16So we don’t get discouraged. Though what’s on the outside [the one that can be seen-HN] is decaying, what’s on the inside is being renewed day by day. 17For this insignificant short moment of trouble is preparing us for an eternal fullness of glory that is ever so much more abundant. 18We don’t pay attention to the things that can be seen, but to the things that can’t be seen. For the things that can be seen are temporary, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Last night I was think that something that was annoying to me had gone on long enough. â€œForget about mission, ministry, and call,â€ I said to myself. â€œI’m going to have to do something about this.â€ Then this morning I come out, without any idea what to right for a devotion, and my eyes fall on this text. Now I’m working on some material on 2 Corinthians 5, and in connection with that I’ve read the passages around it several times. So I had â€œseenâ€ these verses several times, but apparently I hadn’t quite truly â€œseenâ€ them!
Paul is talking about the difficulties of his ministry. We interpret many texts in 2 Corinthians as applying to our daily Christian lives, and they can apply to that. But many of them were spoken first in the context of carrying out one’s callâ€”for Paul, the call of an apostle. Why would he go to all the trouble he went to, just so he could carry the gospel to others? If we really think about it, most of us would reject the type of life Paul led. It would simply be too hard.
In answer, Paul tells us a few things about â€œnowâ€ vs â€œeternity.â€ Whatever is happening now, he tells us, is really, really tiny, an â€œinsignificant, short momentâ€ in which we have trouble. What this prepares us for is an overwhelmingly huge burden of glory. The exact word Paul uses there suggests a heaviness, a huge quantity. It is so great a glory that it goes on and on past our best imagining.
We have a statement about seen and unseen in all three verses. In verse 16, it’s your outer person, the part the world looks at that is seen. Often we’re not too happy with our outer persons. Then there’s your inner person, the one you and God see. That’s what is being renewed day by day.
In verse 17, what we see is this short moment of trouble. It just seems long to us because we don’t have perspective. What is not seenâ€”yet!–is that eternal glory. If we look only at what we can see, then we will fail to see the glory that is to come.
Verse 18 finishes it off. The true minister of Christ, as Paul was, looks at the unseen, the glorious, the eternal, and not at what is seen, which is only temporary. It’s because of that greater perspective that God’s servants don’t get discouraged.
I’d like us to try looking at this a little differently than normal. There are many reasons why we might not be able to see something. It might be too far away. It might be small, like a bacterium or a single molecule. It might be around the corner, blocked by some other object. We might think of the eternal glory that we don’t see as blocked by our temporary troubles, as long as we keep looking at the troubles. Look past the troubles with spiritual eyes and we’ll see the glory.
But another thing that can prevent us from seeing something is perspective. For many centuries, most uneducated people thought that the earth was flat. (Note that educated folks knew the earth was a sphere for many centuries before Columbus. His problem was that he underestimated the size of the earth.) Unless someone had performed very difficult experiments and measurements, the earth certainly appeared to be flat. Careful measurements would allow one to realize that the earth was spherical.
You see, something can be too big to see as well as too small. We have such a small perspective that we can’t really see all of the glory that God has for us. We need to let our faith pull us back so that we can fix our eyes on the bigger picture, the glory that so massively outweighs all of our troubles.
How about applying this to the coming week? It’s Monday. But this short, momentary, insignificant week will fade with the perspective of the glory to which God is leading you. Be encouraged!