Knocked Down but Not Knocked Out2 Corinthians 4:1-18Theme: Treasures in jars of clay.This week’s lessons teach us the importance of having an eternal outlook on life.
LessonDo you have your eyes on what is happening internally? Do you know that in all of the circumstances of life, in all of the things you go through, God is renewing you inwardly? He is building within you a new character, a new life, and a new personality, one that will exist for eternity. That is why this is all so important. If our life began at birth and ended at death, thinking about the future would just be absurd. As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “If I have fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’ ” (1 Cor. 15:32). But if we are eternal creatures, if we are going to live forever in one state or another, then what is happening to us now makes all the difference in the world.
C.S. Lewis said, “That’s what makes what is happening now so dreadfully important, because either we are going to be creatures of everlasting glory, better even than the angels, reflecting the glory of God for all eternity, or we are going to be hideous creatures, the creatures of hell, getting worse and worse for all eternity.” Paul says that is what gives us heart to go through the things we must go through. We know that we are being renewed, and we know that one day there is going to be a resurrection, and we are going to be with God forever.
That is the theme of 2 Corinthians 4. Paul states it at the beginning of the chapter and again at the end. He wrote in verse 1, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” Then in verse 16, he said again, “Therefore, we do not lose heart.” Somebody may be saying, “Well, there are times I do lose heart. I may not be knocked out, but I certainly am knocked down. It’s hard not to be discouraged.”
Well, in verse 18 Paul gives the secret of how he got through it all. He wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The old King James Version reads, “We look not on that which is seen, but on that which is unseen.” I am glad for this translation because the word look in the Greek is much closer to what this particular English translation conveys. It is the word from which we get our English word bishop. A bishop is one, as we know from Peter’s teaching, who has the oversight of souls. He has eyes upon the flock and he is concerned about them because he does not want one of them to stray and get lost. That is the idea Paul was expressing. The way we get through the struggles of this world is by fixing our eyes not on the things that are seen, but by fixing on that which is unseen, on that which our eyes cannot see.
If you understand these things spiritually, you know what Paul was talking about. That is what we are to be concerned about. Can you see how the Holy Spirit moves to regenerate a person? You cannot see that. Jesus said you cannot. It is like the wind. “You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8). But you know it has effects. Can you see how an individual man or an individual woman is being transformed daily, made increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ? You cannot see that. You cannot even know what is going on inside except to the extent that they tell you. That is why Paul said, “We fix our eyes upon that. And because we have our eyes upon those things, we don’t lose heart.”
John Bunyan created a great picture of Christian on the way to the Celestial City. Christian has to walk down a path where he is threatened on both sides by angry animals – ferocious beasts chained to either side. Ahead there is the guardian of the gate. The guardian of the gate held up the torch and said, “Walk toward it.” Fixing his eyes upon the torch, Christian walked straight down the path, even though the animals were clawing at the air to the right and to the left.
Just so, the world is filled with ferocious men and women who would tear the servants of Jesus Christ apart. But Jesus holds the light of the Gospel before us and he tells us to fix our eyes on that, and live for that, and we will not regret it. The world will say, “What fools they were to throw away the kind of fame they could have had, the kind of income they might have obtained.” But they do not understand that we fix our eyes upon what is eternal because we are creatures of eternity by the grace of God. That is what we want. That is the greatest thing in all the world.
Describe what Paul meant by “being renewed.”
Further StudyMeditate on the following passages pertaining to your focus: Psalms 25:15; 119:18, 37; 121:1-2; 141:8; Eph. 1:18; Heb. 12:2.