2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV): Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Jesus promised His disciples that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33b), and that, in addition to all of the good things that we receive, that we will also be subjected to persecutions (Mark 10:30). God’s people have always found it so. Peter and Paul are wonderful examples. They are also wonderful examples of how to not only stand firm, but to shine and be powerful and effective in the midst of suffering.
These days there is a bad theology among God’s people, very popular with some. It says that if a person is following God steadfastly, that He won’t let anything bad happen to them. On the surface it sounds good, and some proponents of this belief do well at making it sound logical, but it does not make biblical sense. If even Jesus fell prey to sinful men, how do the rest of His people reason that we will be spared the same kind of things. Jesus told His followers many times that they would experience the same oppositions, the same kind of sufferings that He did in their following Him.
But those early disciples soon discovered the secret of standing firm, even in the midst of trials and suffering. As Paul wrote, they did not lose heart when the suffering came. Instead, they rejoiced that they were “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41) They leaned on God and on the presence of the Holy Spirit to experience inward renewal every single day. And, most importantly, they maintained the “long view” of things. That’s what allowed Paul to refer to all that he had suffered for the kingdom as “light and momentary troubles.” He was comparing them to the eternal glory in God’s presence that he knew God was holding in store for him, and for all of the rest of those who overcome. And he understood clearly that the sufferings that God allows to impact our lives were designed to either further the advance of the gospel, or to make us more dependent on Him for the power that we need to bear up under it. After all, the Philippian jailor might not ever have heard the gospel if Paul and Silas had not been beaten and imprisoned (cf. Acts 16:16-34)! But, at least after Pentecost, we never see Christians in the early Church railing at God for “letting them down,” or deserting them, or disappointing them. Jesus told them clearly that troubles, sufferings, and persecution would come, but He also encouraged them, told them to face those times of suffering with courage, because He had overcome the world, and promised to never leave them or forsake them. And those who hold firm when troubles arise will find out that He was telling the truth!
Father, forgive our fickle hearts that don’t trust You, but that accuse You in times of trouble. Help us to lean into You when problems come (and they will!). Thank You for Your overcoming presence in my life. Amen.