My intent this week was to do one of a couple of lessons that build on what we considered from 2nd Peter 1:2-4; that is, the “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” which comes through “the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” The very next verse begins with these words, “But also for this very reason…” (v5). We respond, react, and engage our newfound hope because of what He has done and continues to do. For what reason? I am purposely repetitive. Because of everything that verses 2-4 speak of concerning what is now ours in Christ Jesus. So, what are we to do? Listen to these following few words, “giving all diligence” (NKJV), or “make every effort” (NIV), or “do all you can” (ETRV). As many times as I have preached on this over the years, I have never asked this question. “What determines “all diligence,” “every effort,” or “all you can”?
I will leave that question for next week. This week I wish to build on the power behind this hope rooted in faith: that is ours in Christ and how it plays a significant role in our ability to finish this race. If you recall from last week’s lesson, I asked a rhetorical question, “Anyone here felt like quitting?” The apostle Paul knew all too well the challenges of walking with Christ in this world. In Acts 9:16, the Lord told Ananias this concerning Saul (soon to be Paul) concerning the road ahead for him, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And suffer he would: persecution (Galatians 5:11), “distresses…stripes… imprisonments…sleeplessness” (2nd Corinthians 6:4-5). Paul would write, “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…” (2nd Corinthians 4:8-9). After studying Job, I asked myself, “How can people endure so much?” Why does the apostle Paul seem optimistic? Faith beckons us to look beyond the here and now. To anticipate what is just down the road.
“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing,
the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
2nd Corinthians 4:16
The ETRV says, “That is why we never give up.” You might recall Hebrews 12:1 from last week, which discussed how we need to “run the race that is before us and never quit” (ETRV). The idea of losing heart means to be faint, weary, and weak, i.e., to fail. This weariness is not talking about the times we struggle with sin and question His forgiveness: although those times sin can rear its ugly head. Here, it is the temptation to throw your hands up and ask, “What is the sense in all this? Is what I am facing worth the trouble?” How do we keep those moments from consuming us? Paul gives us, at least in part, the answer to this question. First, grasp the sense of time that faith reveals. He says, “For our light afflictions, which is but a moment…” (2nd Corinthians 4:17). So often, when faced with some difficulty in life, time seems to slow down. We have all said it one time or another, “I had a long day.” What made it so long? Almost always, it has something to do with adversity.
Paul reverses this, shortening the adversity, realizing that it is but short in comparison. Comparison to what? These light afflictions are “working for us a far more exceeding and ETERNAL weight of glory” (2nd Corinthians 4:17). What is coming our way is something worthy of our constant attention. The heavenly home that Jesus is building (John 14:3), a place of no more tears (Revelation 21:4), a body that is immortal and glorious (1st Corinthians 15:43, 53). Of course, there is the joy of always being in His presence (1st Thessalonians 4:17). All of this forever without end! These blessings are every bit part of the eternal life we now have in Christ. These benefits are what we have to look forward to by faith.
“For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2nd Corinthians 4:18
I can almost hear the words push to the front of my mind, “Easier said than done!” It’s true; it is not easy. Even so, this is the confidence faith beckons us to grab hold of as we journey homeward. So many things seek our attention each day, and the vast majority of them are temporary, or as the ETRV says, they “last only a short time.” Tribulations, not forever! Forsaken, only for a short while! Perplexed, it will be brief in comparison! Whatever this world brings forth, as true as they may be, and they are, will pass! Yet, so often, it is those very things that grab my attention and hold me captive, robbing me of what is genuinely mine because of Christ; that is, hope and joy, along with the anticipation of things to come. Consider how Paul open’s the next chapter, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2nd Corinthians 5:1). Heavenly Father, as we face a broken world that is increasingly hostile towards You and Your children, help us through faith to look beyond the temporary. Strengthen us to look forward to receiving all You have in store for us. Amen.