Do you know what is opposite to faith?
I’ll answer that question in a moment. Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:12-17). Our momentary, light affliction he said? This is coming from a guy who was beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, went without sleep, hungered and thirsted, exposed to the cold, and spent his life in danger of thieves, Gentiles, and false brethren (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28). He called those experiences “momentary, light afflictions.” I often picture myself sitting around a campfire in heaven one day listening to various martyrs share their stories. John the Baptist would talk of his beheading, Peter would talk of his upside down crucifixion, the faithful saints of Hebrews chapter eleven would share their stories, and the apostle Paul would finish with his sundry of persecutions. Then I picture one of them asking me, “Hey Rob, what were some of the things you endured?” That would be a moment of embarrassment for me at this point in my life because I have found myself complaining about superfluous things. Afflictions for some of us are traffic jams, lukewarm coffee, and long lines at a checkout. I want to mature in my walk with Jesus to the point that nothing upsets me; it doesn’t matter who likes me or dislikes me, what I have or what I’ve lost, or what level of insults, adversity, or persecution that I may experience. I want to get to the place to where I’m able to call the tribulations of my life momentary, light afflictions.
I believe the secret to living with such extraordinary peace like Paul did is found in his next statement. He wrote, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). Paul was describing the essence of faith. Faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is the capacity to see what you can’t see; it’s an eternal perspective. Faith gives you the understanding that everything you see with your natural eyes is inferior to the kingdom realm. When you live by faith, nothing in the earthly realm overwhelms you because your trust abides in the heavenly realm. This is how Moses endured; he was able to see into the realm of the kingdom, and he saw Him who was unseen (see Heb. 11:27). What, then, is opposite to faith? The answer is “sight.” The moment that our natural eyes take notice of what happens in the earthly realm, we will, as Paul declared, “lose heart.” I’m not suggesting that we walk around with our eyes closed, and neither was Paul. The point is to open our spiritual eyes. We are to look at what is unseen; our eyes are to remain fixed in the heavenly realm. We are to look only unto Jesus (see Heb. 12:2). When we merely live by our natural sight, we will lose heart (enkakeo). This compound word means to become discouraged, disheartened, and overwhelmed by fear. Does that describe your life? According to the Bible, a righteous person will live by faith (see Heb. 10:38). That means that we don’t live by feelings, emotions, reactions, people, circumstances, fear, or adversities. Everything that we experience this side of eternity is “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Expositors liken this verse to an eternal bank account that builds interest over the years, and one day the full weight of God’s glory will rest upon us. To experience the full measure of the glory of God is truly beyond all comparison.
Living by faith and not by sight is the eternal perspective that views all of life as but an inch on an endless rope. The remaining length of rope represents eternity. Therefore, anything that we might endure is light and momentary. In the grand scheme of things what happens to us is not as important as what happens in us. When our sight is set on eternal matters we are going to be renewed day by day. We grow with courage, perseverance, endurance, and spiritual passion. When we live by faith, we will not shrink back (see Heb. 10:38). We will not cower, withdraw, or quit. To shrink back actually means “to cease from declaring.” In other words, to shrink back means that we no longer speak with hope. Our conversations have become fear driven; filled with complaints, negativity, and gripes. Language such as that indicates that we are living by sight and not by faith. Isn’t it time to set your eyes on things above and not on the things of this earth? Decide today that you will never shrink back because you’ve opened your real eyes to what really matters.
God, I pray that you would open my eyes. Give me a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Remove the veil from my eyes so that I can begin to see what matters most. Enable me, by faith, to never shrink back. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.