2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Sometimes we ask ‘why’ of God when we don’t understand why He has given us such a hard trial. Job asked that of God and notice that God did not answer his question directly. He answered it by saying, ‘take a good look at who I am and that will be enough for your answer’, and that truly was enough to silence Job and realize that God knew what He was doing. But in 2 Cor. 4:7 we get a little more light as to ‘why?’.
“but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (7)
We are weak and when we go through something hard in our weakness, this magnifies God’s power so that there is no question where the strength to get through the trial came from. Can you imagine God asking someone in ICU to go out and fight on the front lines and actually be victorious? That would be only God’s strength coming through. Anytime there is no question whose strength is acting, He gets the most glory. And if our purpose is to glorify Him, this is a good thing.
So, what was the trial that Paul went through? Was it severe? How did he handle it? What was his attitude? Picture yourself being stretched this far.
I will read just the one side first from verses 8-11:
We are hard pressed on every side…
We are perplexed…
Always carrying about in the body, the dying of the Lord Jesus…
Always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake…
What if God called you to this type of ministry? Would you last long? It sounds pretty severe. Let’s look at the other side when God comes through and acts for the one who waits on Him. Look at the result of God’s strength in a person’s life:
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (8-11)
“So then death is working in us, but life in you.” (12)
Notice first the power and strength of God in a person’s life allowing them to handle the trial. But also notice that here are answers to the ‘why’ question of trials again, ‘that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Remember that God likes all the glory in a trial. Even when we are delivered to death, His life is manifested in our mortal flesh when we follow Him in it. The trial will not ultimately win. Jesus will. He will conquer and He will have the glory and this trial will have an ending point.
But notice another ‘why’ in verse 12: “So then death is working in us, but life in you.”
Imagine that! God strikes one to bless the other and this is also a reason for the ‘why’. Sounds unfair, but isn’t this what God did to Jesus so that we may be saved? Our trials go beyond ourselves. They are meant not only to bless us with precious things from God, but also to bless others as well. We often may not know how far reaching that blessing will go. It is like a stone that is thrown in a placid pool, the concentric rings keep going out far beyond the impact site. In heaven we may even see some of the glorious results right before us, because we suffered and yielded to Him in it. It is a privilege to be given such an honor.
In verse 14, 15 “Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
Here again is a result of suffering and an answer to the ‘why’. “Grace will spread through the many and cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” This is the result of the concentric rings spreading out His grace. And if our purpose is to glorify Him this is a good thing.
Then in verse 16 we see the word, “therefore”. Because of all the above we are seeing something happen. What is it?
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (16).
Yes it may be hard, and yes we are weak, but you will get help and be renewed every day. When you are weak, God’s strength is magnified and He will help you. You need to let that process happen and not fight it. The way God works in us and through us for His purposes causes us to not lose heart because we are seeing more of the big picture.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 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” (17).
I have always been struck at the words “light” and “but for a moment”. When we are in a heavy trial it seems just that, heavy. And it also seems when we are in it that it will last forever. But it won’t. There will come a time when it will end and this verse is calling the trial “light” because it is getting us to look past the hills of our trials to the huge mountain beyond, of all that is to come in God’s eternal purposes. They are so grand that a trial, looking back, will seem like a little blip in time. It is looking past the temporal moment to eternity.
That is why I like this quote so much by Samuel Rutherford. Because it did just that when I was suffering, it got my mind to look up and beyond the moment.
“When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time-suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.”
— S. Rutherford The Loveliness of Christ.