Fix Your Mind on Things With Eternal Value
by Jeff Horn
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
In this passage Paul starts by contrasting the physical aspects of the believer’s life with the spiritual aspects. He states the unfortunate reality that we all experience in our physical bodies – we are decaying. As we get older, our physical bodies deteriorate. The contrasting reality for the believer, though, is that our spiritual man is being renewed day by day. We can grow stronger in our understanding of God’s Word and the experience of His grace every day until we are in His presence.
In verse 17, Paul discusses how he approaches the physical challenges in this life. Paul’s focus was on the eternal glory that awaited him at the end of this present life. He saw the trials of this life as momentary and light in comparison with the glory that he would experience which was eternal and weighty. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul discusses what he considered to be “momentary and light.” A couple samples of these afflictions from verse 25 are being shipwrecked three times and being stoned. These are the types of “light” afflictions that most people did not survive.
How was Paul able to just dismiss these significant physical challenges? He was able to do this because he evaluated these afflictions with the proper perspective. As Paul thought about the afflictions he was enduring he was counting up the eternal rewards he would receive.
Jim Elliot, a missionary who was martyred in South America, once said “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This was the perspective of Paul as he evaluated his many death-defying afflictions.
Most of us will never face death for our faith in Christ but every day we make decisions regarding faithfulness to His commands. It is just as important for us to evaluate these decisions in light of eternal reward in order to serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
How was it that Paul was able to maintain this perspective? He gives us his secret in verse 18. Paul wasn’t looking for fulfillment in the things of this world. Paul’s assessment regarding the “things which are seen” is that they were temporal. They last only for a moment. In Psalm 39:5 David says, “Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.” Some of us may live to be 100 years old but in light of eternity that is “a mere breath” – it is nothing.
Paul goes on to say that he was looking at “the things which are not seen.” These are the things which are eternal. As Paul labored faithfully in the service of his Lord he understood that he was laying up treasure in heaven that would never be disturbed. He was gaining reward which he could not lose.
How do we gain and maintain this type of perspective? This can only be achieved as we take in the Word of God and live in obedience to the Word. In 1 Corinthians 2:12 we are told that the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to understand the things freely given to us by God.
In Psalm 73, Asaph considers the success of the wicked and he despairs. But once he comes into “the sanctuary of God,” once he understands the Word of God, his perspective changes. In verse 22 he comments regarding his attitude outside the Word of God: “Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” He expresses the perspective he gains from the Word in verses 23 and 24: “Nevertheless I am continually before You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.”
When we live according to the Word of God, He takes us by the hand and leads us through the good and bad times in this life – He guides us with His wise counsel. And afterward, He receives us into glory.