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Beyond Comparison

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Oct 28, 2018

by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:17–4:17

Last week, we saw that we have two selves: an outer person and an inner person. The outer person is wasting away, but the inner person is being renewed day by day.

  1. Light, Momentary Affliction?
    1. 4:17 "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."
    2. If you just see this verse on a poster or something, this momentary, light affliction doesn’t sound shocking.
    3. But actually, this is one of the most ironic statements you’ll ever hear: What’s so astonishing about Paul calling his troubles "momentary, light afflictions."
    4. Well, earlier in this same epistle Paul says:
      1. 2Corinthians 1:5 We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings.
      2. In 2Corinthians 1:8–9 he says, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”
  • And later in his epistle, he lists some of the so-called light, momentary afflictions he has experienced: "...imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep, I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2Cor.11:23-27)
  1. THAT’S light and momentary affliction? That’s exactly what Paul says, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  2. How can it say that? Is he minimizing his experience to the point of dishonesty? No he’s not.
  3. The reason Paul can say this is that in this verse he is comparing his earthly troubles to his heavenly reward. Compared to what is coming for God’s people, all our trials are minuscule. Our "eternal weight of glory" is "far beyond all comparison."
  4. Do your problems seem big? It’s certainly normal if they do. But how big they seem is a matter of perspective.
  5. Our struggles, no matter how intense they are, can’t be compared to the glory which is coming to us.
  6. Even if our sufferings grew so large as to be the size of Paul’s sufferings, they still wouldn’t be worthy of comparing to our future glory.
  7. One day our perspective will change. One day everybody’s perspective will change.
    1. One day our sufferings will seem light and momentary. But that can begin now.
    2. As we begin to come to grips with the promises of God, as we begin to recognize God’s good and loving purpose for us, as God begins to open the eyes of our hearts to “the hope to which he has called us, and the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18) we begin to see our suffering more and more in the context of our magnificent destiny.
  • God wants to help us live in light of what we know will be our ultimate perspective.
  1. Compared to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, compared to the glory to come, our afflictions are light and momentary.
  2. When we feel sorry for ourselves, it’s never because our circumstances are so bad. It’s always because we have lost perspective.
  3. God wants to help us be impressed not by our troubles but by His abundant supply for us in Christ
  1. g. Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7), and yet the stones seemed like nothing to him because he was captivated by the vision of Christ’s glory.
  1. Beyond All Comparison
    1. We put things on charts or graphs to show how they compare to each other.
      1. But some things don’t belong on the same chart/graph.
      2. The differences between some things are so great that it can’t be quantified.
  • They are “beyond all comparison.”
  1. I have a problem. My hair is so thin that when I open the window in my car, it gets all messed up.
    1. I just finished a book about some guys who also had a problem. They were shipwrecked on the coast of West Africa and had to become slaves of the local bedouins to survive. They almost died many times and were abused by their masters. There was hardly anything to eat or drink. They were literally dying of starvation and thirst. They drank camel’s urine & ate crushed camel bones. One went from 250 lb to 90 lb in less than a year. Two others got down to 40 lb.
    2. I have a problem. They had a problem.
  • It offends us to even talk about these two things using the same word, doesn’t it?
  1. Some things are not worthy to be compared. Some things are beyond comparison.
  1. It’s not just that the glory of heaven is greater than the sufferings of earth. It’s not just that they are twice as great or ten times as great or a thousand times as great.
  2. It’s that they are so much better that they are beyond comparison.
  3. If I ask you how much greater their problem was than my problem, how would you answer?
    1. Even to say their problem was a million times greater would be an insult to those men and their trials. They are not worthy of being compared.
  4. This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison
  5. Notice the two levels of contrast:
    1. Light versus weight (heavy)
    2. Momentary versus eternal
  • Our trials are not only light in comparison. Our trials are short. The prize is eternal.
  1. Let’s ask a theological question. If God is a just God, how can our future glory be so incomparable to our earthly experience? Is it because we are so good that He pours out so glorious a reward?
    1. This is not justice; this is grace, the grace of God. Our reward is not based on OUR righteousness but the righteousness of Christ. By His perfect righteousness Jesus has earned for us a weight of glory beyond our ability to fathom. That’s why the reward far outweighs the afflictions we endure.
  2. Affliction Produces Glory
    1. It doesn’t say, ‘preparing us for’ but ‘preparing for us.’ And that’s in the Greek, not just the English.
      1. Another translation says, “producing.”
      2. this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison
    2. Our lives and sufferings surely ARE preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. But that’s not what this verse says. This verse says that somehow our sufferings are producing future glory for us.
    3. It may seem contrary to instinct, but it is the clear teaching of Scripture: Affliction produces glory.
    4. Paul does not mean, of course, that affliction IN AND OF ITSELF produces glory or else salvation would be by affliction. Rather, it is affliction ENDURED IN FAITH which produces glory.
      1. When a person responds to affliction by growing bitter, it produces no glory at all.
      2. But when we trust God in the midst of affliction, when we make Him our rest and our strength, trusting His will to be better than our own, then our afflictions prepare glory in heaven for us.
    5. Faithful endurance of earthly afflictions actually increases our capacity to enjoy this glory of God.
      1. When endured with faith and gratitude instead of with bitterness and self-pity, afflictions empower us to more fully perceive and take delight in our reward, even in heaven.
      2. This is why Paul can say that "light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."
    6. If we really believed an affliction was achieving glory for us, would we resent it?
    7. I’m so much better at trusting the Lord when everything seems to be going well. When things appear to be falling apart, my faith seems to fall apart too. You know what’s helped me immensely?
      1. Spending time in God’s word everyday. Drinking in the living water of His promises.
      2. I need constant reminders. I need to be reminded that the reason God allows us to experience troubles is because He loves us so much, “The Lord disciplines those whom He loves.”
  • I need to be reminded that the reason God allows us to experience troubles is because our troubles are producing for us a weight of glory beyond all comparison.
  1. This is how we can do what Paul says in Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
  2. Today’s verse is a great illustration of this. It calls us to set our minds on the eternal weight of glory which awaits us instead of focusing on the momentary trials we are experiencing here.
  1. I know four couples – good friends who were formerly a part of GPC – who lost a grown child in the past year or two. How can they face something like that?
    1. Only by knowing that the comfort of God is ultimately far greater than our heartbreaks.
    2. Only by knowing that our Lord’s grace is far deeper than the deepest wound which we can ever receive on earth.
  • Only by knowing that the troubles of this world are but for a moment, while the comfort of God is for eternity.
  1. This beautiful truth can be used in an extremely ugly way.
    1. Christian truth can be used to try to manipulate people and make them compliant.
    2. When the oppressing party or the party uses this truth to deflect objections to their oppression.
      1. Someone who does not oppress but who has the power to stop it and doesn’t.
    3. g. Slavery, or even marriage
    4. It doesn’t change the truth of the verse.
    5. There must be a special place in hell for those who oppress and abuse others and then use the Bible to deflect their protests.
    6. An oppressor doesn’t need to worry about teaching the Bible to his victims. He needs to worry about repenting of his oppressing and correcting his wicked ways.