Grace For The Journey
No one is immune from the pain and suffering of this life. Everyone born into this world will experience some degree of pain and suffering during their life. Even for the Christian, along the way to glory, we face countless sources of sorrow and pain. But for every child born of grace, pain is to be kept in its proper perspective.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
We need to be perfectly clear about what Paul is doing in this verse: He is not portraying pain as painless! Nor is he saying that pain is irrelevant, insignificant, or inconsequential, even when regarded in light of eternity. Paul’s goal, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to provide every believer with the proper perspective for pain.
Paul lived in dangerous times. Life was not easy for the Corinthian Christians. Temptations and trials threatened them. Discouragement and depression were recurring problems. In the midst of all these trials, Paul stood out with a great confidence, but it was not a confidence based on who he was but on whose he was. The result of such thinking is evident in his bold living.
The above verse shows us that God is calling us to a new perspective in our trials and problems. I know quite well that everyone who is reading this blog is afflicted in various ways, but it is your perspective in those afflictions that determines your attitude and actions. What might this new perspective do? Can you be too otherworldly and focused too much on the future? Perhaps so, but if our minds are where they ought to be, then we can gain new insights for living here and now in this life, insights that will enable us to live boldly and confidently in the name of Jesus.
I Corinthians chapter 4 is devoted entirely to this theme of Paul’s confidence. There were many things in which Paul was confident: in the truths of the Gospel, the results of his salvation, even the rewards of his faith. Remember, Paul’s confidence in these things made him the follower of Christ he was. They can you too if you believe and act upon them. Since it is verse 17 that we are looking at today, and since we are after a new perspective on our trials or afflictions, let’s make note of three reasons we can have this new perspective.
How are we to see our afflictions?
1st – LIGHT
In light of what awaits the believer in glory, affliction and pain are to be considered “light.” When Paul says this, he does not mean easy or painless. He means that compared to what is coming they are as nothing. Compared to the weight of glory coming, they are like feathers on the scale. This in no way is meant to minimize the reality of suffering, pain, sorrow, or loss. It is intended to help the believer keep it in its proper perspective.
When Paul was talking about affliction – he wasn’t talking about a stomach ache or uncomfortable relationship. He was talking about the afflictions he suffered as the result of the gospel he preached and lived by. He was talking about the prison sentences, the constant slander, those who took advantage of him, the ones who beat and mocked him. He was talking about being an outcast among his own people – being rejected the way Christ was. He was talking about the whippings and lashings and beatings. He was talking about the stonings, the shipwrecks, the constant traveling and not having a home. He was referring to the constant threat of living in the wild, of having to go hungry because he was broke or because no one would offer to feed him. He was talking about sleeping outside in the harsh winters, going without decent clothes and shelter.
Yet, compared to what God has prepared for him in heaven, these hardships and suffering were mild in comparison.
2nd – MOMENTARY
After the apostle Paul compares and contrasts our “light” affliction against the “weight of glory,” he goes on to compare and contrast our “momentary” affliction against the “eternal weight of glory.” Paul is encouraging every believer to keep pain in its proper perspective. Whatever wave of challenge we are currently facing in this life is but a drop of water in the vast ocean of eternity.
We talk about our afflictions – about how we can’t get a good parking place at the mall, or about how it takes more than 10 minutes to get our food at the restaurant. We complain because our insurance doesn’t pick up all the tab or because the cell phones won’t reach who we’re trying to call. Afflictions? What do we really know about afflictions? If Paul endured all he did and could still call them light – then how are we to view ours?
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to belittle anyone or to suggest that your afflictions aren’t real.
What I am suggesting is that we get a new perspective on them.
Look at verse 16 again – “For which cause we faint not.” If you go to Hebrews 12:1-3 and read those verses it will help you get a proper perspective. When you begin to be wearied and faint – when you feel like giving up and loosing heart, consider the opposition and affliction that Jesus Christ faced doing what He did for you!
You see, it’s all about perspective. It is s not that your afflictions are greater than mine or the next guys. They probably are – but your afflictions will never compare to those that Jesus faced, and until they do – Paul says to keep on, “Though our outward man is perishing – our inward man can be renewed day by day when you remember that your afflictions are light.”
Paul isn’t really calling on ua to think about time as we know it – but rather time as it fits into the grander scale of eternity. If you were to imagine a straight line extending from this room to the most distant place you know, you’ve not even begun to imagine eternity. Now take that line – to what place does it extend? Now take a pen or pencil and make a dot on the line – what do you have? You life here on earth, with all its problems and afflictions – the good times and bad. They are but a moment.
When we get our minds off our problems and take a more heavenly perspective on things, we’ll realize that it’s really our worrying and complaining that is foolishness.
3rd – PREPARATORY
Speaking from personal experience, it is hard to see pain as preparatory. When I find myself in the middle of some kind of pain, I find it hard to focus on anything past the pain! Is it not the same for you? That is why we need to keep the Gospel truths before us daily. Paul is telling us that our pain is preparing us for our promised reward.
During this preparation period, God will use our suffering for the gospel’s sake to bring souls to Him, and in order that people have the opportunity to grow in their faith as they see how God comforts our hearts and works through us. Yes, in this world, many have and still are suffering for Christ. The Bible says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” There is a glory that is going to be revealed in you one day – that day when Christ appears, when the clouds are rolled back like a scroll and Jesus appears in all His glory and majesty – when it is revealed, it will be worth it all!
How was Paul able to live such an awesome life of faith? How was he able to endure so much, to live so boldly, to make such a difference in spite of his afflictions? He kept a right perspective.
That right perspective was made possible because Paul knew the suffering and sovereign Savior, the One who had bought and called him to ministry.
Only the power of the Gospel can lift the believer to the place where pain, suffering, and loss can be received as slight, momentary, and preparatory. Whatever we are going through right now, we are going through it. We will get to the other side, and on that other side is something so incredible – so incomprehensible – our words can produce only a vague shadow of the supernatural substance we will one day walk into with the One who has prepared all of it for us.
As the Bible reminds us in 2 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
And what was true for Paul then is true for all of us today.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”