Written by Linda Tu’ulakitau
2 Corinthians 4:17 King James Version (KJV)
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Paul often discussed in his letters to the Corinthians the hardships he experienced in life because it is thematic in his letters. Due to his suffering for the sake of the gospel, he brought the life of Christ to the Corinthians. His suffering might discredit him to a worldly audience, but he brought the good news of Christ to the people who needed it most, and they were encouraged by it.
“This light affliction…but for a moment” highlights the fact that the hardships and trials we face in this life on earth are “light”; they are just “for a moment” …they are not important compared to “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” in the life to come. Paul did not focus on the light afflictions he encountered in this world but rather, he focused on the eternal glory which is far greater than any light afflictions he might face on earth. Most of the time we often focus on what is visible to our physical eyes. We focus on what we see every day in our world – the difficulties, problems, hardships, trials, suffering etc – and because of focusing on the visible, we often tend to lose heart. However, Paul encourages us to focus on the invisible – on what our physical eyes cannot see, and yet, they are the realities of life because they are eternal and unperishable.
The reality of what is visible to the human eyes is ‘transient”, while the reality of what is invisible is ‘eternal’, as God is eternal. What is visible to the human eyes will pass away just as Paul’s physical life is “being wasted away”.
As contemporary Christians, we can relate to this passage – yes, we can all relate to what it means to be a frail human being working in the service of God to bring the gospel to lost humanity. Pastors, evangelists, youth pastors, apostles, teachers, prophets, and ordinary Christians like us can relate to Paul’s suffering. We too, face hardships, trials, testings, and even persecutions because of our faith. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians encourage and remind us that these light afflictions we often encounter in life cannot compare to the greater eternal glory we will receive in the life to come. Moreover, contemporary Christians are encouraged by Paul that even though we have frail human bodies that have their own limitations, we are empowered by the Spirit of God who dwells within us. Paul’s writing about “this earthen vessel” also highlights the fact that our contemporary society is so obsessed with our physical bodies or our physical appearance. We waste a lot of money trying to change or improve our physical appearance; however, Paul reminds us that these temporary things will pass away. What is important is our spiritual life because it is eternal and unperishable.
I believe this passage talks about the crucial mark of Paul’s ministry. He faced hardships, trials and persecutions like a champion because he regarded them as “light afflictions”, “momentary” …a part of the life of a true apostle of Jesus Christ. He must share in Christ’s suffering in order to proclaim the gospel and the cross of Christ to people. He did not back down or fear death itself while proclaiming the gospel because to Paul, he would always win in the end. It was a win-win situation for him. Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus meant that people would be saved and have eternal life. And the death of his physical body for the sake of the gospel meant Paul would be present with the Lord. He would share in the eternal greater glory as co-heir with Jesus in His Kingdom. Paul lived a resurrected life on earth while he was still in his mortal fragile human body. He was an “earthen vessel” but made strong with the empowerment of the power of God. His ministry was not depended on the strength and knowledge of man to the admiration of man, but with the power of God to the admiration of God. He played to an audience of one.
God bless you all~