So We Do Not Lose Heart
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Have you experienced any discouragement lately? If so, what was the cause? What gives you the comfort or encouragement to get through it?
There are many extremely popular pastors, teachers, and life coaches out there with messages that really sound encouraging. Unfortunately, many of those messages are warped and false. Some claim that if you just trust God enough, you will be blessed with health and wealth. This is called the prosperity gospel. Some take God completely out of the equation and say that in order to be happy, you just have to love yourself more and take care of yourself. You are enough! You can do it!
But in 2 Corinthians, Paul took a different approach towards encouraging his readers. Rather than deny that trials exist in this life or claim that you can help yourself in the midst of them, Paul pointed his readers to Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
We know Paul as one of the greatest apostles of Christ. But as great as he was, he was no stranger to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul shared that in Asia (Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) his team had suffered so much that they were sure they were going to die. From the book of Acts, we know that incident wasn’t Paul’s only brush with death! We can read about how Paul was beaten, stoned, left for dead, shipwrecked, and imprisoned, all for the cause of Christ.
But with the Corinthian church, Paul had to face discouraging circumstances of a different sort. If you remember from our study on 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote that letter to discipline and correct the Corinthian church. Unfortunately, false teachers (the Judaizers) stirred up opposition against Paul, attacking his personal character and questioning the legitimacy of his apostleship. Because of this opposition, Paul made what he refers to as a “painful visit” (2 Corinthians 2:1). Paul also mentioned that he wrote them a severe letter (probably a third letter to the Corinthians that hasn’t been preserved for us) after that visit, “not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4). You see, when we love people, we sometimes have to speak hard truths to them for their own wellbeing. Parents know this and Paul was their spiritual father. Paul had to discipline the offenders and urge them to repent. Thankfully, many in the Corinthian church did repent which brought Paul great relief and joy (2 Corinthians 7:9). Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in 57 A.D. to express his joy for those who repented but also to address the concerns brought up by his opposition.
In chapters 1-7, Paul explained and defended his ministry. He shared that his ministry was given to him by the “mercy of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1) and that his sufficiency as an apostle was from God, not himself (2 Corinthians 3:5). He emphasized his commitment to the faithful teaching of God’s Word: “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…” (2 Corinthians 4:2). It is in this section that we find today’s verses, an applicable reminder for us that even when we face suffering, trials, or opposition, we shouldn’t lose heart. Even if it seems like everything, even our very bodies are wasting away, we should remain confident that we are being spiritually strengthened and transformed. When we get to eternity, our current troubles will seem “light and momentary” compared to the eternal glory we will experience.
In chapters 8-9, Paul moved on to encourage the church to give generously to his collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem. If you are looking for Scripture to study the Biblical principles of giving, these two chapters are the longest explanation of Biblical generosity in the New Testament.
Finally, Paul returned to the issue of opposition and moved into a defense of his ministry. Paul had every circumstantial reason to get discouraged, lose heart, and quit. Despite everything else he had to endure, his reputation and character were also being attacked. In order to demonstrate his credibility and authority, Paul had to boast about his ministry but he wasn’t being arrogant. He pointed to the power of Christ at work in his life and through his faithful ministry even when he was weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Friends, as Christians, we have to be prepared to face trials and hardships. Sometimes they will be physical or circumstantial. But they may even be personal attacks on our reputation and character. Just as Paul had to endure suffering while he spread the Gospel, we likely will experience suffering for the sake of the Gospel as well. But we should never lose heart! No matter how tough it gets here, our sufferings are light and momentary compared to the permanent glory that awaits us. So praise God and stand firm!
Lord, it is so easy to get discouraged in the midst of trials. No one wants to be misunderstood. No one wants to be hated or have their personal reputation or character maligned. Still, I know that kind of suffering is light and temporary compared with the glory that permanently awaits me in Your presence. Give me Your strength in my weakness so that I can stand firm and not lose heart. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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