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Daily Distinctives, April 23 (Our Light Affliction)

April 23, 2015

Daily Reading:

[2Co 4:15 NKJV]
For all things [are] for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

[2Co 4:16 NKJV]
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day.

[2Co 4:17 NKJV]
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory,

[2Co 4:18 NKJV]
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.

Daily Distinctive:

Just when you think things are bad they inevitably get worse. Sound familiar? Well you are in good company. We live in a fallen world and we are solely dependent upon Jesus to see us through to the end. That is a good thing right? No, actually that is the best thing, the greatest thing, the most comforting thing! The second we are born we begin to die. I think it is comical how some authors talk about “Your Best Life Now,” as if life is easy and without complications. It is the attitude that the Corinthians had. They despised Paul for his suffering because they wanted to have “their best life now,” without the complications of suffering for the cause of Christ. And so I rejoice in these verses before me today. They seem fitting in this season of my life. And if you can relate, then I am glad that you are here to join me today in my daily devotional. SO here we go…

[2Co 4:15 NKJV]
For all things [are] for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

We read that all too familiar passage in Romans 8:28 and we apply it to everything that takes place in our lives. Rightly so, because all things do, indeed, work together for our good when the conditions of the verse are met. That is when we love the LORD and are called according to His purposes. This verse seems to echo that powerful statement. According to Paul here, all things are for our sakes. In other words, every experience we have as believers are purposeful and not arbitrary. God has a masterful way of organizing our circumstances in such a way that we can only get through them by grace. It is this grace that causes us to praise Him all the more. The natural outpouring of praise is evidenced in a heart full of thanksgiving for the things that we endure for the sake of His glory. When we recognize that nothing happens by accident or chance in our lives we are more apt to give God the glory for allowing them in our lives.

[2Co 4:16 NKJV]
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day.

Sure our bodies are dying from the day that we are born. We suffer ailments and disease (many of these are brought on by our own careless living), but the last time I checked the mortality rate is 100%, that is each of us will eventually die unless we are first raptured. But I have to ask, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for? Paul is saying in essence, “In light of the fact that all things are working for our sakes, by grace so that we might be all the more thankful, we are able remain hopeful and not lose heart. Furthermore, even though our outward man is perishing, our inward man (or our spirits) are being renewed daily. This certainly gives us much to rejoice over. God is working in us and conforming us to His image and so we ought to be delighted that though we are dying in this life, we are drawing ever closer to the perfection of the life to come. Compared to eternity, this life is a mere blip on the screen. The fact is that most of our real life will be spent in eternity and so being renewed inwardly is more important and worthy of our concern than what is happening to our outward shell, which we can’t bring with us anyways.

[2Co 4:17 NKJV]
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory,

I don’t think Paul is speaking of circumstances here, but rather, perspective. Here is what I mean. Our afflictions when compared to Paul’s are indeed light. I don’t know many people who have been beaten, stoned to the point of death, shipwrecked amongst other things and having the weight of concern for all of the churches. Yet this was what Paul faced. So by comparison, I would say Paul had it worse than most of us ever will. Still, I do not want to be insensitive to those who are suffering in the flesh. I have loved ones who are suffering from cancer, and other illnesses. To them it is a very real and present circumstance that does not seem light by any stretch. But again, I don’t think Paul is comparing afflictions. I think what he is saying is that in light of our eternity, or from an eternal perspective, even the worst circumstances are light.

The fact is that our lives are a vapor in comparison to eternity. And so our suffering in this life is, as Paul says, but for a moment. Even so, these afflictions that we face are working in us something far more valuable in our spiritual lives. You see our afflictions cause us to lean into the LORD more and more every day. And while it hurts having to go through trials, the LORD allows them for the purpose of strengthening our faith and dependence upon Him. That said, our afflictions are purposeful and intentional. We can’t suppose that God is surprised by our afflictions. The fact is that God knows what we are going through and has actually allowed it. We may not fully understand why He does what He does, but we can rejoice in our afflictions because we know that He has allowed it for our sanctification and for His glory!

[2Co 4:18 NKJV]
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.

It is truly all about perspective. The things which are seen are obvious. We don’t need to look at them. In other words we don’t need to be consumed by the obvious things that are taking place, our circumstances, our infirmities, our afflictions. They are there constantly reminding us of their presence. Instead, we need to be focusing on the eternal things. How God is working through our circumstances to produce in us a greater, deeper, faith. Paul wraps it up by saying that these light afflictions that we face are only temporary. When we go to be with the LORD these afflictions will be no more, but the fact that we have gone through them and depended solely on the LORD to walk with us, will produce eternal bonds with Christ that cannot be broken by death.

My heart truly breaks for those who are suffering with disease and physical ailments. The maladies are painful, not only physically but emotionally, but they don’t have to be spiritually. These kinds of sorrows that we face in the flesh should only make us stronger in the spirit. Now does that mean that I want to experience something like cancer, which took my both my biological mother and my spiritual mother? Certainly not! Should I envy my cousins plight because she has been given the “gift of cancer?” No way! Now I say the “gift of cancer,” because that is what my beloved mother in Christ (Kym) called it. Because of her malady she was able to minister in ways that would not be afforded to her in any other way. And I know for sure that she is in heaven rejoicing over the fact that the LORD allowed cancer to bring her home. She certainly had a perspective that many people don’t. And so if we know that we will overcome death and live forever, and that Jesus defeated sin and death, then we can truly rejoice in the fact that while our outward bodies are perishing our inward man is growing daily in communion with the LORD. It is truly a matter of perspective. When we look at life and death through the lenses of Christ, we discover that death is simply a graduation from this life to the eternal life. This gives us all the more reason to live with purpose.

Daily Muse:

I have heard this before and I heard it again from my pastor recently at a men’s conference. He suggested that what is truly important about this life is what we do with our dash. Here is what he meant. If you look at a tomb stone, you will see the date a person was born and the date the person died. In between these two dates is a dash. That dash is the symbol of everything that happens between those two dates. In other words, that dash represents the lives that we live. And so it is a great question to ask, “What will you do with your dash?” I have quoted this on occasion and since it fits with our discussion here I will share it again, “I would rather live with purpose than die for a cause.” What I mean by that is there is no cause worth dying for save the cause of Christ. But if we are living for Christ our lives¬†are going to be lived out with¬†a greater purpose in mind. I would hope that my dash was consumed, for the most part, with living according to God’s will and purpose. I know that I will one day die. But will my dash be a legacy for the LORD, or will it be about how I served myself? I hope that at my funeral, whoever presides over the ceremony will paint the true picture of who I am and use the opportunity to bring others to Christ. I want to have an impact on lives while I am living, but I pray that in my dying many will come to know the LORD. I can’t say that I hope more will come to Christ by virtue of my death and reflection on the life that I lived for Christ than those I impact while I am alive, but either way, I trust that the LORD will use my life and death to draw others to Himself. That is all I can hope for.

Daily Prayer:

LORD, You know the number of my days. Let them all be to glorify Your name. Let my life be a testimony of Your grace, and cause others to seek You out. Like a good book will always cause people to go to the Good Book, let my life cause people to come to the saving knowledge of who You are. Forgive me LORD for my sins. I know that You are working in me, and I am often kicking at the goads. Like the clay on the potters wheel I am struggling against the potter to get centered. I am grateful that You have begun the work and will be faithful to complete it. I pray LORD that those who have criticism against me will understand that I am a fallible man. But that You are working in me a plan which will bring many to salvation. This life I live is not my own, but sometimes I act like I am the one driving. I can be so foolish at times LORD, please forgive me. Help me to be graceful to those who need grace, merciful to those who need mercy and faithful to those who need faith. Let me live, breath, and die according to Your will. I love You Jesus and will forever praise Your name. This life is just the beginning of what I long for with You. I look forward to the day when You embrace me in Your loving arms and say to me, “Well done good and faithful servant. LORD, You have Your work cut out for You, but I am not so big that You can’t handle me. I am grateful that You even love me. It is not like I deserve it, but still You love me with an everlasting love. I pray that others would love me with Your love and that I would be lovable to them. Help me where I fall short of that higher calling. I love You Jesus. It is in Your name that I pray! ¬†-Amen

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