Summary: Do not be discouraged. Keep looking at (1) that which is unseen, and (2) that which is ahead. That is the unseen work of God in our lives, and the heavenly home the Lord has prepared for us.
Paul says, “Do not lose heart.” It is amazing to find Paul having such a cheerful heart, after all that he has encountered in life. He went through a lot of hardships. We know that because he tells us personally in 2 Cor 11:24-27, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
Yet Paul can advise us here not to be too discouraged by the hardship and problems we face in life. How can he be so cheerful? Two things we learnt from him – he advise us to
(1) Look At What Is Unseen; and (2) Look At What Is Ahead
Paul says in verse 18, “Fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”
We are very affected by what we see. We usually do the opposite of what Paul says here – we fix our eyes on what is seen, and not on what is unseen. I don’t think many of us will think about heaven, unless we are about to die. It’s too far from us. Yet the truth is we can find ourselves in heaven the next day, since life is in His hands and not ours.
Too often we are distracted by what we see. It’s like this farmer…
One day a farmer told his wife that he was going out to plough the field the next day.
He got up early the next morning so that he could oil the tractor. He needed more oil, so he went to the shop to get it. On the way to the shop he noticed the pigs weren’t fed. So he proceeded to the storehouse, where he found some sacks of feed. The sacks reminded him that his potatoes were sprouting. Then when he started for the potato pit, he passed the wood pile and remembered that his wife wanted wood in the house. As he picked up a few sticks, an ailing chicken passed by. He dropped the wood and picked up the chicken.
When evening arrived, the frustrated farmer had not even gotten to the tractor, let alone to the field.
Don’t be distracted emotionally by what we see. We are told to fix our eyes on what is unseen - the work of God in our lives.
You will be discouraged if you fix your eyes on what is seen. Paul mentioned at least two things that can discourage you: (1) our ailing body, and (2) the troubles we see around us.
Our bodies are slowly falling apart. Newspaper print seems to get smaller and smaller all the time. You have to ask people to repeat again because you say they are mumbling. You wonder why everybody is walking so fast. You are changing outwardly, not for the better but for the worst. The outward man is deteriorating, growing weak and feeble by the day.
This is only what can be seen. These will surely come. Paul says it is temporary and will not stay that way forever. There is something that we don’t see – “Inwardly we are being renewed day by day” – I may be weak physically, but inwardly I’m also changing – for the better. Outwardly I am wasting away, but inwardly – the real me is constantly being renewed – I’m growing more and more like Christ. Over the years, God has moulded me to be a better person. I’ve come to know Him, love Him and trust Him.
The psalmist describes it this way in Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” God is working in my life, in ways I cannot see. The unseen Hand of God has been there to guide me and prepare me for heaven. Paul says we need to look more at the unseen – the work of God in our hearts and lives.
And then Paul mentioned the second thing that can discourage us – if we focus too much on it, and that the troubles we see around us. But they are light and momentary. They will pass away. And in fact, these light and momentary troubles serve a good purpose - they “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (v.17) Job said, “…when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10). Look more at the unseen – the final product, the eternal glory that God has prepared for us who believes in Him.