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Brevity and eternity—these two words seem contradictory, and yet they are closely connected when it comes to living daily as a believer before the face of God. Living the Christian life, we face many challenges and temptations. Often, things do not go the way we expected them to go or the way we would have planned them. At times, our suffering is so severe that we wonder where God is. We can’t see Him, and we doubt His promises. There are disappointments and trials that bring us low, but these two words, brevity and eternity, give us hope.

Several passages come to mind that give us a window into the mind of Paul as he addresses brevity and eternity. He himself was affected by severe trials and afflictions. Yet, by God’s grace, he grew through them, and he gives us advice to follow when we face similar situations. Twice in his second letter to the Corinthians, he challenges us not to lose heart or faint (2 Cor. 4:1, 16). In the first instance, he reflects on his calling. Christian, we also must remember our calling: to follow Christ. Wherever we go, we are leaving an impression behind us with whomever we meet. When we face challenges and suffering, the world will see whether we really believe what we confess, namely, that God is in complete control. This is the treasure we have in earthen vessels; it puts on display the power of God that resides in us.

The things we see are temporary, but those things we confess by faith are eternal.

Paul doesn’t just tell us what to do; he also gives reasons why we can press on. He says the reason we do not faint is because the inner man is being renewed each day. The spiritual man, who we truly are, is renewed by the Spirit of Christ. Christ lives in us, and therefore we can face these challenges. Even though the outer man, our physical bodies, is dying daily, we rejoice because as the new man, we are alive in Christ. While we bear in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, the life of Jesus is made manifest in our bodies. This is how we bear witness to Christ in this world. We testify that we are not living for this world or the things it sets before our eyes, because our lives are brief. Rather, we are pilgrim travelers en route to a celestial city whose foundation and maker is our God. We live with this end in view. This does not mean that we face life without hope and joy; quite the opposite. We know the end of the story, while the unbeliever does not, and so we face the brevity of this life by making the most of every day for the glory of God.

Several times in this same chapter, Paul says with confidence, “We know.” Consider how he begins 2 Corinthians 5. He states that we know that if our earthly body is broken down, we still have a building of God. Presently, we are being shaped into the very stones out of which God is building a temple where He shall dwell forever. This is the confession the believer makes. Paul continues by saying that our affliction is light and momentary. That means brief. Talk to anyone going through affliction and he will say that it seems like the opposite of light and momentary, yet by faith we confess that all these afflictions are being put to work by God. Through them, He is working in us and for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Have you ever said this about your suffering?

Paul has in mind here the loving Father in Christ who is moderating all of our suffering so that it is not too much and so that it serves our transformation into the likeness of Christ, bringing Him the glory. This ought to stir our hearts as we face difficult circumstances, for we realize that they are brief in comparison to eternity and yet, though they are brief, God is working through them to bring about eternal glory and a lasting reward. Thus, Paul adds that we do not look at the things that we see with our natural eye. This would deceive us, for things are not as they appear to be. We need the eyes of faith to see things as God sees them. We are often like the prophet Elisha’s servant who was afraid of the king’s army. But when Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened, suddenly he saw that those who were fighting for them were more numerous and more powerful than those who were against them (2 Kings 6:8–23). So, if Christ be for us, who can really be against us? The things we see are temporary, but those things we confess by faith are eternal.

Therefore, as we live our lives in this fallen world, let us focus our eyes on where our redemption is coming from, on Christ our elder Brother who sits on the throne, ruling over all things. Let us compare our suffering to the joy and bliss of everlasting joy that shall be ours, as the Apostle does, and let us not lose heart: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18, KJV). This is our hope as we wait for the full revelation of the sons of God. When that eternal day dawns, we shall be delivered from the bondage of this brief life into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Though our lives are brief, let us live in light of eternity for Christ.

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land. (Anne Cousin)

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From the December 2019 Issue
Dec 2019 Issue