The Apostle Paul is a central figure in the NT. His conversion, calling and ministry make up the bulk of Acts (chps. 9, 13-25). It was a bold evangelistic ministry to preach Christ and plant new churches. He traveled a lot! As he went, his ministry was marked with suffering.
There were labors, imprisonments, and beatings. He was stoned, shipwrecked, hated by fellow Jews and Gentiles. He relates all this in 2 Cor. 11:23-29. But earlier in the letter, he describes how he endures. 2 Cor. 4:16-18 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. A couple things to note…
First, he sought inner renewal from God every day. His suffering brought hunger, pain, bad treatment, scar tissue, aching, sleeplessness, worry…alongside his ministry labors. But daily his soul was refreshed. How? By communing with God in the Spirit through prayer, the Word, and song. We get a glimpse in Acts 16:23-25; he’s beaten, imprisoned and yet singing to the Lord. In Acts 23:11, the risen Christ stands by and says “…Take courage…”. How his soul must have soared to hear those words! That same voice renews us through His Word. “Be strong and of good courage…” (Joshua 1:6-8). And “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:14). And, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). And “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
Second, His gaze was on heaven. He knew that affliction in service to Jesus meant reward. “…an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” This is greater than his short-term suffering (notice “momentary”) and greater than what is “seen.” Instead, Paul continued to look with eyes of faith at things which are unseen and eternal. He rejoiced that his heavenly reward far outweighed his present afflictions…that it would be well worth it in that final day.
In our afflictions, God can renew our souls daily as we look to Him and our eternal home.
Thanks! See you Sunday.