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GREATER SUFFERINGS—GREATER REWARD
—SEPTEMBER 24.—2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18.—
WHAT great Christian courage St. Paul's words and deeds manifest! He that endured so many hardships, a veritable thrashing-machine experience, nevertheless writes: "We faint not; for though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Ah, that was the secret of the matter—the renewing of the inward man, the New Creature! The tribulations of the outward man would have been terrible experiences indeed had there been no inward man to take a different view of matters and to learn valuable lessons and experiences from the outward man's tribulations. The inward man had God's assurance that if God were for him the opposition of all others would be as nothing. He had the assurance that God would overrule all of his experiences for his highest welfare. He had the assurance of the Lord, too, that the glories of the future would be proportionate to the trials faithfully endured.
Ah, here we have the secret of the Apostle's great zeal for God, for the Church, for the Truth! He endured as seeing Him who is invisible to natural eyes. (Hebrews 11:27.) St. Paul lived a double life, in the sense that to man he was Saul of Tarsus, but in reality he was Paul, the servant of God, the New Creature in Christ Jesus. The world knew him not; but he knew himself, knew his God; and he was energized by the power Divine and by the Message of God's Word, which spoke to him peace and relationship to God through Christ, and also informed him of the glory, honor and immortality awaiting all the faithful ones at the end of the way.
And this secret of the Apostle's own experience is an open one to all of God's family of spirit-begotten children who faithfully are continuing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to be taught of Him through the Word. We do not have so large a manifestation of Divine favor as had Jesus, the Head of the Church, and the Apostles, the foremost members of the Church; but still we have in a general way the same favors of God, the same promises of God, the same inspiring hopes which they had. Let us not forget the Apostle's endurance when we read his words: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."—2 Corinthians 4:17.
The Apostle gives the same thought when, writing about the resurrection, he declares how it will be with the Church in the resurrection. All the faithful will be glorified, honored, blessed, perfected—not blessed in the same degree, however; but, "As star differeth from star in glory, so also it will be in the resurrection of the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:41, 42.) The same lesson is given us in Daniel's prophecy, where the resurrection is referred to and the resurrected ones are illustrated by the stars, whose beauty and brilliancy vary.—Daniel 12:1-3.
The Apostle's argument was that if the sufferings of Christ, in the Divine arrangement, are to measure the coming glories of Christ, then he desired to be a participator with the Lord in the present sufferings in order that he might also be a participator with Him in the coming glories. Instead, therefore, of saying to himself or to others: "I am doing more than my share of the Gospel work; and some others of you should come and help me, and give me a rest." St. Paul took the other view. He declared himself willing and anxious to fill up as much as possible that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ [R5951 : page 266] (Colossians 1:24.) He counted it all joy to have tribulation, knowing that tribulation would work out the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his character, and thus prepare him for the Kingdom. (Romans 5:3-5.) Incidentally, we remember the assurance of the Bible—that only if we suffer with Christ shall we reign with Him, and that only those who become dead with Him shall live with Him.
Many find it easy to make a start in the Christian way when everything is favorable. Some run briskly for a while, and then grow weary in well-doing. But the Apostle seemed never to weary. He was always on the alert, in season and out of season, so far as his own convenience was concerned. He was ready to preach the Gospel anywhere, everywhere, to all who had the hearing ear. The secret of his perseverance is given us in Verse 18, in the words: "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
What do these words mean? They mean that St. Paul had spiritual eyesight. He indeed saw earthly attractions, but they lost their drawing power upon him because of his spiritual sight—his perception of the things unseen. With the eye of faith he saw the Heavenly Father, the glorified Lord Jesus, the Heavenly hosts, the coming Kingdom of glory, honor and immortality. By faith he saw the great Millennial Kingdom spreading out before him, and heard the Divine invitation to become an heir in that Kingdom, to be joined in heirship with the Master and Redeemer. He had accepted this invitation. He had enlisted under the banner of the Master; and he realized that everything else in the world was of practically no value in comparison with these eternal things which God had promised. His confidence was in the Word of God.
So it is with the Lord's people today. We may see the advantages of politics, social standing, wealth, business, etc., etc. But all these earthly aims and ambitions are of comparatively little value to us because we have seen, with the new eyesight of the New Creature, the Heavenly things. Our ears have heard God's Message. We have been able to discern the things of the Spirit—the things which God hath in reservation for them that love Him, the things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of the natural man. (1 Corinthians 2:9.) We realize more and more that all the things of the present evil world are temporal in character; that they are to pass away with the New Dispensation which is just at the door; and that earthly honors and powers are all of less value every minute.
On the contrary, we see that the things which God offers us are eternal things. Is it any wonder that the Bible sets forth the importance of doctrine? Whoever is well indoctrinated from the real Bible viewpoint is strong in the Lord. Whoever is without this knowledge of the Kingdom and without this spiritual sight and hearing will necessarily be weak, and will lack the evidence of being a New Creature in Christ Jesus.—2 Cor. 5:17.