But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18, NLT)
The direct context of this paragraph is, of course, Paul expressing how he could maintain resilience in the face of obstacles and opposition. However, within the text we find some helpful insights as to how we can persevere in any kind of challenge that life has to offer.
The first reason for Paul to persevere, in spite of the adversity he faced, is his knowledge that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us, and together we will stand resurrected in God’s presence. This is a current reality that is not yet realized, yet the power of that present reality is able to sustain us in our current situation. We can live confidently knowing that the final chapter of our lives has already been determined. If the cross of Christ helps us understand our suffering, the resurrection of Christ helps define our hope.
The second reason is the confidence that our lives matter now. Even though Paul faced challenges, he could still see the good that was happening in and through his ministry. The ongoing impact of his life became the overriding motivation for his work. This is especially important, because it is easy for us to become so overwhelmed by difficulties that we lose sight of the real purpose behind our existence.
The third reason is the priority of the internal over the external. Our bodies are, for lack of a better term, depreciating assets. Even though our bodies weaken through the natural progression of time, we can simultaneously experience spiritual renewal. It has been said that when we lose one of our senses, such as our sense of sight, our other senses can become sharpened to compensate for the loss. Likewise, as our bodies diminish, we find that our faith can increase and compensate for what we lack physically.
Fourth, is the realization that our suffering is minimal when compared to the eternal weight of heaven. Our journey on earth may feel long, especially if we meet of exceed normal life expectancy. If our physical existence on earth is all we consider, then yes, our afflictions may become the most significant narrative of our lives. But when we maintain our true identity as children of God, we shift the narrative from the temporal to the eternal. Lest we forget, eternity is a long, long time!
Related to that thought if Paul’s final insight, which is to change our perspective from the “seen” to the “unseen.” He proposes that the troubles we currently seen only have the power that we attribute to them. But, if we focus on the realities that are unseen and in the future, we can actually begin to live that in the present tense. If our perspective is directed by the here and now, we are living in self imposed limitations. If our perspective is focused on the eternal and the unseen, we find ourselves living in limitless liberty.