“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18).
Intense persecution was the background for Paul’s statement (just quoted). He knew that death could literally be waiting at every turn. Speaking for himself and others with him he wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4.8-9). In order to be able to go on under these circumstances, one would have to possess a tremendous motivation. After all, all it would have taken for Paul to have put an end to the pain and to have lived a comfortable life would have been for him to renounce the faith. However, the desire that lay before him (future) was greater than his desire for peace and comfort (present).
Paul revealed the motivation that sustained him in the closing verses of 2 Corinthians 4; he was able to cope with persecutions because he looked “…at the things which are not seen.” This is a somewhat lighthearted play on words but the substance behind the pun had the greatest possible impact in Paul’s life; this perspective was his secret of success. In explaining what he meant, Paul said “…the things which are seen are temporary.” How very different the perspective that Paul had from most of humanity! Bricks and mortar, surely they are real we think; surely they are what lasts. However Paul said those things are temporary. The Pharaohs expended fortunes to erect the pyramids as “eternal” reminders of their power and wealth, but alas, even the pyramids are not immune to the ravages of time! Paul was right when he observed that the visible things of this universe are but temporary.
To note the positive side on Paul’s statement, he looked “at the things which are not seen.” These are the things, says he, which are eternal. Somewhere beyond the azure blue the hope which sustained Paul is safe from the deleterious effects of this universe, immune to decay and corruption. Though Paul had never seen this place, he was absolutely positive of its existence. It was the place of which Jesus spoke when He told His hearers, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6.19-20). This perspective was the same perspective that sustained Moses, or as the Hebrews writer put it, “By faith he [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11.27).
To whom or to what do you look for your security? If it can be measured, weighed, chemically analyzed, painted, renovated, assessed with taxes, or be willed to your successors, it is temporary and cannot be the source of eternal assurance. On the other hand, if your faith is firmly fixed on God and the things that are not seen, eternal and incorruptible blessings are positively yours!
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