Do Not Lose Heart - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

A man in a wheelchair looking to the heavens

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As Christians, our lives inhabit two spheres: the seen and the unseen world—our physical existence or outer reality and our spiritual existence or inward reality. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, the apostle Paul could say "do not lose heart" even as his physical body was wasting away under the effects of debilitating persecution. He could say this because he knew with all certainty that his inward person was being renewed day in and day out by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Key Bible Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:16–18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self 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. (ESV)

Do Not Lose Heart

Day by day, our physical bodies are in the process of dying. Death is a fact of life—something we all must face eventually. We don't typically think about this, though, until we start to grow old. But from the moment we are conceived, our flesh is in a slow process of aging until the day we reach our final breath.

When we go through times of serious affliction and trouble, we may feel this "wasting away" process more acutely. Recently, two close loved ones—my father and a dear friend—lost their long and courageous battles with cancer. They both experienced an outward wasting away of their bodies. Yet, at the same time, their inner spirits shone with remarkable grace and light as they were renewed by God day by day.

Eternal Weight of Glory

Their ordeal with cancer wasn’t a "light momentary affliction." It was the hardest thing both had ever faced. And their battles dragged on for more than two years.

During the months of suffering, I often talked with my father and my friend about this verse, particularly the "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

What is this eternal weight of glory? It's a strange phrase. At first glance, it may sound like something unpleasant. But it refers to the eternal rewards of heaven. Our most extreme difficulties in this life are light and short-lived when compared to the heavy-weighted rewards that will last forever in eternity. Those rewards are beyond all comprehension and comparison.

Paul was confident that all true believers would experience the eternal reward of glory in the new heavens and new earth. He often prayed for Christians to keep their eyes on the hope of heaven:

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  (Ephesians 1:18, NLT)

Paul could say "do not lose heart" because he believed without a doubt that even the most excruciating trials of this life are minor when compared to the glory of our eternal inheritance.

The apostle Peter also lived with the hope of heaven ever in his sights:

Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  1 Peter 1:3–5 (NLT)

While my loved ones were wasting away, they kept their eyes on things that were unseen. They focused on eternity and the weight of glory which they are now experiencing fully.

Are you disheartened today? No Christian is immune to discouragement. We all lose heart now and then. Maybe your outer self is wasting away. Perhaps your faith is being tested as never before.

Like the apostles, and like my loved ones, look to the unseen world for encouragement. During unimaginably hard days, let your spiritual eyes come alive. Look through a farsighted lens past what is seen, beyond what is transient. With eyes of faith see what cannot be seen and get a glorious glimpse of eternity.