For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Christianity brings within the package of salvation the gift of suffering. Believers not only have the normal stresses of life upon them but also the tribulations which come because of being a Christian. We would all be shipwrecked and still in sin if it were not for the fact that Christianity is life and not mere religion.
Paul, under inspiration, conceded a fact that most American believers deny – our physical life is decaying and wasting away. As I have said to those with illnesses and the ravages of life upon their bodies, “It‘s ok, we all are perishing away. This is the way it is meant to be.” Our bodies are under condemnation; that is, the death penalty (Romans 8:10). However, our joy and glory is not in the physical but in our inner man, a man created by God in true holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24). The Lord Jesus Christ renews our inner man daily. Can there be any more blessing to a Christian than to know that every day God takes notice of your inner man and continually renews it with spiritual strength and vigor?
The reality of that strength is manifested in the midst of our light affliction. This strength moves us to look not on physical temporal realities but on unseen eternal things. This bearing under brings eternal treasure for the believer. How can a man like John Hooper endure the flames of martyrdom? What thoughts are going through such a man in the face of death? A letter dated January 21, 1555, some three weeks prior to his burning at the stake for the testimony of Christ, brings some insight.
… But now is the time of trial, to see whether we fear God or man. It was an easy thing to hold with Christ while the Prince [Prince Edward] and world held with Him; but now the world hateth Him, it is the true trial who be His. Wherefore, in the name and in the virtue, strength, and power of His Holy Spirit, prepare yourselves in any case to adversity and constancy. Let us not run away when it is most time to fight. Remember, none shall be crowned but such as fight manfully, and he that endureth to the end shall be saved. … I must be alone and solitary; it is better so to be, and have God with me, than to be in company with the wicked. Loss of goods is great; but loss of God’s grace and favour is greater. … It is better to make answer before the pomp and pride of wicked men than to stand naked in the sight of all heaven and earth before the just God at the latter day. I shall die by the hands of the cruel man: he is blessed that loseth his life, full of mortal miseries, and findeth the life full of eternal joys. It is pain and grief to depart from goods and friends; but yet not so much as to depart from grace and heaven itself. Wherefore there is neither felicity nor adversity of this world that can appear to be great, if it be weighed with the joys or pains of the world to come.
Here is a man who like Moses endured; as seeing him who is invisible for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. In the growing clouds of darkness over our nation, may we be strengthened unto both witness and constancy this day for His name’s sake.