2 Corinthians 4:16-18
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.…
Paul's troubles were exceedingly heavy. So the troubles of many believers have been and are. The sufferings of saints often seem severer than those of sinners. For them the furnace is made seven times hotter. But Paul with his heavy sorrows speaks of them as light, and speaks of them as they really seemed to him to be under the conditions to which he refers. No affliction could well be heavier than his, and yet it was light. So is the believer's -
I. WHEN HE CONSIDERS DURING HOW SMALL A PORTION OF HIS LIFE IT HAS TO BE BORNE. It is but "for a moment." Not so long as a second contrasted with a thousand years. Eternity makes time short. Our troubles are like Pharaoh's horsemen - they cannot pass the Red Sea of death. In this flash of our existence we may weep, but in the ever-continuing life of heaven we shall rejoice.
"There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast." Our cross is borne but for a moment, our crown forever.
II. WHEN HE CONTRASTS THE PRESENT BRIEF TROUBLE WITH THE ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY. True thoughts of heaven prevent exaggerated views of earthly, sorrows. When the future is shut out we can easily sit down and lament, but when faith sees the "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4), our present griefs dwindle into insignificance. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 8:18). Why should we be disquieted so much by these things when those are so near? Shadows hang heavily over us until the sunshine of the coming glory breaks through the clouds, and then the shadows flee away. Why should we concentrate thought upon the short present when the long future is so fair? If we think much of the home, the journey homewards will seem short, and the troubles of the way of little account. Every hour of sorrow brings us an hour nearer the land that is sorrowless. And what shall we possess there? The apostle strives in vain to find language sufficiently strong to describe even what he on earth could perceive of heaven - "more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (ver. 17).
III. WHEN THE MEANING OF PRESENT TROUBLE IS REALIZED. To the true child of God:
1. It may mean the destruction of the outward man, but it assuredly means the renewal and development of the inward. It is not even present injury - it is present good. It is medicine, not poison.
2. It prepares us for the coming glory. The fire consumes the dross, the knife cuts away the diseased part, the chisel strikes off that which would impair the beauty of the statue. The apprenticeship of sorrow fits us for the long service of glory. Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom and are prepared top its duties. The joys of heaven are dependent on the sorrows of earth; without the latter we should not be ready for the former. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. (Romans 5:3).
3. Whilst suffering cannot in any way merit salvation, affliction rightly endured shall not be without reward. If we fight the fight of faith, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we shall receive a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away. "If we suffer we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). PRACTICAL.
1. Faint not. Many faint because they see no reason why they should not faint. Yet all reasons point the Christian to patient endurance. If we lose heart we lose strength. To despair is to charge our Master with unfaithfulness. Seek to be a good swimmer in the sea of trouble, and if the waves go over you, still faint not, for soon you will rise to the surface again, and see that the shore is nearer.
2. Be not much concerned about the things of this life. (Ver. 18.) These are perishing. The imperishable are our better portion. Look not at the things which are seen; they are not worth looking at. "Set your affection on things above" (Colossians 3:2.)
3. Look at things unseen by the carnal sense, but clear to faith's vision. (Ver. 18.) God, Christ, holiness, usefulness, spiritual joys, the new Paradise, - these are "eternal." - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.