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Do Not Lose Heart – Your Future in Christ is Beyond All Comparison
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
God assures His people of a bright future in Christ, urging us not to lose heart. Jesus encouraged and promised His disciples that, “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Apostle Paul did the same when he wrote to the church in Corinth, telling them not to be disheartened due to affliction (verse 8), aging (verse 16), or persecution (verse 9). And it is true: it seems as if every day there is a new calamity waiting to befall us. We hear about wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, droughts, famine, and new strains of viruses. Life is challenging in general, and depending on one’s location in the world, Christians may also face mockery, persecution, imprisonment, and even the death penalty, much like the Apostle Paul did. Indeed, Christianity is facing more persecution than ever before.
It is easy to lose heart about a bright future when we are bombarded by constant negative news everywhere we look. Not only do we hear about others suffering, but we also experience hardship, physical and mental health breakdowns, the loss of our sources of income, divorce, addictions, or the stress of a societal downward spiral affecting our children’s education, along with the spread of harmful anti-traditional or anti-Biblical ideologies in politics and entertainment. Like the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:21-22, the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now, and one day it will be set free from its bondage to decay. Until that day, we must guard ourselves against losing heart.
Outer Self Wasting Away
We all experience aging, injuries, sickness and ultimately, death due to the original sin and rebellion of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). This is, of course, a common experience for humans, and therefore the Bible is filled with stories where the people of God were commanded not to be afraid or discouraged. But why should we not be afraid and discouraged when we are so fragile, and with each passing day, we face various struggles and draw nearer to death’s door? I’ll address that shortly.
When things keep going wrong, and we encounter one problem after another, we can become disillusioned and simply weary of holding onto hope for a better future. These issues include physical weariness, ailments, and pain. Apostle Paul is believed to have had eye problems at a time when there were no glasses. He spoke of the large letters he used in writing his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 6:11). He writes in 2 Corinthians 11:25-26, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.” Imagine how many scars and how much pain Apostle Paul carried in his body at a time when there was no modern medicine like antibiotics. He knew pain well, and as he aged, he found it increasingly challenging to recover from beatings or walk long distances to preach the Gospel without experiencing pain and weariness. He understood that physical agony, persecution, and trials could lead to losing heart. So, what was his solution to not giving up while his body seemed to be failing him? How did he endure when people reviled him, persecuted him, and uttered all kinds of false accusations against him because of Jesus?
Inner Self Being Renewed
Apostle Paul’s solution to combating discouragement, whether from his body wearing down, being hated by the enemies of Christ, or witnessing the state of the world, was to get his gaze fixed on Jesus and to look within – not just at the outer self (his physical body) but to see the invisible that was being renewed in him every day: his inner man, his soul (mind, will, and emotions). We are a three-part being—body, soul, and spirit—but we naturally focus more on what we can see and feel, our bodies.
As I get older there seems to be a new wrinkle, gray hair, and a new joint ache with each passing day. In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and exercise, this becomes my spiritual remedy when I feel discouraged as my body deteriorates over time. It’s at these moments that we need to remind ourselves that Christ is doing his supernatural and lasting work in our inner selves, and He has promised to complete the good work He started in us (Phil. 1:6). This process is known as sanctification or renewal. The Greek word for renewing is “Anakainosis,” which means to renovate or renew, resulting in a complete change for the better. While our spirit is born again, our minds require constant renewal. Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines renewal as “The adjustment of moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon life.” Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” To experience the renewal of your mind, or to put it another way, to be made holy, you need the cleansing wash of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26). The Word of God addresses discouragement, reveals the will of God, counters the lies of the devil, helps us overcome the hatred for our enemies, and illuminates our path that leads to life. And one day when Christ returns, He will surely give us our glorified resurrection bodies that will never wear down or perish (John 6:40; Phil. 3:20-21).
Momentary and Light Afflictions
Another key factor in protecting ourselves from losing heart is to remember that as Christians, we have the assurance of living forever, and our current suffering is light and momentary compared to eternity and the weight of glory that is being built within us (verses 17-18). No matter how long we may endure suffering in this life, there will be an end to it. Therefore, our focus should be on the invisible, eternal glory that we are gaining as faithful followers of Christ, rather than the visible and fleeting experiences of our earthly troubles. As we navigate this life, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We view these precious, objective truths through the lens of the Gospel. By fixing our gaze on these spiritual realities and Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, we can run this race set out for us with continually renewed courage and endurance.
Believe the Gospel and Look to Heaven Where Christ is Seated on His Throne
Apostle Paul writes earlier in chapter 4, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:5-6). Satan is at work in the world, blinding, stealing, killing, and destroying people. He is after our faith in God. He wants us to quit on God, the church and on life. However, the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Christ is at work, opening eyes, saving, renewing, and bringing people new and lasting hope. If you feel discouraged and ready to give up, start preaching the Gospel to your own soul and remind yourself and others of the marvelous eternity that awaits those who endure until the end.
When all you can see is misery and pain, you need to change what you are looking at and listening to. As Colossians 3:1-2 says, “since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” I’m reminded of Jonathan Edwards’ prayer, “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” Let the vision of eternity and the Gospel give you a new perspective through suffering and trials. Don’t give up or abandon the mission; let God shape your inner self into the image of His Son, Jesus. Keep walking by faith and trusting in our God, who is always good, just, powerful, and present.
Regardless of what comes our way, God is greater. Nothing can push God into a corner or surprise Him. He is the sovereign and supreme King of kings and Lord of lords and, “according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3b-5). The life of every believer is now and for all eternity in the safe hands of God. Our blood-bought future includes a new heaven and earth for all who trust the Gospel, where all believers truly will live happily ever after with their God. Do not lose heart – our future in Christ is beyond all comparison.