“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 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 which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Discouragement is a battle all have faced at different points in our lives. How do we hold up in this battle? How do we fight against becoming so discouraged we lose heart and “throw in the towel”?
Although the apostle Paul faced many challenges which could cause him to want to “throw in the towel” such as being pressured, persecuted, and perplexed, he did not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). In the midst of all his trials, how did Paul not become discouraged?
First, Paul realized his ministry. What do I mean by that? Paul understood his place in the big scheme of things. Paul mentions, “…since we have this ministry” (2 Corinthians 4:1). Paul was an apostle sent to preach the gospel. His “success” in God’s eyes was not based on how many people were baptized by him, but by whether or not he was faithfully executing the ministry Christ had given to him by continuing to proclaim Jesus as God’s Son. Therefore, Paul refused to allow the negative reactions by others to the gospel to discourage him (2 Corinthians 4:2-6). He remembered he was blessed to have the ministry he did and to be privileged to be one who had been called to preach the good news of Jesus. Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Second, Paul recalled he had received mercy. He writes, “…as we have received mercy we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). Paul had viewed himself as the “chief” of sinners because he had persecuted the church (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Paul recalled where he came from. Viewing where he came from (i.e. being the “chief” of sinners) to where he was now (i.e. privileged to serve Christ), because he had received mercy, was a source of encouragement to Paul so he wouldn’t lose heart.
Finally, as the opening verses above describe, Paul understood God was renewing him day by day into all God wanted Paul to become (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul writes, “…Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). As Christians, not only are we renewed by the transforming of our minds as we apply God’s Word to our lives (cf. Romans 12:1-2), but we are also renewed by the trials we face as we learn to place our faith in God as we go through these challenges (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; James 1:2-4). As Paul went through the trials he faced, he walked by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and remembered the reward that awaited him: “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).
I realize the trials of life can cause us to want to “throw in the towel”. However, like Paul, if I realize my ministry, recall I have received mercy, and remember God’s is constantly renewing me to become all He wants me to be, I can walk by faith and trust in Him to see me through all that I face. Today, I will not let the trials of life cause me to lose heart!
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).