William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Secret Of Endurance (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

4:16-18 That is the reason why we do not grow weary. But if indeed our outward frame is wasting away, our inward self is renewed day by day, for the light affliction which at the moment we must endure produces for us in a way that cannot be exaggerated an eternal weight of glory, so long as we do not think of the things which are seen, but of the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen are passing, but the things which are unseen are eternal.

Here Paul sets out the secret of endurance.

(i) All through life it must happen that a man's bodily strength fades away, but all through life it ought to happen that a man's soul keeps growing. The sufferings which leave a man with a weakened body may be the very things which strengthen the sinews of his soul. It was the prayer of the poet, "Let me grow lovely growing old." From the physical point of view life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But from the spiritual point of view life is a climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No man need fear the years, for they bring him nearer, not to death, but to God.

(ii) Paul was convinced that anything he had to suffer in this world would be as nothing compared with the glory he would enjoy in the next. He was certain that God would never be in any man's debt. Alistair Maclean, minister father of the author of H.M.S. Ulysses and the rest, tells of an old Highland woman who had to leave the clean air and the blue waters and the purple hills and live in the slum of a great city. She still lived close to God, and one day she said, "God will make it up to me, and I will see the flowers again."

In Christmas Eve Browning writes of the martyr whose story was set out "on the rude tablet overhead."

"I was born sickly, poor and mean,

A slave; no misery could screen

The holders of the pearl of price

From Caesar's envy,--therefore twice

I fought with beasts and three times saw

My children suffer by his law;

At last my own release was earned;

I was some time in being burned,

But at the close a Hand came through

The fire above my head, and drew

My soul to Christ, whom now I see.

Sergius, a brother, writes for me

This testimony on the wall--

For me, I have forgot it all."

Earth's suffering was forgotten in the glory of heaven.

It is a notable fact that in all the gospel story Jesus never foretold his death without foretelling his Resurrection. He who suffers for Christ will share his glory. God's own honour is pledged to that.

(iii) For that very reason, a man's eyes must be ever fixed, not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are unseen. The things that are seen, the things of this world, have their day and cease to be; the things that are unseen, the things of heaven, last forever.

There are two ways of looking at life. We can look at it as a slow but inexorable journey away from God. Wordsworth in his Ode on the Intimations of Immortality had the idea that when a child came into this world he had some memory of heaven which the years slowly took away from him.

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come,"

but,

"Shades of the prison house begin to close

About the growing boy."

And in the end the man is earthbound and heaven is forgotten. Thomas Hood wrote with wistful pathos:

"I remember, I remember

The fir-trees dark and high.

I used to think their slender spires

Were close against the sky.

It was a childish ignorance

But now 'tis little joy

To know, I'm farther off from heaven

Than when I was a boy."

If we think only of the things that are visible we are bound to see life that way. But there is another way. The writer to the Hebrews said of Moses: "He endured as seeing him who is invisible." ( Hebrews 11:27 ). Robert Louis Stevenson tells of an old byreman. Someone was sympathizing with him about his daily work amidst the muck of the byre and asking him how he could go on doing it day in and day out, and the old man answered, "He that has something ayont (beyond) need never weary."

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible