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Friday, June 23, 2017

Look at what you CAN'T see

Image result for trouble in your face image
We see and feel them all around us—troubles, afflictions, tribulations, pressures—and they're usually right in our face. That's why they get the bulk of our attention.

But it's what we can't see that deserves our attention. These are the things God tells us to focus on. Why? Because they're so bloody good!

The following is a mash-up of 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 using a few Bible versions,

For the momentary lightness of our afflictions, troubles, tribulations and pressures is producing for us a transcendently transcendent eonian weight of glory, 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eonian.

Some things to note:
  • Though the afflictions of life can feel like boulders on your shoulders, when compared to the future weight of glory, they are in reality momentary and light. But we must look on the heavy duty unseen to see the relative smallness of our afflictions.
  • All this stuff we're suffering through produces something for us, "a transcendently transcendent eonian weight of glory" (v.17). In the Greek transcendently transcendent is hyperbolen eis hyperbolen. Hyperbolen means: a throwing beyond, excess, superiority. And it's used twice here. We're looking at a weight of glory that is beyond the beyond. Even though we can't grasp the full greatness of this, we can know that it is indeed great, great enough for us to focus on the future weight of glory and not the current crap in our face.
  • Eonion means lasting for the age(s). It's contrasted with the momentariness of our afflictions and pressures.

And suffering produces other good things in us, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" (Romans 5:3 - NIV). And James 1:2–4 in the NIV,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Perseverance, maturity, completeness—God installs these qualities in us on the assembly line of suffering.

Everybody hurts

Jesus blazed the trail for us in the suffering department. And He suffered to the point of death. Hebrews 2:10 says, "Everything was made for God and by God. It seemed good to him that Jesus' life should be made complete, by going through the hard things that happened to him" (Worldwide English New Testament). 

Whether we like it or not, suffering completes us.  We can usually see the truth of this after the suffering is over. But while we're in the center of it we're usually blind to God's intended result. This is where we need to see the unseen with the eyes of faith.

And if it makes you feel any better, realize that ALL people suffer—rich, poor, short, tall, attractive, ugly, skinny, not skinny, Kardashian, non-Kardashian. Everybody you see today (and everyday) has something in their life that hurts.

I'm often lifted in my spirit when I see someone suffering far worse than me. I don't get joy in their suffering. But when I see someone persevering through great suffering, it gives me hope and proof that it can be done. I'm inspired by their ability to smile and live life with joy despite great affliction. And humanity is full of stories of people who've suffered greatly and come out of it better people than before the suffering began.

Suffering completed Jesus. But I'm sure He kept smiling. Not a fake smile. A joyful smile that came from focusing on the end result of His afflictions.

Even God suffers as He patiently endures the waywardness of His creation. But He knows the end that He will eventually create for all.

Delayed gratification

These are dirty words in our everything-is-at-our-fingertips world. But we don't get to choose the lifespan of our suffering. Suffering to some degree will be with us from cradle to grave. And the afflictions we now face will make the "eonian weight of glory" that much more special through the principle of contrast. Our joy then will be enhanced when contrasted with the suffering we've gone through to obtain the end result.

But we don't always have to wait 'til the next life to enjoy the end of suffering. A mother can joyfully hold her fresh new baby after months of carrying the child and going through the excruciating pain of childbirth. A graduating student can get their diploma or degree after years of going through the hardships of school. And there are millions of other victories to be gained in this life, but most of them come after some kind of suffering.

We are told in the Bible to look to Jesus (Who, by the way, we can't literally see). He's our example. He lived 2 Corinthians 4:17–18. Hebrews 12:2 tells us,

We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.
                                                                               Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Jesus knew His mission that brought Him to earth wasn't going to be easy. He knew He would be hated by the world that He created. He knew He was going to die for His enemies as they mocked and scoffed at Him. BUT ... He could also see the joy waiting for Him when His momentary troubles were over.

Was it worth it? Yes! He's no longer on the cross, He's "sitting at the right side of God’s throne!"

You haven't seen or heard ...

1 Corinthians 2:7–16 from the Concordant Literal New Testament (I know this is a long quote, but drink it in, it's powerful),

Related imagebut we are speaking God's wisdom in a secret, wisdom which has been concealed, which God designates before -- before the eons, for our glory, 8 which not one of the chief men of this eon knows, for if they know, they would not crucify the Lord of glory. 9 But, according as it is written, That which the eye did not perceive, and the ear did not hear, and to which the heart of man did not ascend -- whatever God makes ready for those who are loving Him. 10 Yet to us God reveals them through His spirit, for the spirit is searching all, even the depths of God. 11 For is any of humanity acquainted with that which is human except the spirit of humanity which is in it? Thus also, that which is of God no one knows, except the spirit of God. 12 Now we obtained, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may be perceiving that which is being graciously given to us by God, 13 which we are speaking also, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, matching spiritual blessings with spiritual words. 14 Now the soulish man is not receiving those things which are of the spirit of God, for they are stupidity to him, and he is not able to know them, seeing that they are spiritually examined. 15 Now he who is spiritual is, indeed, examining all, yet he is being examined by no one. 16 For who knew the mind of the Lord? Who will be deducing from Him? Yet we have the mind of Christ.

That's the key to this whole thing, "have the mind of Christ!" When we know God and His Son, we have the mind of Christ in us. We can see things from God's perspective, not just our limited human point of view. Suffering is all around us, but with the mind of Christ—God's Spirit in you—you can see beyond the in-your-face afflictions in life to the joy that is waiting for you.

If you don't know Jesus, call on His name now. Get the mind of Christ today.


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