Almost all of us have faced something that was unpleasant but needed to be done. For those who have served in the military, an example of that would be basic training. Usually around six weeks long, we knew that it was going to be physically and mentally challenging. For most of us it was the also the first time we would be away from home for an extended period of time and we also had to deal with the homesickness that would be a part of the training.
For many others, it may have been taking a summer college course. These courses are painful because they cram a whole semester’s worth of work in a few weeks. I still remember taking first year Greek in seminary this way. For others such a situation might be when you are required to work long hours for a couple of weeks at work because the business you are working at has a big project or deadline to meet.
In each of these situations what we often hear is that even though it is going to be painful, we can do it. The reason given as to why it can be accomplished is because the pain will not last forever. Any physical hardship, mental anguish, homesickness, or lack of sleep will be over soon. That is a powerful motivation to stick to whatever task is at hand. After all, you can do anything for six weeks (or however long the task is).
In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul gives a fresh perspective on this way of thinking. In this chapter he is talking about his ministry and the ministry of those who labored with him. He points out that this ministry brings him many uncomfortable things. He is afflicted, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and lives a life where he experiences a type of dying every day due to the difficulties he faces (2 Cor 4:8-11).
But he starts of this whole discussion by saying that he does not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1). He repeats the same idea in verse 16. He is able to face the difficulties of being an Apostle of Christ. In verse 17 he tells us why. He has a great encouragement.
Here is the way he says it, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Basically, Paul says he can go through what he goes through because it is only for a “moment.” Such a remark reminds us of what we say when we say we can do anything for six weeks.
But in the case of Paul, his trials involved more than going thru basic training or taking a college summer course. We know how he suffered for his faith, including even being imprisoned for preaching good news to people. In addition, his trials lasted more than a few weeks. When he wrote 2 Corinthians, he had been doing it for about 20 years!
The reason Paul says that these 20 years are like a minute is because he is working for and “eternal” payday. What are 20 years compared to eternity? In addition, he was not working for an A in a course or to be able to serve in the military. What he was working for was eternal rewards which involved the “glory” of reigning with Christ. When seen in that light, such hardships were not only short lived, they were “light.”
The Lord calls each of us to serve Him until our deaths or until He comes for His church. How long will that be? None of us knows. But in light of the eternal rewards that await those who go through the difficulties, we can all say that with the help of Christ, “I can do anything for the rest of my life.”