Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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This Light Affliction

By Dennis Pollock


When we first come to Jesus, we are thrilled with the idea that we now have God to help us when things get tough. The Bible is filled with exhortations to call upon the Lord in the time of trouble, and we are assured that He will respond to our prayers uttered in faith and in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.


Some might suppose that this means we will have few troubles, and if and when they do come, they will not stay around for long. We pray, God hears and answers, and we can go back to the problem-free life we had before. But time and experience teach us that it is not as simple or as quick as that. Sometimes God, for His own mysterious reasons, allows lengthy times of delay before responding to us, regardless of how fervently we pray.


When it came to struggles, afflictions, and tough times, the apostle Paul was an expert. He had suffered much at the hands of Christ's enemies, and his life had not been an easy one, from the time he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. So when you read what Paul had to say about "afflictions," he knew whereof he spoke. In 2 Corinthians, he writes:


"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory..." (2 Corinthians 4:17)


Featherweight Affliction


It is interesting that Paul describes our troubles as a "light affliction." Many believers would beg to differ. Some of them go through hard seasons that last for years, not a day or two, and the pressure is not pleasant. But of course, Paul is looking at life from the perspective of eternity, which means that whatever we must suffer for Jesus' sake, or in the mysterious will of the Father, will be of little consequence as we look at it a million years from now.


Not only is Paul saying it will not be a big deal in eternity; he is telling us that our struggles, pressures, and afflictions will actually be beneficial to us in our eternal life in heaven. A few years or even decades of problems now may serve to make our eternal stay in heaven more pleasant and joyous than it would be if we had never struggled here on earth, and had lived a quiet, problem-free life during our short 70 – 99 years.


One of the worst things about any terrible, painful problem that comes into our life is when we believe we will never be free from this misery. It is painful today, it will be with us tomorrow, and next month, and next year, and we may suffer from this thing for the rest of our days. But Paul is saying that whatever troubles we may be going through, they are "but for a moment." Whether we live five more years or seventy-five more years, the day will come when we shed this thorn in the flesh and go to a place where hardships and afflictions are not allowed to enter.


Whether a sickness that lingers on and on, or a hot-tempered, impatient boss that we must endure for years, or an incredibly annoying relative who drives us up the wall, or an aspect of our personality that we would give anything to change, or whatever else – this issue, this unpleasant circumstance, this affliction is, from an eternal perspective, both "light" and "but for a moment."


Backpack Challenge


Imagine being told by a wealthy friend, "I want you to wear a backpack filled with bricks for the next week. Wherever you go, whatever you do, the backpack must always be on your back. When you sit on your couch to watch television, you must wear the backpack. Even when you sleep, you must sleep all night with the backpack on. Your backpack, filled with bricks, will be your constant companion for the next 7 days."


Nobody would want to do this. It would not be comfortable and would, to some degree, spoil the pleasures of our daily life. We might still be able to do most of the things we normally do, but the heavy backpack would make them less enjoyable than they otherwise would be. Yes, we could do it, but the burden of carrying a backpack full of bricks everywhere we went would be for many intolerable, even for a week.


Nobody would choose to do this just as a weird favor for a friend. But suppose our wealthy friend promises us: "Now if you will do this – if you will wear this backpack of bricks for one week, I will set up a trust fund for you that will supply you one million dollars a year for the rest of your life. Every year that you live, on January 1st of that year, you will receive a direct deposit of one million dollars into your bank account. And if you use this money wisely, you will never lack for the rest of your days."


That puts things in a different perspective. One week of wearing a backpack full of bricks in exchange for a million-dollar gift each year for however many years we live. Nobody in their right mind would turn down that deal. And anybody hearing about this, would say, "Where can I sign up? I want that deal for me too!"


Daily Cross


In a way this is not so different from what God offers to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus declares, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23). First, we come to Jesus and receive Him as our Savior by faith, believing in His death on the cross for our sins and in His resurrection from the dead after three days. And having received Jesus by faith, our Lord tells us to live a life of self-denial. We are not our own; we belong to Jesus. We cannot do as we like or satisfy every lust of our flesh, or live as we please. The Bible says, "He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:15).


Having received Jesus by faith, we spend our short years on this earth, enduring difficulties, denying our selfish and lustful desires, and doing our best to obey God's holy laws. It is not as though the Christian life is one continual struggle, however. God graciously grants us many pleasures and wonderful relationships, and He answers our prayers and provides for our needs. There is much to enjoy as we serve Jesus Christ here on the earth. But no doubt about it – there will be afflictions as well. And there will be times we will have to say "No" to the desires of our flesh. No one is exempt.


In a way self-denial is a burden, but Jesus tells us that it is a light burden, saying, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:30). We gladly embrace this yoke, knowing that whatever struggles or internal conflicts it may produce, it is working for an "exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We proudly put on the yoke of Jesus, knowing that it is infinitely superior to the burdensome yoke and misery of serving the evil one. And in the end, wearing Jesus' yoke for our short time on this earth will result in an eternity of happiness and joy when we go to live with Him. For "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9).




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