2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Let’s face it, this world we live in is wrought with peril. Five minutes of the morning news suffices to make this claim. Surely, on this side of eternity, such suffering and destruction will continue. What is more, as Christians we are not told that such peril will decrease, but rather increase. As we faithfully live a life to God’s glory and unashamedly proclaim the biblical gospel, trials and persecutions are bound to come our way: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The apostle Paul, a faithful minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, understood this reality quite well: “But we have this treasure [the gospel of the glory of Christ] in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:7-10). Paul and his companions endured such trials and persecutions both for the sake of God’s elect and God’s glory (4:15; 2 Tim. 2:10). This too ought to be our compelling desire and motivation.
Reflecting on this, the apostle Paul was apparently moved to ponder the eternal glories to come (4:16-18). In doing so he contrasts the glory to come with the temporal afflictions of this world we now live in. I find it amazing that, after all the afflictions Paul had endured (11:22ff), he considers it a “light affliction”! The only reason Paul considered such sufferings as “light” is because he endured them with a proper perspective (the hope of glory); for such afflictions were not, in an earthly sense, light afflictions. However, when compared to the exceeding and eternal weight of glory to come, they pale in comparison. In short, Paul lived a life founded on the promises of Christ in the gospel. What is more, such afflictions are “working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” There exists a causal relation between the two. In short, those who identify themselves with Christ run the sure risk of persecution (Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:17), and such persecutions are the birth pangs of the second coming of our Lord (Matt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). “In practice this all means that if Christians are prepared to be identified with Christ in a fallen world and accept whatever sufferings and afflictions they may thus encounter, they will share his glory” [Kruse, Colin. TNTC: 2 Corinthians; 111]. Let us then press onward, in the midst of such trials and persecutions, looking to the things that are yet to be revealed at the coming of Christ. Be sure of it, our hope in Christ is an eternal weight of glory.
This reminds me of Pilgrim’s Progress:
Mr. Worldly Wiseman: “Here me; I am older than thou: thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not.”
Christian: “Why, sir, this burden upon my back is more terrible to me than all these things which you have mentioned; nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way, if so be I can also meet with deliverance from my burden.”