17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
In verses 17 and 18, Paul shared how his faith enabled him to endure suffering in ministry. These verses present five contrasts of current experiences with the eternal viewpoint:
“light” / “weight”
“affliction” / “glory”
“moment” / “eternal”
“seen” / “not seen”
“temporal” / “eternal”
The “for” here explains the paradox in the previous verse of the outer man perishing and the inward man being renewed.
our light affliction,
One of the ways that God transformed the gospel team (last verse) was through suffering. Present time is marked by pain. The team’s sufferings were not slight or “light” in reference to time but in perspective to eternity.
which is but for a moment,
Not only are our afflictions in time “light,” they are only for a brief period. Although the suffering of the team was severe, it was only for a short time compared to eternity.
is working [works out] for us
Trials work out a couple of things in the growing Christian: they (1) make them spiritually healthy and (2) enrich their eternal reward. Affliction works for us, not against us. There is an advantage to distress in the way that God perceives it. This is difficult to understand from a temporal point of view. However, from the perspective of God’s provision, it is not. It is as real as the promises of God. Computed from our pain, it is intolerable, but calculated from eternal glory, our future overcomes a trivial view of suffering. This is God’s view of the philosophy of pain that Christians face.
a far more exceeding [surpassing] and eternal weight of glory,
When the believer reaches heaven, he or she will receive great reward. When we weigh everything out, the scales of our reward in eternity far outweigh the problems of time (1 Pe 1:6-7). It far surpasses any value in time. Eternity is not affected, nor can it be diminished, by time (1 Co 15:43; Php 3:21). Our future glory stands out of proportion to present suffering.
God is in the business of intensifying His glory in those who apply the principles of God’s Word to experience (2 Co 3:18).
The perspective of eternity puts our problems into a proper frame of reference.
Affliction does not give way to glory; it produces glory. Suffering is agony apart from knowing that eternal glory lies ahead. Our present distress has purpose and design from God’s point of view.
There is a distinct contrast between the temporary afflictions of this present age and the “eternal weight of glory” yet to come. There is no ultimate future for us here in time. Death is inevitable. This world is full of trouble. However, our present afflictions prepare us for heaven to come. One is momentary, and the other is beyond description. The difference is one of perspective. Although suffering in time is very real, it is ephemeral because it belongs to time compared to eternity. God is preparing us for the future. Suffering cannot overturn God’s purpose.
In God’s economy, affliction generates glory. It is the God-ordained result of affliction. However, glory is of far more significant proportion than affliction; it is incomparable in degree. That makes suffering in time insignificant and time oriented. When we view our pain in the light of eternity, human suffering takes on a different perspective.
The ground that sustains the believer lies beyond the issues of time. By bringing an eternal viewpoint into our perspective, we see the things of earth dwindle in importance.