Pastor Tom Ascol continues teaching through 2 Corinthians in a message entitled “How Affliction Becomes Light” based on 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18. In this life sorrows and suffering are sure. This is true for Christians as well as non-Christians. Christians, however, have different resources with which to endure and triumph over troubles.
The passage makes plain that though our outer self is wasting away our inner, spiritual self can and should be experiencing renewal everyday. This is so since temporal, material things and trials are for but a time. Paul contrasts that truth with unseen, eternal matters which do not pass away. For this very reason Paul does not lose heart despite the many setbacks, persecutions, and discouragements through which he has suffered. Paul’s point is this: An eternal perspective produces a hope-filled perseverance. His argument is threefold.
First, Paul claims to experience daily renewal. As a result of communion with God through Jesus Christ, the born-again, new, inner self created by the Holy Spirit is daily refreshed and sustained. It is the grace of God toward believers, a grace which cannot be restrained, which renews and refreshes. This grace kept Paul from losing heart.
Second, current affliction produces eternal glory. A light, momentary affliction, viewed from the perspective of eternity, produces, in the believer, glory for eternity. Looking back to vv. 8 and 9 and looking forward to Chapters 6:4 – 5 and 11:23 – 27, we can see some of the afflictions Paul had suffered, Yet, despite suffering he looked to eternity not his “light, momentary” suffering. In fact, current suffering prepared Paul for eternal glory, a glory beyond comparison to temporal, material matters. There is no wasted suffering; God uses it to prepare the sufferer for his reward. This was the perspective of a spiritual warrior who had suffered more than any of us are ever likely to suffer. Paul earlier wrote, “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” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
This leads directly to Paul’s third point. Renewal happens, affliction produces eternal glory, as believers look to unseen eternal realities rather than visible, temporary realities. We should not look at only the obvious, that which is physical and transient, those things which last but a lifetime. Paul teaches we must learn to observe what is invisible, not the seen but the eternal. He is talking about spiritual realities. God has promised His children many things, His presence (Romans 8:35 – 39), provision for our needs (Romans 8:32), Jesus’ intercession at the Father’s right hand on our behalf (Romans 8:34), the certainty that despite our temporary woes God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), and His plan of salvation to name just a few. The Bible tells us these things are true.
As we take an eternal perspective we find our first and most pressing need is for a saving relationship with Jesus Christ whereby his sacrificial work on the Cross is applied to our spiritual poverty and our sins ae paid for. Once having established that relationship the eternal perspective continues to give us resources and abilities to triumph over the temporal trials into which we may come.