2 Corinthians 4:16-18
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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.
Don't lose heart
I'm not sure what the phrase "don't lose heart" conjures up in your mind but for application purposes to me it is when I become discouraged enough by the winds and waves of this life to the point of giving up. Yet haven't we all felt that way? At the end of our rope so to speak. We may feel like giving up on the thought of every breaking free of a habitual stronghold that has held us in its grip for far too long. What about the loved one you have been praying for and yet still no sign of change? What about the relationship that barely has an ember glowing and you feel the last bit of hope about to be snuffed out. What about the ones you want so badly to know Jesus and His redemptive power yet their hearts seem so hard and calloused that getting through to them would be like breaking through bars of bronze with your bare hands. I know someone is reading that feels washed up on life's shore wondering if she missed her calling. Maybe you feel like you have blown your testimony beyond repair and you have lost hope that God can still use you. The woman struggling with infertility or is on her fourth miscarriage yet all of her friends are pregnant all around her. Or the person who has been alone in their marriage for far too long and has almost given up on things ever changing. She feels abandoned, rejected and alone. Why would anyone want to fight for her anyway she wonders to herself. Or the woman whose husband has betrayed her with his sad addiction to p*rnography. These are just a few things that I am pitching out there because I do hope that one of them will at least conjure up in you the thoughts of what it is like to lose heart. Paul's admonition here was for those of us in Christ to not lose heart. We must take courage if you and I are going to make it to the finish line having fought the good fight. I really wish I could just be so honest in regards to some of the things I am facing or have faced yet I don't think it would glorify God to just throw out the details on my blog. All that is to say that I know what it is to lose heart. This week I really felt a call to step it up in the realm of spiritual disciplines. I felt in my heart that the Lord was calling me to abstain from food so I could press in and perhaps touch them hem of His garment. And so I did for two days. It was so pathetic at first at how weak my flesh is. Yet I was determined with His might working in me that my flesh was going to bow down to the Holy Spirit because I needed Jesus more than I needed food. I needed to sense His presence. I needed to take courage from His word which He imparts to us so readily...yet sadly so often I forfeit the grace that could be mine for lesser things.
I realized in that small act that I really am nothing apart from Him and can do nothing apart from Him. Also, I think the removal of something like food or whatever for a time brings you clarity and the blessed reminder that He is our portion in the land of the living.
In our Western Post-Modern Culture we are usually among "the have's" and not "have not's". I was up at 3 am in what would have been yesterday, studying James Chapter 5 and I was sickened over my own self-absorption. I had to hurry to obey the Lord at 4:30am to start cleaning out my closets to purge of my own greed and continual lust for more. It is so easy to get caught up in covetousness and greed and think little to nothing about what a discontented state we are in because it is so the norm. Especially when the culture surrounding us screams so loudly that we need to feed our flesh that the still small voice of the Holy Spirit is drowned out by the deafening noise of the modern day Babylon we live in. One sure fire way for us to lose heart is to amass wealth and things to the point that we become enslaved by them and in doing so lose sight on what is unseen because we get so flipping distracted by what is seen and what is temporary!
So, do the odds seem to be stacked against you? Take heart.
"Paul has supplied several reasons for refusing to grow discouraged in spite of seemingly overwhelming odds: (1) his divine commission as a minister of a new and superior covenant (4:1), (2) the prospect of sharing Christ's triumphant resurrection from the dead (4:14), and (3) his immediate task of promoting the Corinthians' spiritual welfare and the glory of God (4:15). But he was realistic enough to recognize that his toil and suffering had taken their toll on him physically. For this, however, there was a splendid compensation. Matching the progressive weakening of his physical powers was the daily renewal of his spiritual powers. It was as though the more he expended himself for the Gospel's sake..., the greater his spiritual resilience..."
Let me just say that you and I have got to be in the word of God if we are going to have this spiritual resilience I just quoted. I don't know any other way to withstand total defeat then to take up our sword of the Spirit and press in to know Him through His word. I'm not here to argue about "quiet times" but I know that I can sense the Lords guidance and presence more in the morning than any other time of the day. I can't tell you the number of times I am sure Rod and I both would have rather been out of our marriage yet I can only speak for me when I say it is the dailiness of seeking God that has kept my marriage as imperfect as it is. Anyone that knows us would say our pictures would not quite be in the yearbook under "most likely to succeed!" Yet God in His grace has continued to breathe life into us when we feel like we can't withstand another day. The pure fear of the Lord has kept us together and the mercy that triumphs judgment that we have both been such great recipients of.
This spoke volumes to me this morning about the staying, accomplishing work that the Lord wants to do in and through the life of the believer (in reference to how quick and momentary this life on planet earth is):
"This life goes fast. A vapor. A mist. Picture someone exhaling warm breath into the freezing cold. There it is. Then it's gone...When circumstances are really tough, we can find comfort and courage in the verses about life's brevity. We can think to ourselves, In the eternal scheme of things, He's only asking you to do this hard thing for a few minutes. You can be faithful. It's not that long!" (Beth Moore, page 152 of James:Mercy Triumphs)
Should you stay in an abusive relationship? NO! Are there biblical reasons to leave a marriage? YES! But what about doing the hard thing and being one of the ones that Hebrews 11 talks about when it says that the world was not worthy of them? I love the hall of faith passage because these people were certainly not living "their best life now"! They were being put to death, stoned, sawed in two and etc for their faith in Christ. You may not ever be martyred for your faith in Christ Jesus but He may call you to stay put in some hard situations and persevere. These people did not receive on earth what was promised but you can bet they will in eternity. Sometimes we have to wait for the answer, even when it comes to the Lord's judgment, but though it linger we should wait for it...even if it doesn't come this side of heaven
37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
I just turned 32 last month and after having three kids I can T-E-S-T-I-F-Y that outwardly we are wasting away as our bodies decay but just like the Lord said, we are not to live in fear of those who can kill the body but not our souls. Because these earthly tents we live in will eventually be taken down and one day we who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies that are incorruptible. The Lord cares about what concerns you. Even when you don't feel it.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
So, we must press on past our discouragement by letting Him teach us and speak to our weary souls. So many of you know that Rod's best friend and one of my best friends committed suicide almost two years ago in February. I wrote about that here.
He gave into the despair and the weakness of his flesh and unfortunately did not fight the good fight of faith. He became disheartened...he gave up.
In regards to focusing and fixing our gaze on what is unseen, I love this paragraph again out of Beth Moore's new study on James:
"I loved this commentary excerpt, she writes. See if it speaks to you, too: "This life cannot be properly understood without considering the spiritual realm, a realm that impinges on and ultimately determines the material realm in which we live day to day." Beth goes on to say, "Maybe we've heard this until the holes of our ears have grown over, but God is the only one looking through every layer and at every implication. He also looks upon a situation in context of what it is, what was, and what is to come. His deliberations don't just involve immediate impact. He sees our place and our positions amid carefully woven generations."
And I have to go on to quote this even though I realize how lengthy I am getting here:
"Are you ever tempted to think that this whole human thing is rigged? That God formed us with souls that seek well-being yet shuns us when we do what comes naturally? What if we understood down to the marrow of our bones that His is the only plan that really does end up prospering us (like spoken of in Jeremiah 29:11...I don't believe she is speaking of just monetary prosperity but a prospering in our soul)? What if we really believed Jesus when He said that those who insist on finding their own lives will lose them and those who lose them for His sake will find them (see Matt. 16:25)? What if we really believed that, if we seek God's kingdom and His righteousness, everything else of true value would be given to us, too (see Matt. 6:33)? What if we really believed that "He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything" (Romans 8:32)? What if we really believed that "godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8, NASB)?
To quote Moore again, "What if we really believed that God is not only great, He is good?"
To draw off of all of that when we focus only on circumstances and do not lift our eyes to His word we become jaded and then creeps in the losing heart, the despondency, the despair.
So as the weight of life comes down on your shoulders bend your knees or fall to your face and like Paul in 2 Cor. 4, let the idea of proportions that he experienced thrust you closer to the Father. "The greater affliction Paul suffered, the greater the glory produced for him."
As I live and breathe I can testify that some of the greatest gifts in my life have been pain because like a thorn in my flesh I would turn toward God and come to know Him in greater ways than I could have had that circumstance or pain not entered my life.
My only living grandparent died a few weeks before Blair was born. I think about it everyday...not to be preoccupied with death but it just washes all over me how brief this life is. Her body failed her and then of course she gave up her Spirit and she was cremated in the blink of an eye. Her presence seemed so immovable yet she is not here. She didn't take a single possession with her when her time was up. It keeps speaking volumes to me because she liked the finer things in life. I am reminded daily that this is not it...this is not my home. It's only temporary. Let's keep pressing in and pressing on until our redemption draweth nigh. He is coming and He will not delay.
Hang on my brother or sister and keep getting up, steadying your feet and gather the manna of God's word each day. We are more than overcomers in Christ Jesus our Lord! We can do this thing.
1 Cor 4:17-18
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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.