2 Cor 4:17-18 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.
Eternity, or forever and ever, is a difficult concept for our finite human minds to grasp! To help us understand eternity perhaps an illustration will help. Imagine a sparrow that lives on the moon and once every thousand years flies to planet earth and gently scrapes its beak against its surface and then flies back to the moon. By the time the earth is a pile of dust then eternity has only just begun. With this in mind, regardless as to how long a life we live here on earth, the eternal clearly matters more. Many contemporaries of the apostle Paul would have thought that his life had proven to be a colossal failure i.e. he had been taught by the most prominent rabbi of his day (Gamaliel, Acts 22:3), had a religious pedigree and zeal that was unsurpassed by any of his peers (Phil 3:4-6) and was on a relentless trajectory of great influence and prestige among his fellow Israelites.
Paul’s life however took a very different course the moment he came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. From that moment on his life was a life of great difficulty and incessant persecution as outlined for us in passages such as 2 Cor 11:22-33 where amongst other things we read that he was frequently cast into prison, five times received the 39 lashes, three times beaten with rods, once stoned and left for dead and three times shipwrecked.
Amazingly, Paul describes these experiences as being ‘light affliction’ (easy to bear or insignificant) and ‘but for a moment’ (transient, temporary). Paul had not lost his mind but rather viewed things on the scales of eternity. He understood that everything in this world is temporary and will ultimately pass away unlike heaven which is eternal. Moreover he understood that the different trials and persecutions that he went through, God would use to refine his Christian character (Rom 5:2-4) Paul would agree with Warren Wiersbe when he wrote ‘Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us...if we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter and not better.'
The well known author Francis Chan describes Joni Eareckson Tada as the most Spirit-filled person he knows saying that it is impossible to have a conversation with Joni for ten minutes without her breaking out in song, quote Scripture or give a word of encouragement. Joni’s life took a very different course when in 1967, aged 17 years, due to a diving accident was left a quadriplegic. She spent the next two years in a hospital bed with an overwhelming desire to end her life. The thought of her being paralysed from the neck down being dependant on others for the rest of her life was too much for her. Yet, over the course of time, she decided to surrender her life totally over to the Lord and has since been greatly used by Him e.g. establishment of Joni and Friends Disability Centre which impacts thousands of families around the globe, has a five minute radio programme Joni and Friends listened to by over one million people weekly, refurbished and distributed tens of thousands of wheelchairs to the developing nations through Wheels for the World etc.
Joni says rather than her life being destroyed by disability ‘My weakness, that is, my quadriplegia, is my greatest asset because it forces me into the arms of Christ every single morning when I get up...I want to stay in the habit of glancing at my problem and gazing at my Lord.’
We at Medical Missionary News seek to alleviate the suffering caused by disability and illness, but allied to that to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all, regardless of our temporal circumstances, live life with eternity in mind seeking to serve our Great God and Saviour.
Written by Ian Proud, MMN Trustee