A couple weeks ago, in my sermon, I highlighted verses that I tend to land on frequently in my messages.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you… So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthian 4:7-12, 16-18)
These verses first spoke to me when I was newly active in my faith. I had progressed from being super-excited about my faith in Christ to a place where I seemed to be hitting all kinds of roadblocks. I was wondering if I was the problem, if I had done something to make God mad. I felt like I was moving backward in my faith journey, not forward. It never dawned on me that life is simply hard. Then I came across these verses in 2 Corinthians 4.
Later in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul explains his sufferings in greater depth:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from rob-bers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (11:23-27)
Paul writes about this because there was an attack on his ministry with people saying that he really wasn’t an apostle. Paul shows what his apostleship is all about – suffering for Jesus. Few of us have suffered the same as Paul, but all of us understand how hard life can be. It is important that we not lose sight of Christ or give up on our faith when we are feeling hard-pressed to follow him.
Each day that God gives us, not matter what we are facing, is an opportunity to grow in our faith and serve Christ. Whatever we may be facing, we must fix our eyes on the unseen glories of Christ, for it is the grace of Christ that will guide us through this messy life and into the glorious life to come.