Pressing on with Confident Hope - 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
As we follow the story of the Apostle Paul it’s unbelievable to consider all that he endured for the cause of Christ. Beatings, whippings, being stoned, shipwrecked, betrayed and the list goes on and on. In order to see the Gospel spread Paul was literally laying down his life. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 4 he says that he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. He also says that he shares in the sufferings of Christ and is being put to death in order that Christ would be made known.
For all that Paul suffered surely he would have been tempted to despair. No doubt he could have questioned God’s plan and His goodness. But instead Paul’s consistent testimony and his refrain is we do not lose heart. Through it all he maintains a confident hope and trust in God.
While most of us will never face even a fraction of what Paul endured, we all know what it’s like to be hit hard by life. Sometimes it happens all at once, other times it builds with one difficulty after another coming like waves. In these times we have to ask the question: How do we maintain hope and trust in God?
While Paul is speaking of his sufferings for the cause of Christ, there is application for all of us, regardless of the cause of our suffering. We can learn from the way Paul trusted God and maintained his hope in God’s perfect and eternal plan.
Maintaining Hope in the Midst of Suffering (4:16-18)
As Paul endured so much suffering he says he felt like he was wasting away. But what we see in verse 16 is that he makes a distinction between his outer man and his inner man. What Paul makes clear is that suffering in the outer man doesn’t have to lead to inner despair. In fact, he goes further and explains that outward suffering can lead to inner renewal.
- As we suffer we must recognize that God can use the difficulties of life to renew us and prepare us for the glory of eternity (vv. 16-17)
As Paul thinks about his suffering, which was great and ongoing, he describes it this way: As light and momentary. The reason for this description is because of what Paul was using as the object of comparison. He says it is light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that God was preparing for him through his suffering (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:6-7).
- As we suffer we must learn to look beyond what we can see, to the things that we cannot see – Looking to Eternity (4:18)
As we suffer our natural reaction is to focus fully on the suffering. But what Paul understands is that there is more to look at than the problems. While he doesn’t (and cannot) ignore the suffering, he finds hope as he fixes his gaze on things that cannot be seen – the things of eternity and the eternal work of God through his suffering.
Finding Hope in Unseen Things (5:1-10)
In verse 18 Paul says that he looks to the things that cannot be seen. In 5:1-10 he helps us consider some of the ‘unseen things’ that should provide us with hope.
- Our present bodies are temporary and they will die – God will provide us with resurrected, bodies prepared for eternity (vs. 1)(Hebrews 11:10; 1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
- Our human nature is always longing for something better – In eternity we will be finally and fully satisfied (vv. 2-4) (Romans 8:22-23)
- Our world is full of uncertainty and unfulfilled promises – Eternity is guaranteed by God for those who are His; a promise in which we place our hope (vs. 5) (2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:35-39).
- Our physical nature keeps us separated from Jesus – In eternity we get to be in His presence, forever (vv. 6-8) (Philippians 1:21-23).
- Our surety of eternity should motivate us to live for Christ today, even when it’s hard. As we consider the hope that we have and the reality that we will see Christ face to face, it should drive us to want to please Him (vv. 9-10)
- Life is hard; there will be pain and struggles. There will be times when you become discouraged with the things of this world. Remember that God is using the difficulties of your life to prepare you for eternal glory.
- Life is hard; there will be pain and struggles. There will be times when you become discouraged with the things of this world. Look to the things at are eternal! Allow the realities of eternity to give you hope, courage and joy for today. Don’t lose heart. Learn to focus on what you cannot see.