2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 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 .” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
We have no one more suited to write these words than Paul the apostle. He was whipped 39 strokes severally, shipwrecked, beaten with rods, pummelled with stones, had sleepless nights just to mention but a few of his troubles (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). As Christians, our lives are reflected through two different spheres, our physical existence that is our external reality and our spiritual life which is our inward reality. Losing heart is getting dismayed, discouraged, full of doubt and having no excitement for anything. However, Paul while wasting away still recognized that his strength lied inside of him despite the physical persecution. Even if his sufferings lead to death he still declared that he would not be defeated since Jesus had already defeated death on the cross (Philippians 1:20). Given everything he goes through, he is not discouraged but makes every effort to continually build to give God the glory.
Focus on the Eternal
Not losing heart when life keeps throwing you reasons to, is a result of following what Paul explains in these verses. Even when it feels that if you are dealt one more single blow you would break, be encouraged by the lessons we learn here. The first lesson is to keep our focus continually on things not seen which are eternal while the things seen are temporary (vs18). This reminds us of when Peter attempted to walk on the water like Jesus and he did walk until his focus was on the waves and the wind at sea. When our eyes are on the afflictions we currently face we tend to waste away with them. However, we must keep our focus on Jesus Himself, our inheritance in Christ, and our future glorification with Him. When trouble brims up let us practice sitting somewhere with the Lord and pray for grace for our focus to remain on the promises in His word more than the storms which are present. This does not mean we do not recognize the trials but they do not become our primary focus either.
The next step is to remember that our light affliction is present only for a moment. Even when they seem unending and continuing in every single sense of the word, we can not forget that in comparison to the eternal heavenly glory set ahead of us the afflictions are nothing but momentary. Paul writes to those suffering immeasurably that God in his kindness and grace has called them to His eternal glory and He will restore, establish, strengthen and support them after they have suffered a while (1 Peter 1:6-7). You can delight firmly in the idea that, though your physical man is undergoing disintegration, your interior man is being renewed day by day. You can know, as a definite certainty, that the current period of pain has an everlasting purpose—and, in God’s strong hand, is producing an eternal weight of glory. If we do this then no matter what happens to us we will not lose heart.
King James Version (KJV)
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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.”
New International Version (NIV)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
New American Bible (NASB)
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 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.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
“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.”
The Living Bible (TLB)
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”