Good morning! Our reading for this Tuesday, March 26, 2019 is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
What is it that keeps you and me from giving in and giving up hope as we struggle with the challenges life throws at us? The “therefore” of verse 16 is essential for us to understand in order to be encouraged. The apostle proclaimed in the verses prior to these two that even as we share in in the death of Christ we also are possessed by the hope of sharing in his resurrection. By this statement the apostle is not saying we will be spared from hardship, persecution or even death but will find that all we may suffer in this life for Christ we will be released from in our own death and subsequent physical resurrection. But what about getting through today until our death?
We are very privileged to live in relative safety and freedom to practice and profess our faith in Jesus without reprisal. I have on my desk in my study a copy of Christianity Today magazine which contains articles describing the trials other believers face in their countries on account of their profession of faith. We need to be praying for our sisters and brothers who live in Iran and Africa and other places where being a Christian comes at a high cost compared to that which we in America must pay.
Though the fact of our relative ease compared to other followers of Christ is indisputable several from these paces have told me they are in prayer for us. While the hardships many Christians face serves to test and strengthen the commitment of many believers living in tenuous situations in developing nations and the Middle East, they fear for us in the west because the threat to our faith is more covert.
The prosperity and opportunity we enjoy also confronts us with many temptations to accommodate and compromise the values of our faith. Modernity has caused many to divest of the clear and simply authority of scripture to create strained interpretations in order to justify what their corrupt minds and hearts wish to believe. We observe the effects of a diminished spirituality in the expanded moral permissiveness within and brokenness in our culture. Religious observance has declined statistically and divisiveness has dominated the church.
The Apostle Paul was describing the hardships he and those who were evangelists for the church were facing. They were external and physical as well as internal and emotional. Some hardships we face we come by naturally as we struggle with our inward doubts and temptations in our attempt to be faithful to Christ in the context of our daily living. The apostle projects a long range view and attempts to take the Corinthians view off from the immediate struggles they face. These he says are “light and momentary” so they will not last forever. He also proposes that our continued faithfulness and spiritual integrity will eventually provide for them and us and “eternal glory” of course meaning heaven.
The glory to which the apostle speaks is in terms of our moral character. We understand that we are frail and imperfect in our attempts to live with integrity in this present life, but we may possess a partial and progressive sense of God’s glory when we remain faithful against the moral challenges we encounter and against the resistance from our culture where it has adopted values contrary to God’s will. Jesus resisted temptation to the point of his death and like him we are to take an uncompromising stand against the lies and deception of our culture.
In practical terms we will find ourselves in conflict with our own desires and against those who have surrendered to accept what is Biblically and spiritually unacceptable. We will find people oppress those holding to differing opinion than their own because as long as the truth is held out they are reminded of their own sin. Silence differing voices is the only way to be free from scrutiny.
We can know a joy in the midst of our struggle to be faithful. Before our resurrection after our death we can experience the power of the resurrection in the present. It is the confirmation of the Holy Spirit affirming and encouraging our resolve. It is the inward peace we can know and the blessings of wholeness in our relationships. There is the joy and unity we find with others who share with us a pursuit of God in this life and godliness in life. The Corinthian’s were oppressed by evil within the community they lives and by moral compromise and dissention within the fellowship. Against this the Apostle Paul gave hope for knowing joy and peace in the present struggle of our lives.
Brian Homan, pastor
Liverpool First UM Church