So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
For all of us, life has rich joys. There's no question about that. God has filled the world with goodness and we enjoy that. In fact, the world even stops to pause at a time of thanksgiving to recognize that there is joy and goodness all around. We experience good and fulfilling relationships, good and fulfilling experiences, satisfying sights and sounds and smells and tastes, adventure, exhilarating things, love, refreshment, peace. Life has its riches. It has its joys.
As LGBT Christians and Christians who support LGBT Christians within the community of Christ, we are often persecuted most by other Christians. All believers will face affliction for their beliefs but LGBT Christians often face adversity from within for wanting to be included. A friend of mine was trying to find a church that he could feel comfortable and a part of the congregation. He wasn't raised with a denominational background, and thus does not have the same connection I do to a particular church. The first church he attended in his new town were very welcoming until he told them he was gay, then they treated him like a pariah and seemed not to be able to get rid of him fast enough. The next week he tried another church that was more accepting, but he still did not feel as comfortable as he should because too many Christians reject the LGBT community regardless of our faith.
Job said, "Man is born unto trouble." Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." James wrote, "We fall into various trials." None of us would question the fact that life can bring disappointment, discontent, pain, grief, loss, disasters of all kinds. It is filled with unexpected turns, unanticipated events, dread, sometimes debilitating and painful experiences. That's life. And the longer you live it and the wider your experience is and the more people you connect with, the more potential there is for pain and difficulty.
Being able basically to cope with this is everybody's goal. The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that's our key word of this post because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance...the secrets to endurance.
These adversities though are "preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (and beyond description). We should not be looking at “the things that are seen” (all the bad around us) but “to the things that are unseen,” which is the place that Jesus is preparing for us (John14:2-3). This earth is “transient” or passing away but Jesus promises a room in the mansions of heaven that we do not yet see. If we embrace these verses then we will not “lose heart.” Paul wants his readers to pursue a godly way of life, though it is hindered by trials and afflictions.
Sometimes we may think that our suffering is unique and belongs only to us. The truth is that others have gone through, is going through and will go through similar adversities. There is always someone who can identify with it. And we can identify with Paul because he learned how to endure it. His suffering by any human measure was severe, far beyond anything that we would experience in terms of the cost of discipleship. And because his suffering was so severe he becomes for us the best example because if he can endure the most suffering, we can certainly endure the least. Those people who get depressed and burn out, who become fearful and apathetic or indifferent, who quit, and whose despair reaches such a point that they're debilitated can to learn something from Paul.
As I work through my studies of biblical passages, I'm usually reminded of certain hymns. Today's message is no exception. To endure, we must have faith. First John 5:4 says "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith." It is faith that allows us to endure the trials and tribulations of life and to looked toward the eternal hereafter. Faith is our victory, just as the song says:
Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.