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Trouble and Glory - Seen and Unseen

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Trouble and Glory: Seen and Unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

People of faith live by seeing invisible things. You can measure the authenticity and depth of your spiritual life by this statement: do visible or invisible things dominate your life? Faith, love, prayer, and fellowship with the risen Christ are all invisible things. Yet these invisible resources presently give you inward renewal, and ultimately will give you future glory.

Invisible Resources Give Us Inward Renewal

Two undeniable facts mark every life. Something is happening to us outwardly and something inwardly. "Outwardly we are wasting away." Not only our physical bodies but our emotions, minds, and appetites decay. This process is ceaseless and inevitable. To deny it does not change it. This decay is not only because of sin, but also because of pressure, hard work, anxiety, and a thousand other things. Paul saw it in himself; you should see it in yourself.

Something also happens to us inwardly. Outside of Christ an inward decay reflects the outward decay. But in Christ "inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (v. 16). For the Christian the true self, the inward self, is being made as good as new. "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isa. 40:31). This renewal is ceaseless and progressive for the growing believer. What a strange contrast: ceaseless decay of the outward life but ceaseless renewal of the inner life.

Our generation has reversed this completely. We are obsessed with the appearance, health, and grooming of the outward person while ignoring the health of the inner. For that reason there are remarkably fit people who are inwardly empty. We spend time on that which cannot last, while ignoring that which only can last.

Inward Resources Transform Present Troubles

This ceaseless, progressive, inward renewal gives us a different perspective on life's pressures and troubles. Trouble and pressure are just as real for the Christian as anyone. Paul experienced a catalogue of troubles that would demolish most of us (2 Cor. 11:23-29). His troubles, in and of themselves, were staggeringly heavy and continuous.

Yet invisible inward resources give us a different perspective on trouble and pressure. They are "light and momentary" (2 Cor. 4:17a). Our present troubles are but brief in contrast to eternity to come. Our present pressures are light compared to the "weight of glory" (v. 17b, KJV) about to come. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). We think of troubles as heavy and lasting. We think of "glory" as something light and fleeting. No! For the believer, trouble is for a moment and light; splendor is forever and heavy!

Present pressure is working out future glory. Like the weightlifter, experiencing present pain for future gain, the present pressure is building spiritual muscle. Intense heat and incredible pressure produce a diamond cut of worthless carbon.

Inward Resources Demand Our Primary Attention

Inward resources dominate the attention of believers. Faith is being certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1). To live by faith is to live out of the unseen. Negatively "we fix our eyes not on what is seen" (2 Cor. 4:18). Our primary attention is not fixed on the visible world. Our gaze is not riveted on things that are seen. Everything that is seen is temporary. All of it belongs to a world that is already disappearing.

Positively, "we fix our eyes . . . on what is unseen." The Christian intensely focuses on what he cannot see now. That does not mean he will not see it later. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:9-10). What is seen now will disappear later. What is unseen now will appear later. Presently, eternal things are unseen. In the future, they will be the only things to be seen. The believer focuses primary attention on the unseen because only that lasts. Faith, love, prayer, and fellowship with Christ at the right hand of God are presently invisible. They are ultimately things that will be visible.

What dominates your life, time, resources, and attention? You can answer that question. The Christian increasingly lives for the unseen.

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