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Wednesday Writings

Heaven’s Treasure in Earthly Vessels, Part 2

Last week I shared the first half(ish) of a sermon our pastor preached a couple of months ago, titled “Humbly Ministering for His Glory.” The text is II Corinthians 4:7-18 and offers so much encouragement to those of us in chronic illness.

Here are the main points so far:

  1. God identifies you as precious vessels.
    • Your body is for His ministry.
    • Your ability is by His might.
  2. God encourages you as suffering servants.
    • Your hardship is for His sake.
    • Your adversity is for His purpose.

III. God motivates you as confident saints.

A. Your future is with His people.

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.

vv 13-14

Even a brief reading of the New Testament showcases Jesus’ resurrection as the heartbeat of Peter’s messages and Paul’s epistles. Why is this resurrection such a big deal? Obviously because it demonstrated Jesus’s power over death and sin, but also because it guarantees our own resurrection someday–a resurrection that will give us a brand new body.

We have the hope of a pain-free, problem-free, sin-free eternity with Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthian believers of this hope to encourage them in their time of trial.

When I heard this part of the sermon, the first thing I thought of was the hike a friend and I had taken just that week at Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.

The day was hot and humid, and the close air beneath the trees and beside the waterfalls offered little relief as we stumbled over the rocks and roots of the trails and climbed–up and down–hundreds and hundreds of steps.

As we returned along one of the trails, I was sweating and out of breath, my legs burning and my arms shaking. I wanted to sit down and call it quits.

But I knew that at the top of the trail was a bench where we could rest, drink some water, and eat a snack. It was the hope of that future reprieve that kept me going through the present discomfort. (“Just keep hiking, just keep hiking . . .”)

In the same way, it’s the hope of our future with Christ in glory–for all eternity–that carries us through our present hardships.

B. Your persistence is for His glory.

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 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.

vv 15-18

Serving God (“for your sakes,” selfless investing in the lives of others) is eternally rewarding, despite the present difficulties. Even though the physical body keeps deteriorating, the spiritual heart is constantly being renewed. (Can I get an amen?)

Paul also points out that there is no comparison between physical adversity and eternal glory. He says the same thing in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Why does he call it a “light affliction” here? Because we’re not carrying the burden alone–Christ helps us. Jesus Himself told us in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Finally, the focus of ministry must not be earthly (physical) but heavenly (spiritual). As II Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” All that belongs to this earth is of a limited time, whereas all that is done in ministry for Christ is for all of eternity. Our perspective should always be Heaven- and eternity-focused.

Are you reminding yourself of the glorious future that awaits you with Christ? Have you asked Christ to help you bear your afflictions? How can you continue living, serving, and persevering with a heavenly perspective?

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