"Confidence in Ministry" Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

May 27, 2014
Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.B.5.b: Confidence in Ministry. (4:16-18)

2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

This passage contrasts the outward with the inward. Most people automatically read into this passage a distinction between the material physical body with the inner soul. This idea, however, is more of a Western idea. It is clear from the context that Paul was contrasting the temporary with the eternal. He is not merely talking about how the physical body was beginning to waste away. Instead he was speaking about how all the things of this life—his wealth, his influence, his power—were deteriorating. These were temporary in the first place. So this should be expected.

This passage highlights what is permanent, something on which believers can plant their feet and know what is solid. It will always be there, no matter what changes. It is the gospel message that is preparing all believers for eternity with their loving Creator.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

This is a wonderful verse, but I say this so often that you may think that I love every verse. Well, I admit it; I love every verse!

As we grow older our body seems to die out a little bit at a time. Some mornings I seem to hurt everywhere, thanks to Mr. Arthritis. However, we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. I recently said to my wife, “I wish I was thirty-five again and knew what I know now.” This old body that I have is dying. I can tell it is, since it hurts all over. I’m ready to trade it in for a new model. It is beginning to waste away, but the inward man is renewed day by day. I feel closer to the Lord today than at any other time in my life. When I was young I had a lot of enthusiasm but I didn’t know very much. I used to stumble a lot and I often failed in my service to the Lord. I was a real ignoramus then. Now I know a little more. I have grown a little down through the years. The poet wrote, “Let me grow lovely growing old.” From the physical point of view life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But from the spiritual point of view life is a climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No man needs to fear the years, for they bring him nearer, not to death, but to God.

Troubles were besieging him. Opponents were attacking him; but Paul and his colleagues would not lose heart because they knew the Great Power behind their message (2 Co. 3:16-18{2]). And in the midst of it all, Paul saw his inner soul—the part of himself that was destined for eternal life—as “being renewed day by day” (Isa. 40:31{3]; Col. 3:10{4]). The hardships of Paul’s ministry were real; indeed, on occasion Paul can truthfully speak of them as heavy and almost overwhelming (1:8{17]; 11:23-29{18]), and were having their effect. Paul, however, did not gripe or complain about how much he was giving up in order to preach the gospel. Instead, he knew that every trouble, hardship, and difficulty endured for Christ’s sake were making him spiritually new. This occurred day by day, trouble by trouble. Paul saw every difficulty as an opportunity to mature in faith.

As Christians, we must live one day at a time. No person, regardless of how wealthy or gifted, can live two days at a time. God provides for us “day by day” as we pray to Him (Luke 11:3{11]). He gives us the strength we need according to our daily requirements (Deut. 33:25{12]). We must not make the mistake of trying to “store up grace” for future emergencies, because God gives us the grace that we need when we need it (Heb. 4:16{13]). When we learn to live a day at a time, confident of God’s care, it takes a great deal of pressure off of our lives.

Yard by yard, life is hard!
Inch by inch, life’s a cinch!

It is easy to lose heart and quit. We have all faced problems in our relationships or on our jobs that have caused us to want to think about laying down the tools and walking away. Instead of giving up when persecution wore him down, Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to strengthen him within (Eph. 3:16{5]). Don’t let fatigue, pain, or criticism force you off the job. Renew your commitment to serving God. Don’t forsake your eternal reward because of the intensity of today’s pain. Your very weakness allows the resurrection power of Christ to strengthen you moment by moment. When you live by faith in Christ, you get the right perspective on life.

Paul never spent much time looking back at the past, but instead spent most of his time looking ahead. Paul had faced suffering and death as he preached the Good News. But he knew that one day his trials would be over and that he would attain God’s rest and rewards. As we face great troubles, it’s easy to focus on the pain rather than our ultimate goal. Just as athletes concentrate on the finish line and ignore the discomfort, we too must focus on the reward for our faith and the joy that lasts forever. No matter what happens to us in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life, when all suffering will end and all sorrow will flee away (Isa. 35:10{1]).

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