I see the above passage, written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, as a good basis for a lesson on "focusing" our attention. As in, focusing on what's important to our soul's welfare. In this passage he speaks of two different ways of "seeing" things, IE: the "temporal or transient" things of the world. Or, the spiritual way of where our sight should be directed.
I'm going to go out on a limb right away here and state that I firmly believe that a lot of man's problems today exist in our lives because of where we have our sight focused. I believe that we (people in general) focus too much on the things of the world (the things "seen") rather than on the spiritual (the "unseen") things. Let me enlarge on this thought for a few moments.
Now I'll be the first to admit that this is a very easy mental situation to get into and I also find it to be a circumstance that invades my thinking many times. But, I also believe that I'm not alone in this regard. I believe this to be a phenomena that everyone needs to recognize and guard against.
As previously stated, I see this as a "focusing" problem. As in, where am I (we) directing most of our attention? While in this "mis-focusing" position, it seems like all we're seeing is the "worldly things" in our lives. That we have more concern for the things revolving around our temporal lives than in the spiritual, or eternal things.
I just used the word "concern" and, in relation to this topic today, it's a good one. Other words synonymous with "concern" are words like "care." As in "what we care about." Or, how about the word "matter?" As in, "what matters to us." Actually there are quite a few words that relate to the word "concern" and here's a few more to consider: how about "importance" ("what's important"), or "interest" ("where does our interest lie") and "significant" ("what is significant to us." All of these words help to characterize, or point out, where our attention is focused.
Yes, we all have things happen in our lives that occupy our attention and need to be taken care of. Things that we just can't let solve themselves, because they won't. Wouldn't it be nice if they did? And Paul is not telling us to ignore or disregard the things we need to do in life, he's simply warning us to not loose our spiritual focus. If you notice in verse 17 (2Cor. 4) he refers to these worldly things as "light afflictions" that work to "prepare" us for greater rewards. We'll see how this works at the conclusion of our lesson when we look at some more of Paul's writing.
Now I'll also "fess up" to the fact that, like everyone else, sometimes I don't see a particular "affliction" as being "light." Why, even the Apostle Peter referred to them in 1Pet. 1:7 and 4:12 as "fiery trials." Another good "Biblical" word relative to this thought is "tribulation/s." Many passages tell us that we'll have "tribulations" just like everyone else living on this earth. But, The Word also tells us that, as Christians, we have One that "comforts" us in all of our "tribulations." (2Cor. 1:4)
Another word found in the Bible that is synonymous with "tribulations" is the word "sufferings." I guess we could say that we all "suffer tribulations" at times and, like "beauty," the degree of the "tribulation" is in the eye of the beholder. (Or sufferer)
This brings our thoughts back to where we started - our focus. Do we let the "cares," the "matters," the "concerns" of the world take too much of our "focus?" That, to me, is what Paul is warning us about. Yes, we all have problems. We all have cares and concerns of an earthly nature that have to be dealt with. But, he wants us to keep in mind the "relative importance" of these things. That they are only "temporary" and not to "focus" all of our attention on them.
He's telling us that it's far more important that we "focus" our "spiritual sight" on the "eternal" things. That we "focus" on our "faith" and on our "obedience" to the Gospel of Christ because the reward for that "focus" is of the "eternal" nature. Oh, we may obtain a relief from whatever "tribulation" is besetting us at the moment, but that respite is only temporary because there'll be another one coming along shortly.
In closing our thoughts today, let's look at a passage, also written by Paul, and found in Romans 5 that tells us just how this "focusing" mechanism works for Christians. In verses 2 through 4 we read these words: (Because of Jesus Christ) "through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings (tribulations), knowing that suffering produces endurance (patience) and endurance produces character(experience) and endurance produces hope." (ESV)
The lesson here today: "Focus" what attention needs to be focused on the things we deal with in this "temporal" life, but never allow all of our "focus" to be aimed at just these earthly things. We are to always have our "spiritual focus" on the things which relate to the "eternal." Our "faith" in God and His Son.