So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
The world is scarred by increasingly ominous conflicts. We watch the news and wonder, What in the world is going to happen next? It’s easy to lose heart.
Then there is the huge moral shift that has taken place in our culture from a basis in God and his Word to a basis in us and our desires. It’s easy to lose heart.
We see a growing drift in many churches toward becoming more about us than about God, more about gathering a crowd than about honoring the Lord. It’s easy to lose heart.
Then there are personal burdens so many of us carry. Some are enduring long struggles over health–the endless round of treatments and the draining effects of wondering, Is this ever going to get better? Some are enduring great difficulties with loved ones–life at home has been soured. You don’t rest. It’s hard to find peace.
Some of you would say, “My life is not what I want it to be. This isn’t what I signed up for! I never thought I would find myself here!”
Don’t Lose Heart!
So we do not lose heart… (2 Corinthians 4:16)
If you’re like me, you might read these words and say, “Really? Well, tell me how! How am I supposed to live in a world like this and not lose heart? How can I face the pressures that are all around me and not be overwhelmed with discouragement?”
The verses that follow are the answer to these questions. The answer to how we can live in this world and not lose heart is headlined in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, and then the answer is delivered in full in 2 Corinthians 5.
The headline is delivered in three contrasts:
1. Outer Self and Inner Self
We don’t lose heart because are dealing with the outer self: All the pressures and stressors that are part of life in this body. But Paul reminds us that the “inner self is being renewed day by day.”
2. Present Affliction and Eternal Glory
We don’t lose heart because we face only this present affliction. That covers all the circumstances of your life that bring pressure to bear on you. But Paul reminds us that the eternal glory which is coming is “beyond all comparison.”
3. Seen and Unseen
We face the raw discouragement of what is seen: The world so often in conflict, the church so often in compromise. It’s not surprising that so many get discouraged. But we don’t lose hope, because Paul reminds us to consider not what we see around us but “the things that are unseen…[for] the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Therefore, when you experience conflict against the outer self, when you face present affliction, when you are discouraged by what you see, remember this: Our inner self is being renewed. There is an eternal weight of glory that will far outweigh all of this. We endure by fixing our eyes on what is unseen.
So, what are these unseen things that we are to fix our eyes on? What is this glory and how does it help us in what we face this week? How exactly can our inner life be renewed day by day? All of these questions are answered in 2 Corinthians 5:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:1-7)