2 CORINTHIANS 4
How does your church attract people to the gospel? How do you do it? Is it your attractive personality? Or is it: “Why not join our exciting community”? We may well attract some like-minded people who are friendly with us – for a while- but later, they will drift away when circumstances get tough, or when someone says something to them that they take offence to, or when they simply get bored!
Paul refused to self-promote. “For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” (v5). Unless we make Jesus the object of their worship, affections, and faith, then they won’t hand around for long. It is God who saves, not our strong persuasion or attractive community. And God has to overcome the ‘blinding’ effect of the Devil on the unsaved. Their minds have been made fuzzy and they cannot really see or understand the gospel; but when the Spirit of God comes, then all is made clear again. (4:3-6). One of the things we can pray is that this veil is ripped away by the Spirit of God, to allow the light of the gospel to shine into that person’s life. For them it will be like Genesis 1:3 all over again.
How does the world see this light? Well, this light is within us, like buried treasure in jars of clay – or maybe like money in an old-fashioned piggy bank. To get the treasure/money out, the object must be smashed open. In ancient times, valuables and treasure were often hidden in cheap-looking containers, to aid their concealment. As we go through life’s crises and pain, the way that we respond to oppression opens us up to the glory of God within us – and the world can see that we are different! There is nothing like adversity to reveal a person’s true nature; there is nothing like pressure, suffering, pain, persecution, and the rest, to reveal the Christ within us. You won’t need to gather an audience; they are already around you! (2 Cor 4:7-11)
Let’s not kid ourselves: outwardly, physically, we are not getting any younger! We are wasting away, or being degraded by persecution, whilst at the same time we are growing both younger and more mature in our spirits. All these “light and momentary troubles” are achieving for us an eternal glory that makes it all worth it! God says so! Therefore, in practical terms, our investment of time, energy, and focus ought to be on what we are becoming and what will last forever. Most of the important things are completely invisible at present, but one day we will see completely our glorious inheritance. (4:16-18). In the meantime: “Do not lose heart”!