A Glorious Contrast

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,

NLT

1That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 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 see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

NASB

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Introduction

This is a passage that awe’s me. Wow, what insight the Apostle offers to those who will meditate upon it, praying for the Spirit’s help. What we have here are three glorious contrast and I can’t wait to talk about them. Paul introduces this passage with a with the Greek conjunction dio which can be translated: therefore, wherefore, for this reason, consequently. Usually, therefore is a sign to look back at the previous verses but here, I think a good translation would be therefore, for this reason and then Paul gives us the reasons. 

In this passage we have three reasons [contrast] not to give up, lose heart, become discouraged.

I. FIRST CONTRAST–OUTER MAN AND INNER MAN

[v.16] Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

As Paul told Timothy, “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” So, there is no doubt that Christians are called to suffer. Paul’s suffering, though not fatal at this time, had taken it toll upon the Apostle’s body. He indeed bore the marks of a suffering servant. There is no question that age and affliction take their toll and inevitably exhaust our strength. There is wear and tear on out bodies.

But we suffer not only the wear and tear of ministry but the curse of sin upon the flesh. These clay pots that we live in are not going to last. They give us temporary shelter but these tents are wearing out. 

This first contrast is so obvious. There is the body, the clay, that is so visible and then there is the treasure, the spirit, that is invisible. These earthy bodies have no future but the inner man, the Spirit is eternal and it is not dying, not subject to death. As a matter of fact, it is being renewed day by day. The word ‘renew’ comes from a Greek compound word that means to ’cause to grow, to make new.’

The amazing thing is that both our wear and tear and our renewal have the same stimulus, affliction. Affliction can hurt the body but it renews the Spirit [inner man]. Suffering can diminish our physical life but it cannot have an adverse affect on our spiritual life. They say that growing old is not for sissies and I do agree that aging presents problems but there are also some benefits.

As we see our bodies decaying, we also realize that the inner man is growing, being renewed daily. Within the inner man is the seed of the resurrection. One day we will jettison this old clay bodies and get a new body designed to tabernacle, clothe the inner man. Then we will see the full impact of Christ resurrection in our life but that process has already began in our daily renewal.

Therefore, Paul does not allow afflictions to get him down. Although he feels the pressure of daily problems, the perplexity of mysteries unsolved, the constant hounding of those who hate the gospel of Jesus Christ and the shock of getting a blow to the head that knocks him down–Paul does not stay down, he does not give into despair, he does not lose heart because the inner man is strengthen by these affliction. They enhance the growth of the inner man like fertilize does to plants.

II. SECOND CONTRAST–AFFLICTION AND GLORY

[v.17] For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

This second contrast has to do with time and size. Our present afflictions, troubles are small and cannot be compared with our future glory. The Greek word which is translated compared in the NASB is ‘hyperbole.’ We have a glory awaiting us that cannot be exaggerated. 

The LORD has graciously and gently taught me the meaning of this scripture in the last month. We have a daughter in rehab and the past few weeks have been like a roller coaster. One day we think we are making progress and the next it seems like we have taken two steps backward. I will not lie, for the past several weeks I have thought a lot about our problem and I have even expressed to the LORD it’s size. I said to Him more than once, “LORD, no problem is big to you but this is huge to us. It is like a mountain too big to climb, a river too wide to cross.” What did the LORD say in response: nothing immediately but in the days to follow, He spoke very clearly.

To put things in perspective: our daughter is in rehab because she abused prescription drugs and sleep medication. Detoxing proved to be the smallest detail in our recovery. The depression that followed was a weight that seem to be crushing us all. The depression was so bad that she never smiled and a laugh was out of the question. I almost shouted the first time I heard her laugh [a few days ago].

Then a family who had been faithful to pray for us came by to give my wife a gift of love. When I went over to thank them for their trouble. One thing lead to another and I found out that their daughter, who was also arrested, was facing one to ten years in prison. In an instant, my troubles diminished, my afflicted became small. Within 6 hours of that experience, there was a terrible tragedy in our community where two teen age girls were killed. This happened while they were visiting some of our friends. Of course, our friends felt responsible in part because it happened on their watch. When I heard about their agony, my problem shrank even more. Now they are looking minuscule.  

True confession: For years I have read this passage and scoffed, “Light Affliction” my foot, there is no such thing as light affliction but I was wrong. My affliction is light compared to my friends. There is a huge difference between rehab and prison, just as there is a huge difference between the grief suffered from an addiction compared with the grief of two teenagers losing their life while they are at your house.

There is another note of encouragement about our affliction, it is momentary, it will not last forever. It’s like the old Christian saint who favorite verse [found 457 times in KJV] was “And it came to pass…” Everything we see is temporary, sorrow may endure for a night but for the believer, it will not endure forever, it will come to pass.

III. THIRD CONTRAST–MOMENTARY AND ETERNAL

[v.18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The third contrast is about perspective, about how we see things. Perspective will determine your attitude. When you look at me, what do you see? Let me guess: you see a 66 year old man who has a hard time getting around. June and I were leaving our grandson’s baseball game last night and I was carrying two folding chairs. One of our members came up from the rear and grab the chairs. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am helping an old man who is having a hard time just walking.”

With a few rare exceptions, when people look at me, that is what they see–a pot bellied old man who is losing his hair, eyesight, hearing and ability to get around. But not everyone sees me in this light. You see most folks look at the outer man. This is a huge problem. When young people look for a mate, they look at the outer man. They make the huge mistake of assuming that if the outward looks good, the inward must be the same. This is not true.

A handsome man is a vain man [with rare exception] who will love himself and his body more than he will love his wife. A gorgeous gal is the same; she will be high-maintenance, hung up on herself and totally unable to serve and submit to her husband. If you can find someone of the opposite sex who loves you more than they do themselves, marry them.

As I said above, there are rare exceptions: interview one of my 17 year old granddaughters or my sweet daughter-in-law and they will see me in a totally different light. They have a glimpse of the inner man. Most of us focus on the outward instead of the inward. They do no see the real YOU which is your real life is hidden with Christ in God. It might be helpful if we look at this entire passage found in Colossians three.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

There are two reason why you may not be seeing the real life, real me. [1] I could be masking the real me. Insecurity prompts us to cover the truth for protection. No one can hurt us if they don’t know the truth about us. This deep insecurity produces a lack of integrity. We use this dishonesty to deceive others. We think it gives us the upper hand. Therefore, we are not known because we choose not to be known. [2] The second reason is stated in the proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We may not see the real person because we may not be focused on the right thing. A lot of people want to be known, they just can’t find anyone who cares enough to know them. You will not get to know a person by jokes and casual chit-chat. Philosophical rhetoric doesn’t help either. We all know know-it-alls who actually know nothing at all.

 

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