. She was longing for the dead to rise. She was longing for resurrection. It is just our natural response. We know that this isn’t the way that it is supposed to be.  What about our fears? Fears have a way of unveiling that which we long for as well.

About two years ago at our community group, one of the things that we would do is we would have an icebreaker question just to get people talking and help them feel comfortable and just comfortable in their skin so they can interact with each other and talk about their hurts and pains and talk about the hope of the gospel. One of the questions was “What is your greatest fear?” It was really funny for a while, people are scared of snakes, they are scared of clowns, they are scared of tarantulas, they are scared of a lot of different things which a lot of times ended up being animals. Then one guy, he is an older gentleman that didn’t talk much, always kept to himself and was very soft spoken paused when it got to him. It was one of those pauses where you knew he was in deep thought. You knew something was stirring. He kind of mumbled to himself and then he cleared his throat and said “I’m fearful of dying alone.” Within that you see a longing for the end of loneliness. In our everyday lives you can see that we are just groaning and we are hungering and we are crying out “Please! Please!” All of our cries and longings, whether it is for acceptance, for healing, for hope in the face of suffering, for the end of death, for security are all cries and longings for “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

We know that the scriptures say in Colossians 1 that Christ is the hope of glory. Christ is the hope of glory because he is the only one that can satisfy you. He is the only one that can heal you. He is the only one that can make things right. He is the only one that promised that he will make all things new. That is our hope in the face of death. Our hope is not a place it is a person. It is Jesus Christ. The resurrection body is a great thing, but Jesus is the one that we want and what we really are longing for. Our body is just a byproduct of his grace and his goodness. We are a homesick people, desperate to put off the old and put on the new. So we groan. As a Christian we don’t groan without hope. Paul says that God, in his goodness and his mercy gives us his very self in the person of the Holy Spirit to guarantee that he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. We read this in verse 4:

“For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God who has given us the spirit as a guarantee. Why has God given himself in the person of the Holy Spirit? As a guarantee that what he says, he will bring to completion. He has the power to do what he says he’s going to do. One day we will be able to put off the old and put on the new. We read this again in Romans 8, Paul again is putting forward this beautiful truth for us.

“If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who dwells in you.”

If you are a son or daughter of the living king of God himself, you have the same power inside of you, therefore, the destiny of Christ is now your destiny. His resurrection is now your resurrection. The end of Christ’s story is now the end of your story. Resurrection. Hope. Sure, certain hope. What is so beautiful, we see in Romans 8, that God gives us a daily reminder in the Spirit that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Not even death. What hope! What hope! That God doesn’t leave us to ourselves to groan, he brings the Spirit himself to dwell in us, to assure us that the groaning and the longing that he has placed there will have fulfillment. We will rise to new life to live life to the fullest. Life where pleasure forevermore will be our normal. What a Savior! Like the song said, “What a Savior!”

So how does this great hope of resurrection, of glory, affect the way we live today? It is great that this is in the future, but what about today? How do I navigate the hardness of life, the hurts of life, the mundane every day life. How does my hope affect that? Paul writes in verse 7: 

“so we are always of good courage, for we walk by faith and not by sight.”

Paul is saying the hope of resurrection; the hope of glory affects everything. This is why Paul, even after receiving countless beatings (the forty lashes minus one) even after that, even after being beaten by rods three times, even after being stoned nearly to death, even after being bitten by a poisonous snake, even after all the imprisonments and harsh treatment, even after being abandoned by his friends and being ridiculed and pressured by his opposition, and even knowing that death is going to hunt him down every single day of his life, he keeps doing the very thing that is bringing this suffering and this threat of death upon him.  He continues to share the gospel. He continues to spread the hope of the resurrection and the hope of the glory found in Jesus Christ alone. Why? Why? Because this isn’t his home! He has a hope beyond the grave. Paul is able to endure because he knows that if he dies he has a place, a handmade eternal body, waiting for him and that he will see Jesus, his treasure, face to face. That is our hope in the midst of death. That is the encouragement.

So what does this look like? What does it look like to have a life of good courage for me and you? I want to give us one example, one application, of what this looks like in our day to day lives. Because we have the spirit as a guarantee, because we have the spirit working in our powerless lives to produce a live of power, is that our questions stop being “Why would I ever?” Why would I ever fight for my marriage? Why would I ever disadvantage myself for the advantage of someone else? Why would I ever take the time to listen to someone who is hurting? Why would I ever share the gospel with my coworkers? Why would I ever share the gospel with my family and my friends? Why would I ever move my family into the inner to reach drug dealers, prostitutes, the poor and the hurting at the risk of our safety? Why would I ever take a lower paying job so that I can spend more time with my family? Why would I ever do that? Because we have such a great hope, we can be of good courage and our question switches from “Why would I ever?” to “Why wouldn’t I?” Why wouldn’t I disadvantage myself for the advantage of someone else? Why wouldn’t I share the gospel with my coworker? Why wouldn’t I move my family into the inner city? Why wouldn’t I? And you can go on and on and on. Why wouldn’t you?

There is me and my wife and our inner core team that get asked constantly, why would you move into that neighborhood in Atlanta? Constantly. The crime is one of the worst neighborhoods in Atlanta. Shootings are normal. There are drug dealers on our street. There are prostitutes everywhere. Everyone is saying “Why would you ever risk going there?” Why would you take your almost born daughter into that neighborhood? Aren’t you fearful for her? Why would you ever do that? And our response isn’t a boastful response in our own strength or a look at me type thing. Its that we have a hope beyond the grave. We have a hope beyond this world. Therefore we are of good courage. Why wouldn’t we? Why wouldn’t we want other to know the hope that we have in Jesus Christ? Why wouldn’t we want people to know that this is not the end, this is not all there is, there is more. Why wouldn’t we?

And I don’t want this to come off where we experience guilt and shame like “Why don’t you just go do that then?” Because this happened, go do it. Lets look at Jesus. Let’s look at the gospel. May the gospel wreck us. The gospel transforms us. Why? So that we can take the gospel to others and see it transform them. We will never ever ask and act upon the question “Why wouldn’t I?” if the gospel is not real to our hearts. Look at Jesus. He says in Hebrews 12

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was it that caused Jesus not to run from the cross, or be made to go to the cross, but what was it that for the joy set before him made him sprint to the cross and endure the full wrath of God on your behalf? Why did God do it? Why did Jesus do it? What was so valuable to him? What was so precious that he with the joy set before him, ran to the cross? What was it? We see in Isaiah 53:11a


“After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many”

He will justify many. He will bear their iniquities. The joy set before Jesus that made him run to the cross was you and me. The joy set before Jesus that compelled him run to the cross was you and was me so that he could purchase you and be with you forever and ever. You and I are the joy set before Jesus. So may the joy that is set before us of being with our treasure, Jesus, and the love of Christ, compel us then to go and share this good news with others. Not out of guilt or shame but because of the lavish grace that God has given to us. Why wouldn’t we?

So I just want to end with a story to bring about encouragement to us, maybe a word of grace. Speaking of death is not fun. As I was preparing this message I felt like every other word I wrote down was the word death. It is just a weighty hard thing. I want us to leave encouraged. I want us to experience the grace and the hope in a real way this morning.

Many of you have probably heard on the news about a pastor named Davey Blackburn. Davey Blackburn, I met him about 7 or 8 years ago, was the first person to ever disciple me. For about a year or year and a half when I lived in Greenville with my beautiful wife, Davey just spent countless hours pouring into me by sharing the gospel, growing me in the gospel, giving me a hunger for the beauty of the majesty of Jesus. It was the first time I was unashamed about Jesus and it was because of the faithfulness of Davey in my life.

Davey and his beautiful wife Amanda moved to Indianapolis to start a church about 5 years ago. Tragedy hits. Davey leaves for the gym at about 6:15 in the morning, the day before Veterans Day, and 3 men break into their home. Amanda was home alone with their one-year-old baby boy Weston. Amanda is 12 weeks pregnant with a baby girl and these 3 men break in and they take her life. The very people that Davey and Amanda moved to the neighborhood in Indianapolis to reach took her life. I just want you to hear the words of Amanda’s sister in light of this event. 

She writes: “She had endured one of the most scary and helpless moments of her life in her own home. I know Amanda pushed and fought with everything inside her. She was stronger than she had ever been. She rose up at that moment and protected the precious gift (speaking of Weston) that she had brought into this world only a year before. I sat by her bed in complete and total awe of all that my sweet sister endured. Through the distress and fear, she conquered. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be all worth it.  And oh, the joy! Oh, the joy on her face on November 11th at 7:55 am, when she was able to walk into the arms of Jesus holding her precious little Evie Grace in her arms. This. This was the most amazing day of her life.”

Death had been swallowed up in victory. The hope set before us is a hope that not even death can take from us. Pleasures forevermore will now be her normal, forever. Our hope is that death has lost its sting. Because we have tasted of the goodness of God’s saving grace, we will never have to taste the sting of death. Oh victory, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory? This is our hope. This is our hope. So, for the Christian, I would just encourage us this morning, I know this is a sad story but the sadness terminates in the most joyful time you will ever experience, and it lasts forever. May we rejoice in the hope set before us. May we rejoice that Jesus was willing, because of the joy set before him, to purchase this reality for us. If you are a non-Christian here today, I would encourage you that this hope if for you to. In this very hour, you can take Christ and experience this hope in the face of death. The hope of a resurrection. If that is you this morning, I would say talk to one of the pastors here after the service. 

Dustin Crawford

Dustin Crawford is the lead pastor of True North Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

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