Never Give Up
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Paul shares these thoughts in his second letter to the Church in Corinth:
So, we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times; the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)
This is a great truth for us in our present days of uncertainty. Statistics highlight the high number of people around us today facing discouragement, despair, worry, anxiety, etc. But this is such an encouraging word for us. Paul is writing from his own experience of facing multiple challenges and troubles. He was beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked, confronted by bandits, went without sleep, was hungry, thirsty, cold, and naked. On top of all those issues, he felt the daily pressure of concern for all the churches that he was responsible to oversee. And with all of that, he states that he is not giving up.
What was the secret to Paul’s determination to “hang in there”? There are at least two options that I see:
1. Eugene Peterson in the Message interprets Paul’s words in verse 16 this way: “Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” It appears that Paul is suggesting that despite what circumstances look like (be they physical, mental, or emotional), God is at work in us. God is not hampered by the circumstances that surround us, and in fact, only we are hindered by them, and that hindrance is often an emotional response which creates a lack in our ability to see anything positive. Paul is affirming that despite what things look like, God is at work through His ever-present grace.
2. There is a forward-looking aspect to these words of Paul. He wrote, “Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison” (NIV). Someone said that this is a challenging passage, because it calls us to fix our eyes, not on the here and now, but on eternity. Scripture continues to remind us of the temporal versus the eternal. It is hard for us to focus on the eternal when life in the present moment presses us and seems so real. I do like Peterson’s take on this verse as well, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times; the lavish celebration prepared for us” (MSG).
The evil one seeks to make us doubt God’s good intention or His control of the world’s affairs. Looking at the circumstances will lead us to conclude that all is hopeless. Even our prayers become filled with despair and lack faith. When we realize that despite what we see, God is at work and that our hope is really not in the present but in the future that God has promised us, we learn not to despair but always be filled with hope.
I am thankful these days for the encouragement Paul gives to us in his letter to the church. When we experience discouraging times, or start to feel overwhelmed, we can be assured that God is with us (and at work in us). Paul, like us, did not seek such trials (and plagues), but when they come, we, like him, will discover a shower of extra grace from God. We can also look to the future and hold on to the hope we have in Christ; a future that this life cannot compare with. The hope for today does not come from good or easy circumstances but from the Lord Himself. “The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 MSG).