It was Paul’s reality. This morning it’s my promise. Reading 2Corinthians 4 this morning . . . the “jars of clay” passage. Paul’s confession that the ministry he has, “by the mercy of God,” is a hard, tough, demanding ministry. Yet, says Paul, “We do not lose heart.” He could endure what he endured for the sake of the gospel not because of his natural strength or discipline. Instead, the “treasure” of the gospel was being carried forth in “jars of clay” . . . earthen vessels . . . cracked pots . . . so that their endurance would “show that the surpassing power belongs to God” (2Cor. 4:7). And what sustained such power? Faith. Faith in what Paul believed to be his reality . . . and what, this morning, I take as my promise.
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. (2Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
“This light momentary affliction.” That’s the phrase that jumped off the page this morning. That’s the perspective that caused me to pause and reflect.
Here’s the equation Paul presents in this chapter: “Afflicted in every way + Perplexed + Persecuted + Struck down + Being given over to death for Jesus’ sake = Light momentary affliction.” Really? The math doesn’t seem to line up. It does if you apply the faith factor.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. (2Corinthians 4:13-14 ESV)
The faith factor reminds us that the “here and now” is IS NOT the main event. That the “here and now” will give way to a “there and then.” And, according to the promise, what awaits us “there and then” is “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
The things that are unseen will make the things we endure today fade in insignificance. The heaviness of the glory that will be ours when we see Jesus is enough to make the burdens we carry today seem light in comparison. Not to minimize the reality of the trials many of us face today. But, as did Paul, to put them in the context of the reality of the glory we will just as assuredly know in that day when faith gives ways to sight.
That’s why, despite all Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel, he was not crushed . . . he was not driven to despair . . . he was not forsaken . . . he was not destroyed . . . he did not lose heart. He had an eye to the future. Looking not only to the “things that are seen” but also to “the things that are unseen.” By faith looking past that which was “transient” and instead focusing on that which is “eternal.”
As Paul remembered the unimaginable glory that awaited him, he could consider his sufferings as but “light momentary affliction” in comparison.
That by the grace of God we might have faith like Paul. That through the promise of God’s word we too would anticipate an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. That by the sustaining power of the Spirit we might know the surpassing power which indwells jars of clay so that we too might not lose heart.
Eternal weight of glory . . . light momentary affliction. All because of grace . . . All for His glory.