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2 Corinthians 3:18   And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory

Paul compared the believer’s glory to the glory of Moses, when he received the Ten Commandments at the top of Mount Sinai. [H]e was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord (Exodus 34:29). Moses’ glory faded, but Christians enjoy an ever-increasing glory as they contemplate the glory of Christ. 

Prayer and worship are communing with Christ who is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3), says Hebrews. Looking at the sun tans the face, and communing with Christ radiates the believer. This may even be visible to others.

A college freshman drifted from Christ and was trying to be an atheist. But on a cold winter night, he walked past a church that was having a service, so he went inside and sat in the back. He was unmoved by the service, until a time of prayer, in which he did not participate. But as he looked around, he saw his physics professor praying earnestly. His face had an aura of divine fellowship that was so convincing, the student put his trust in Christ again, and went on to become a missionary. We should want to know Christ so well that others can see it in our face.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart

Paul knew from experience that Christian ministry can be disheartening. The long hours, lack of results, and seeming lack of divine assistance can all be discouraging. That is why many who enter occupational ministry leave it for something else. 

In spite of his troubles, however, Paul saw his ministry as a gift of God’s mercy. Having received the mercy of God, Paul could imagine no better life than sharing God’s mercy with others. He came to accept hardship as a way of life, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:26), says Hebrews.

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel

Ever since our fall into sin (Genesis 3:6), the influence of Satan on earth has been so pervasive that Scripture calls him the god of this age. Similar titles include prince of this world (John 12:31), and ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Satan has more power than any other being in the universe except God. And he uses his power to [blind] the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel

A little boy in a developing country was taken to the hospital for stomach cramps. The next day his mother came to see him, and was surprised to see a bandage covering his eyes. She took him to another hospital and learned that her son was the victim of an ICR—illegal cornea removal. A doctor had stolen his corneas to sell them for profit, and left the boy forever blind. We can hardly imagine such cruelty, but Satan is even worse. He has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay

Paul compared the knowledge of the gospel in a Christian’s heart, to a fistful of diamonds in a flowerpot. There is nothing special about the flowerpot, but the treasure inside is priceless. Most Christians are not outwardly impressive, but what they possess is invaluable. The devil wants to steal this treasure, so we must guard it constantly by staying close to Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day

Once we reach the age of fifty it becomes apparent to everyone that we are wasting away. Thinning hair, sagging skin, added weight, memory loss, and reduced energy are only a few of the signs. But in spite of growing old, Paul rejoiced that he was being inwardly renewed. 

My wife has a friend whom she rarely sees, but whenever they get together, the conversation turns to Christ. They share how they have grown in Christ, how Christ has kept them, and how he is working through them. Whatever physical problems they have are nothing compared to the joy they share in Christ. They both continue to age, but are being inwardly renewed.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all

Paul was no stranger to hardship, and went through more than most. But all of his troubles did not weigh him down. Compared to eternal glory, he considered them to be light and momentary. 

They are light compared to the sufferings of Christ; they are light compared to what we deserve; and they are light compared to eternal glory. They are momentary because this life is momentary and will quickly pass away (A.W. Pink, paraphrased). 

This should be clearly understood by everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. The pattern he established is not a life of ease, followed by eternal joy, but a life of suffering as the way to glory. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? (Luke 24:26), said Jesus. Likewise, we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17), wrote Paul. And, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18), wrote Paul also. 

Unless we understand this pattern, we will be surprised by suffering, and accuse God of not doing his job. Suffering was the way to glory for Christ, and he is our example. Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example (1 Peter 2:21), wrote Peter. Our suffering is not a mistake, or an accident, but the way to eternal glory. And ten minutes in glory will make a lifetime of suffering seem insignificant by comparison. 

Reflection and Review
Have you ever sensed the presence of Christ?
Have you ever been disheartened by ministry?
How does faith in Christ help us through suffering?