Maintaining a spiritual perspective through daily life is easy to the ears, but difficult to live out; particularly when rough times come without warning. Nobody knew about sudden calamity better than the Apostle Paul.
Just think about the different things he had to deal with while carrying out his ministry. Things like shipwrecks, public stoning, poisonous snake bites, being plotted against, enemies lying in wait to kill him, continuous verbal conflict and endocrinal duels, imprisonment, and ultimately, death by beheading under the orders of Nero.
When looking at that list of badness, it kind of gives a good perspective concerning some of the things we might complain about, eh? But I digress…
Paul gives us insight into how he rose above all of these problems through the Holy Ghost for us to glean from, no matter what kind of daily trials come or unexpected calamities head our way- and that is through having a finely tuned spiritual perspective.
2 Corinthians 4:
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Our Light Affliction
When I listed the several different things that the Apostle Paul went through, which among them seemed like a “light affliction?” to you? All of them are deep, and even the lightest, nonviolent items listed would certainly play with the mind, emotions, nerves, or heart of most people.
Paul is shifting gears in a couple of ways in verse 17. He’s shifting his letter from being an example of him and his partners to being all-inclusive to born-again believers. When he says “our” and “we” in the verses above, it isn’t just he and his companions, but all of us who are sealed with the promise of the Holy Ghost.
In other words, yes, he is literally talking about himself and his companions, but he’s saying it for the purpose of us all to understand and apply to ourselves. That way, when we find ourselves in a sudden bout of trouble, we do not lose heart or faint but have the capacity to consider it to be a “light affliction.”
Do we Fake it?
I can recall many times in my life where I would try to play down a troubling situation- from knowing of this verse and others that say similar things. I could sound good, say the right things, keep reminding myself of the right mindset that is necessary to see through whatever it was, but as I look back all I was doing was convincing myself and others.
Inwardly, I would be absorbing the attached torment regardless of what I’d be going through. After reaching its end, I’d hardly be of the mind to refer to it as a light affliction. My eyes would be on what was before me while trying to convince myself that I’m looking past it to the Lord. Convincing myself rather than already doing it inwardly.
Convincing, as far as I see it, is just as good as faking it in terms of talking down to a sizable problem, and my personal experience is it doesn’t help much. When you’re trying to convince yourself that a huge issue is only a bout of a “light affliction,” you’re denying the reality you’re facing, and you might just make the problem worse.
With a proper spiritual perspective, convincing is done and over with long before any times of trouble appear. If you’re convincing yourself, you haven’t been fully persuaded in the first place.
Reminding is much different. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we may forget how light, short, and small our lives and problems really are when compared to eternal glory, and the power of the Lord. Many of us need reminding of things that we’re already convinced about.
The need to be reminded is a completely human trait that the Lord knows all about- which is why he made it perfectly clear over and over again to keep his Word in our eyes and hearts. Not to be repetitive, but to give the Holy Ghost a chance to remind us of the promises of the Lord, and all other things that pertain to his Word. Otherwise, we’ll be unready and caught off guard when things go sideways.
Which is but for a Moment
Outside of a spiritual Perspective, Paul sounds like a lunatic after learning about all of the things that he’d gone through leading up to this point. When he was stoned to death or had been “supposed to have been dead” (Acts 14:19), does that sound like a light affliction that lasted for but a moment?
Now, Paul could have been completely healed from all of his wounds from that situation, but the Word only tells us that he got up, came into the city, and departed the following day. There’s nothing to denote that he wasn’t still suffering physically from taking a shower of stones.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. 20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
All I’m trying to get at is, Paul likely suffered some long-term pain that took time to heal, be it physical or whatever from the things he went through. Every affliction that he withstood didn’t come and go in the blink of an eye- but he speaks as if it did.
As I said above, he sounds a little crazy with that statement until you apply the rest of the verse, which throws everything into context. Compared to the promise of the Father, and to eternity itself with Him, our lives here are not even a blip on the radar, let alone any of the afflictions that come and go.
The more we understand this fact, and this truth, the easier it is to understand what Paul is saying and to enjoy the benefits of a whole new mindset concerning affliction.
Spiritual Perspective- Afflictions Working for You?
I always feel like afflictions are working against me, but paul says I’m full of bologna. In fact, he says the exact opposite, which is a common theme in the Word of God. Often, things of spiritual nature work against the norms of the flesh.
Some examples are:
- Believe and you will see, rather than I need to see it to believe it.
- Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
- Being friends with the world is to be at enmity with God.
- Love and pray for your enemies, rather than returning hate for hate.
- So on and so forth
So, we really shouldn’t be surprised to learn that afflictions work for us rather than against us. That is, spiritually speaking. have you ever noticed the primary target of an affliction? The flesh.
Afflictions Don’t Target our Newborn Spirit
Our born-again spirit doesn’t suffer such things. In fact, our spirit does fine while we toil and struggle against affliction. It isn’t touched or hampered by it at all. If anything, our spirit benefits from our knee-jerk reaction to turn unto the Lord when calamities come (which unfortunately is what it takes to remind some folks about who they serve).
Aside from rustling fair weather saints to a closer relationship with the Father, there are other ways we benefit from affliction.
Experience and Growth
One of them is experience. Affliction doesn’t necessarily have to be catastrophic, but be more subtle and mundane things as well. Some of these things promote us to have to grow in certain areas of our lives, or in our knowledge base.
Again, speaking personally, I’ve learned all kinds of new things through suffering various degrees of affliction, or sudden calamities. Sometimes we only learn things we need to know due to having to learn them through the school of Hard Knox. How to repair different things, how to prepare for other things, what to do and what not to do, etc.
Another way afflictions can benefit a believer is that it causes us to become spiritually tough, with an emotional or mental toughness as a side effect. What might seem to be the end of the world for some people, is just a bump in the road for others that have already been through such things.
A spiritually tough person doesn’t feed strength to the spirit through the flesh but feeds strength into the flesh through the power of God pushing forth through their newborn spirit.
For instance, when we eat a cheeseburger, it strengthens the flesh but does nothing for the spirit. When we consume the Word of God we feed our spirits, as the Word of the Lord is Spirit and life.
Here’s what Jesus says about this:
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Mental and Emotional Toughness
Let’s take something simple as an example. How many people fear professing their faith openly due to the verbal/emotional repercussions from piers or others that may come by doing so?
They might respond in a way that could hurt, ruin relationships, bother you to the core, or any other combination of raw, negative emotions. Some folks have suffered this kind of treatment and decided to never be open about their relationship with the Lord again.
The same thing that creates hesitation, fear, or sorrow over being made a spectacle of by piers, the Apostles would call a reprieve compared to the physical threats to their lives for saying similar things in their day. They’d see it as just another day at the office, and far more preferable than being berated by entire towns let alone a small handful of piers.
Strengthening and Conditioning
With every affliction that we use to our advantage when it comes (however possible depending on the affliction) the more strengthened we become, we gain a stronger footing to stand against the next wave that comes.
This brings us to the types of afflictions that the Apostle Paul was talking about in the first place. I’ve brought up several kinds of afflictions so far, but we are bombarded by affliction every day. Some are just more noticeable or pushy for attention than others, like sicknesses, diseases, or family troubles.
The Apostle Paul isn’t talking about our daily afflictions or those that we get ourselves into through disobedience, foolishness, ignorance, or otherwise. He’s talking about particular afflictions that come by way of preaching Christ crucified and risen, and spreading the Gospel.
He is talking about afflictions gained by furthering the cause of Christ.
Being Rewarded- the Pinnacle of a Spiritual Perspective
“worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”
What is the ultimate reward that would surpass all things, making our afflictions appear to be light and lasting for but a moment? An eternity of closeness to the Father, that will surpass anything we can imagine.
Paul isn’t talking about the glory of having a bunch of earned stuff awaiting them in Heaven. Nor is he presuming himself a high and lofty position when he gets there, that others won’t qualify to obtain. Though these things may happen- this isn’t his focus or what he’s talking about at all.
He is talking about the best of the best things, which is a closeness to the Father, Creator, Savior, and Author, of all things, in person and up close. As I’ve written before in several other places- the closer we are to the Lord, the more we benefit from being in the presence of his glory.
What is the span of life of a man in the eyes of eternity?
Even better, what is the beginning and end of this earth through an eternal lens?
From the moment the Lord parted the waters, to the moment this planet and all on it is destroyed to make room for a new heaven and new earth, is just a blip on the radar, or a just a blink in an eternal timeline.
How big or long lasting are our afflictions against all of that as we look at things through an eternal or spiritual perspective? Praise be to the Lord, they’re nearly nonexistant!
Thank you So Much!
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- Preaching 101 – 2 Corinthians 4 Part 3