in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  and, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 corinthians 11:27-28

it’s easy to idolize lives we see on social media, it seems like nothing ever goes wrong for people on the internet, right? Perfect vacations, perfect clothes, perfect bodies, perfect kids. Everything in place. We gravitate toward people who post about perfect lives because in our sin, we desire something different and seemingly more complete than what we have. We want more.

once again, there’s nothing new under the sun. the Corinthians gravitated toward false teachers who would boast in their lives and their qualifications, would boast in everything they could have and be if the people would listen to them and follow their teachings. and then in comes paul.

nothing like being hit with gritty reality after being fed the lie of a false gospel. paul responds to these teachers by boasting about his weaknesses. paul is using the bait of sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, pain, hunger, exposure, and anxiety to lure people who have previously been lured by comfort and pleasure. how is that supposed to work? it’s not exactly instagrammable.

these are the words of a man who has died to himself, and now lives to Christ. he said it himself:

“i have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” galatians 2:20

paul’s radical boasting in pain, weakness, and discomfort can only be explained by a heart transformed, and eyes which had gazed upon the beauty of Christ and can never look back. And you might say…well, I haven’t gazed upon the beauty of Christ. how am i supposed to count all my blessings as loss in order to gain Him? It’s not even realistic.

and to that paul would say:

“for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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 4:17-18

the things we can see will deceive us. Isn’t it funny how believing in something unseen seems so ridiculous, yet we trick ourselves into believing what we see online is real and attainable. And yet when we spend time in God’s word and prayer, he’s gracious enough to make his presence known over and over. 

paul walked in the Spirit so intimately that his perspective was an eternal one. it allowed him to see afflictions as light and momentary that would fully derail most of us. think about how your life and the lives of those around you would change if our perspectives were more eternal than temporal. we’d likely be able to get our minds off of our discomforts and annoyances long enough to care about advancing the gospel. the good news is that walking intimately with the Lord is within reach at any moment. 

one more question. Have you ever felt anxiety over the advancement of the gospel or over believers you had heavily invested in? i’m sure there’s a mixed bag of answers here, but i think it’s quite poignant that paul, having gone through a myriad of physical and psychological torture for the gospel, was still primarily concerned with the state of the churches he’d planted.

may it be said of us that in times of plenty and in times of persecution, our primary concern is with the advancement of the gospel. 

Lord, create in us a desire for you that transcends our desire for comfort. help us to count everything as loss for the surpassing joy of knowing you! amen

-erin boettge