2 Corinthians 4:8-18

An Eternal Perspective.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we now see will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

Life on this planet can be tough. And nobody knew that better than Paul. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ, doing the work of God, and spreading the Good News around the world, and yet he suffered relentlessly and regularly for his efforts. He knew what it meant to face opposition, endure persecution, suffer humiliation, and experience the frustration of apparent failure. He described his life in fairly matter-of-fact terms: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT). Paul’s life was anything but easy, and yet he could calmly declare that his sufferings, while difficult, were not fatal. God had not abandoned him. That’s a huge factor in understanding Paul’s perspective on life. When difficulty raised its ugly head, Paul never jumped to the conclusion that he had been abandoned by God. He never allowed his mind to believe that his God had walked out on him. For Paul, the presence of trouble was never to be seen as the absence of God. Paul knew that God was there and that He was going to use the trials and troubles in Paul’s life to perfect him and to reveal the power of God through him.

Paul knew that his suffering was nothing compared to that which Jesus endured. Jesus’ entire life was a journey toward death. His suffering throughout His three and a half years of ministry was part of the process of His sacrifice that led ultimately to His death. Jesus came to suffer and die. And Paul knew that his suffering was, in a way, allowing him to “share in the death of Jesus.” Paul knew that he could die at any time for what he was doing. In fact, he stated, “we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:11 NLT). But he also knew that even if death was inevitable, so was eternal life. Jesus’ death resulted in eternal life for all those who believed in Him. So Paul knew that his suffering was sharing in Jesus’ suffering and, if he was to die, he would share in Jesus’ life, eternal life. Paul knew that “God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you” (2 Corinthians 4:14 NLT). So any suffering he may have had to endure was simply part of God’s overall plan for Paul’s life and the Kingdom’s cause.

Paul had developed the attitude that allowed him to view his present circumstances as temporary and small when compared to what God had in store for him. He had learned to see trials and troubles as opportunities to watch God work, rather than setbacks or evidence of God’s absence. He knew that anything he suffered on this earth was nothing when compared to what was to come. So he chose to focus his attention on future glory rather than present suffering. He chose to trust God and view his circumstances as simply part of God’s overall plan for his life. As long as the gospel was being spread and people were coming to faith in Christ, Paul was willing to suffer. He had an indomitable spirit. He refused to give up. He would not allow any amount of trouble in his life distract him from the call on his life. As long as he was doing the will of God, he would gladly accept suffering as coming from the hand of God. Jesus had done the same thing, and that more than enough for Paul.

Father, suffering is one of the hardest things we have to endure in this life. We hate it. We do everything in our power to avoid it. We somehow think its presence in our lives is evidence of Your absence. But Paul makes it clear that nothing could be further from the truth. You are with us at ALL times. You use suffering to perfect and purify us. You know that it is temporary and that if we would learn to focus on the glory of what’s to come, the suffering in this life would become insignificant in comparison. But too often, our perspective is limited and our vision is short-sighted. We think this world is all there is and so we expect all our blessings in his life. Give us an eternal perspective. Help us to fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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