2 Corinthians 4:16-18
There seems to be some confusion as to when someone qualifies as a senior.
• Your kids start calling you old at 45
• AARP lets you join at 50
• Burger King extends their Senior Discount at 55
• Social Security lets you retire at 62
• Medicare makes you wait until you’re 65, and…
• The folks at The Baptist Home call you “sonny” when you’re 78.
Taking a page out of Jeff Foxworthy’s You might be a redneck…You might be a senior if:
1. Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio
2. Happy hour is a nap
3. It takes longer to rest than it did to get tired
4. You have more hair in your ears than on your head
5. Everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work
6. At the breakfast table you hear snap, crackle, pop and you’re not having cereal
7. You sink your teeth into a steak. . . and they stay there
Over the years, many pastors have heard senior adults say something along the lines of, “I’ve spent my life in service to God and the church and am ready to retire.” It is most likely that what they are really thinking is, “I’d like to take it easy and let the younger folks do what needs to be done to keep our church moving forward.”
However, the bible does not give members the permission to do resign from meaningful service. You can retire from teaching school, farming, construction, managing a bank and raising children, but can’t retire from serving God.
In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul is writing a rather personal letter to the church in Corinth. In Chapter 4, Paul explains why he continues to serve even as he is getting older and the afflictions from without and within are magnified daily. In this passage, Paul is telling the church why he will not resort to excuses when it comes to serving God.
Let’s look at the text:
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 English Standard Version
Paul is warning the church of a…
I. A Real Danger:
Paul states a personal conviction in the plural, “we do not lose heart.” He is saying, I will never give up. I will never quit preaching. I will never quit teaching. I will never stop sharing the gospel with the world. As long as I have breath, I will serve the Lord, I will encourage the church, I will love my neighbor and I will endeavor to honor God. No, I will not lose heart…
Look with me to verse 1, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” This is for every member of the church, regardless of age. If we lose heart, Satan has won a battle. Period. The war will continue to wage, and God will ultimately be victorious, but you will be a wounded warrior, never to engage in battle again.
Here is the problem with losing heart. The wounded warrior is not a “neutral” asset, using a military concept. Those who are wounded take time and resources away from the assets that should be on the front line. That is why Satan seeks to wound us, because it redirects essential resources from the front lines which are prayer, discipleship and evangelism. Instead of reaching out to others, your church and family are having to care for you, as one who has “lost heart.”
So too in verse 16, as in v. 1 we find Paul writing in the plural…Paul, You, Me, the Corinthians. Let us not succumb to the real danger of losing heart. Now let us turn our attention to….
II. A Relevant Concern
Paul acknowledges that he is getting older, he is getting tired. Frankly, he is wasting away. Some translations say he is perishing or decaying. All of these imply the obvious…Paul is tired, he is old, and he is daily getting older. But wait, look at what he goes on to say… “our outer self is wasting away.” Again, this is in the plural. The fact is that we are all getting older, we will all grow tired, we will all waste away.
A pastor friend was asked on Facebook if he ever got tired of doing good, of working long hours at the church and helping people.
I appreciated his response, “Yes, I do get tired from doing good, but I never get tired of doing Good.” In a similar way, one may find themselves tired while praying, but hopefully we will never tire of praying.
This should be our attitude. Yes, doing good will be tiring. Praying will be tiring.
Recently, as part of our church COVID-19 response, members and staff have been spending countless hours buying groceries, packing boxes, delivering food, taping devotions, lessons and sermons, calling the homebound (which was pretty much everyone) while still taking care of their own families.
Yes, we may tire from DOING good. We may tire from praying. We may tire while serving. Paul addresses this relevant concern, and provides us with…
III. An Encouraging Reality
Look with me at the end of v. 16, “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Yes, Paul was getting old, but his spirit is still young. “The inner self is being renewed day by day.”
Turn with me to Ephesians 5:18. In this familiar passage Paul exhorts the members of the church, “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the spirit.” The word “filled” is in the present active tense, meaning it is an ongoing, continuous action. This is what allows Paul to get up every morning despite the aches and pains and do battle with the devil, do good unto the saints, and fulfill his calling and purpose. Notice just before verse 18 Paul writes in verse 16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” The theme here is similar to our text…
a) there was a real danger, the church at Ephesus would stop giving attention to their walk with the Lord and start down an unwise path.
b) There was a relevant concern, the church would start wasting their time.
c) The Encouraging Reality is found in v. 18, the ongoing, regular renewing by the Spirit.
Yes, we may get tired physically, but if we will come to Him as children, yielding our will to His, God will refresh and renew our sprit each and every day, just like He did for Paul.
Finally, let’s look at a
IV. A Weighty Reference
Look with me at v. 17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
One of the modern translations renders the Greek as “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
Humm…how much does glory weigh? Paul is drawing from Exodus 20, (the 10 Commandments) where Moses compares the weight (translated as honor in many English versions) of our actions in relationship to our parents as pleasing to God.
Mark Bailey, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary provides this illustration:
Picture the scales of justice hanging equally when empty. Then imagine the sin, pain, and burdens of the world piled on the left, with God’s glory on the right. Like a speck of dust against a bar of gold, the temporal world cannot compare with the weight of God’s eternal glory.
Yes, our bodies are getting old, and we can’t do the things we used to do; but compared to what awaits us in glory, the aches, pains, hurts and frustrations of life are insignificant.
We all will experience times when physical limitations will not allow us to do things we used to do. However, there is much we can do…
My grandparents prayed for me daily from the time I was born. I cannot begin to fathom how those prayers impacted my life and service. I can say that those prayers have unknowingly guided decisions over the years and provided unseen protection and hope during seasons of adversity.
Today, my parents continue to pray for me, their grandchildren and great grandchildren and their pastor—every day. Sadly, there are church members who have retired from the ministry of prayer.
Sherri Snider, administrator of The Baptist Home campus Arcadia Valley, shared of the following conversation with a pastor’s wife who was unhappy with being put into a nursing home.
“As a pastor’s wife, did you and your husband ever have to go to someone’s home you really didn’t want to visit?”
“Did you ever have to go to a conference, or event you didn’t want to attend?”
“Did you ever have to teach a class or do a bible study you would have rather not done?”
“God often uses us in places we would rather not be, but if we don’t go, no one else will. Here in The Baptist Home are residents who are lonely, some are discouraged, and many may not truly be Christians. Could it be that God is asking you to minister not in a place you want to be, but in a place He wants you?”
That conversation made all the difference. I pray God’s word will make a difference in your heart today.