It occurs to me this morning that some portions of Scripture are like an oasis. When times are good, when there’s lots of rain in the land, it’s easy to pass right by them. Sure, you take notice of their beauty, thankful that there’s water there but, because things are going pretty well, at most you might just sip on them a bit. But come upon an oasis when you’ve been trekking through the desert, when it’s been pretty arid, when you’re parched and wonder how you can keep on keepin’ on, well then, the oasis is life-giving. You find yourself drinking deep of its water. And your eyes brighten, the load lightens, and you’re ready for another day.
2Corinthians 4 is such a passage for me. Whenever I come across it I’m always blessed by the reminder that I’m but a jar of clay so “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (4:7). But when it’s encountered in a season that feels like the Sahara, and this jay of clay fears it’s starting to crack up, then I pause, go to the knee, and drink deep. Lapping up the reminder that my calling is by the mercy of God (4:1a). Gulping down refreshment for my soul which keeps me from losing heart (4:1b). Turning my face heavenward to receive healing rain and, with mouth wide open, taking in perspective which allows an “outer self” that feels like it’s wasting away, to know an “inner self” being renewed day by day (4:16).
If you’ve followed my posts for awhile, you know that sometimes I go into my archives to minister to myself with past meals. Did that this morning. Here’s some thoughts from when I visited this oasis a couple of years ago.
Honestly, do the math and it doesn’t seem to add up. Afflicted in every way + Perplexed + Persecuted + Struck down + Bodies so beat up they look more and more like Jesus’ when He died . . . add it all up and, says Paul, it equals “light momentary affliction.” No way! How’s that even possible?
I’m hovering over 2Corinthians chapter 4 this morning. Chewing again on what it means to be a “jar of clay” (4:7) carrying the treasure of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).
And I get, by the very nature of being a jar of clay, we’re going to pick up a chip or two along the way. That, if the jar is being used for its intended purpose to any degree, that it’s likely to develop a few cracks and breaks. And I also get that, in order for the light to shine out from inside the jar, the jar needs to be broken and split open a bit, that these cracks and fissures are needful to expose what’s inside. But call them “light momentary afflictions?” Really?
And I understand how important that perspective is if you’re doing what Paul’s doing, and going through what Paul’s going through in order to do what he’s doing. Hey, I even get how important it is if you’re not Paul and just trying to deal with the things life beats you up with normally. Who doesn’t want to declare with integrity and double conviction, “So, we do not lose heart?” (4:1, 16)
But again, do the math. How does it all add up to “light momentary affliction?” Where are the deposits coming from that offset those kind of withdrawals? What’s filling the tank that’s being drained so regularly that it allows Paul to honestly assert, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day?” (4:16).
It’s not found in doing the math. Instead, it comes from being reminded of the comparison.
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 4:17-18 ESV)
Eternal Redemption vs. Transient Realities? No contest.
Things That Are Unseen vs. Things Seen? Not even in the same ballpark.
Eternal Weight of Glory vs. Being Afflicted, Perplexed, Persecuted, and Struck Down? Beyond all comparison, Paul says. And as such, makes those other things seem like a light momentary affliction.
Paul wasn’t fixated on doing the math, instead he was energized by considering the comparison. Rather than mull over the troubles around him, he set his gaze on what lay before him.
Whatever burden he was called to bear in the here and now, was light compared to the weight of glory that would be his to carry in the there and then. He anticipated the awe and it offset the angst. He set his mind on things above, and the Spirit put the things below into perspective.
So, we do not lose heart. We keep on keepin’ on. And more than just keepin’ it together, our inner man is being renewed day by day.
Oh, that we would so allow the Spirit to set our hearts on things above. That we would remember we’re not home yet. That we would, even now, sense something of that eternal weight of glory, so that whatever we are dealing with today might be considered but a light momentary affliction.
An eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
By His grace. For His glory.