So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

People around the world celebrate the rolling over of the calendar at the end of the current year and the beginning of the new one. We look ahead with anticipation and with hope that things will get better than they have been in the prior twelve months. This change suggests a new beginning, a fresh start, and a reset for some of life’s ledgers that record our wrongs, shortcomings, and failures. Yet, in all of this effort and planning that is focused around refreshing life, there is one calendar, a singular clock that is never set back and that moves forward with relentless pace and purpose, for in the real world, no one gets even a second younger or a day less aged when the new year tolls its entry. Every day that we live in one more to mark off the allotment of days that we have received. Each year that goes by will contain events, situations, and circumstances that have a negative impact on the probable longevity of our lives. This was one of the two primary subjects that Paul is bringing up here.

Paul knew physical and emotional stress as he had experienced them in great and powerful ways and on numerous occasions. His body had to be a bit worn and often a lot tired as a result of the life that he was living in serving Christ with true diligence in a world that was mostly hostile to that message and to its author. The Apostle was fully acquainted with the hardships of travel, he had experienced shipwrecks and been arrested and locked away in jail, he was forced to flee from angry mobs, and he had been mocked and rejected. The lines of care must have been deep on his weathered skin, and the spring surely had gone from his step. Yet, his passion for the Gospel of Christ and his zeal for proclaiming its life-giving truth had not grown any less powerful. He continued to love people and to speak forth Christ until the very end of his life on this earth. I can envision Paul during those later days with his body battered and bruised and with aching joints as he went to the Lord in prayer regularly while continuing to repent for the sinfulness in his own life and seeking out wisdom and counsel for following Christ along the path that was to be his during the day to come. 

The Spirit was present with Paul just as He is with each and every one of us who know Christ. As we yield ourselves to the Spirit, He brings us the cleansing of God’s grace, the fresh water of God’s truth, encouragement for our spirits, and wisdom to renew our hearts and minds. The Spirit’s work within and upon us does what it did for Paul, it sets us back upright when we are knocked down, and it gives us the courage and the strength that we need to continue on Christ’s righteous path of engagement with our world. The Spirit also points our hearts and minds to the reality of that journey, for Christ takes us into the realm of the spiritual and reframes all of life within the bounds of God’s kingdom come to this world. So, this is the other subject that Paul is discussing. We live in a world that is hostile to the spirit of truth, justice, righteousness, and love that is the essence of God’s realm.  In serving Christ we are breathing in conflict; so, we will experience the abrasive and harsh impacts of those encounters in our bodies, minds, and hearts. This is where the Spirit also works as He brings peace to troubled days, grants rest when the nights are long, and provides shelter when the heart is weary and in need of time to regroup and recover. This life will be hard and its challenges are going to be continuous and grueling, but the Spirit of Christ is more than sufficient to take each of us through it all so that even when the body is broken down and the heart is feeling overwhelmed it is His strength that enables activity and His love that fuels the spirit into living out Christ’s will for this day.     

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So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

The mirror is a cruel companion. So is this body that carries me around on its good days and that I seem to haul about on the others. That’s why the convergence of the two of them, body and mirror, can be so terribly jarring to mind and discouraging to my ego. This reality of aging and of the frail natures of our human shells is a part of what Paul is discussing here. None of us live forever in this world and with these bodies. Life on this earth will end, and that is, in fact, a part of God’s mercy, for He knows full well the darkness that resides in our hearts and the lost nature of the world wherein we dwell. This is not the place and we are not by nature the beings that should live forever and beyond. We enter into God’s mercy and grace at its fullest expression when we leave this life and commence an eternity of experiencing the redemption of Christ.

 

This struggle or tension between a life that we cherish but that is degrading every day and the promise of eternity is one that every follower of Christ needs to encounter. We should not wish to retain all of the vestiges of ourselves as we have been, for there is never enough of Christ present within us, and there is always far too much of the flesh on display. In some very tangible ways, the loss of ability and even of capability that happens with time and with wear and tear on our bodies and minds is good, valuable, and to be embraced. For, as our human strength is depleted, our reliance upon Christ’s strength is granted an opportunity to flourish. When this body falters and this mind starts to slow down like an unwound grandfather clock, the truth and the wisdom that God imparts to His people should be the fuel that empowers us into vitality for the day ahead.

 

Yet, this acceptance of the gift of wisdom that Christ offers to us is something that we engage or deny. There are no guarantees of being wise that come along in conjunction with age and by virtue of the passing of time. We have all known and been frustrated by people that land in the category of “old fool”, and I know that, for myself, I do not desire to be known as such by others and certainly not judged in this manner by Christ in my day of final reckoning. The process of aging that begins with our first breath of life on this earth is one that we can embrace and even welcome if it is accompanied by the presence of God’s Word, Christ’s Spirit, and the encouragement and accountability of His body of faith. Through the presence of Christ in our lives, we are truly renewed and vitalized into people who can demonstrate the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior and Lord in the world and to its people in ways that breathe life and hope to others who are challenged by the futility of aging without Christ on the other side of this life.

 

 

 

So we do not lose heart. Though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

The erosion and the deterioration of the body is one of the realities that all people face. The longer we live, the more it is apparent. We can do things to either slow or to accelerate the advance of time in our bodies, but in the end, time wins. This is true for followers of Christ just as much as it is true for people who follow other gods or no god at all. We can despair over this loss of youth and its strength and beauty, but despair gains us nothing. We can fight against it, too, but, likewise, the battle with Father Time is not going to be eternally productive. Now there is a third alternative to surrender or to full-on war fare, that option is the one in which we accept the physical aspects of aging and embrace the way that Christ works in us as we travel through life with our hearts and minds yielded to Him.

 

This sort of surrender is not particularly easy for most people. We are wired to be fighters and to be independent workers in those encounters with our world and with life. Yet God says that He wants us to surrender to Him and to yield our control over everything to His will. There are to be no holdouts and no exceptions to this total surrender to the Lord. So, when we actually enter into acceptance of the supremacy of God and give our lives over to Him in full, Christ’s transformative work in our hearts, minds, and spirits is accelerated. He takes over and renews all of the internal real estate that we deed over to His hand of grace, mercy, and love.

 

Although some people get this idea at an early age, most of us do not. There seems to be something significant in the way that as our bodies age and start to break down that our hearts become more open to what Christ desires to do within them. It is as if the strength and capacity of youth function as a hindrance to acceptance of the absolute lordship of Christ over all of life. So, age and infirmity with their ever-growing list of broken body parts is not at all a bad thing so long as we keep turning to Christ for our strength, wisdom, and encouragement. As our hands grow weary, His reach out more boldly from us. As our eyes continue to fail, Christ’s vision becomes ever clearer to His people; for, in the quiet of diminished hearing, God’s Word of life can be heard with ever-greater clarity.

We do not lose heart, but though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

Each passing day seems to bring another sign that time is not all that kind, for the mirror will reveal another spot here or a wrinkle there, and the joints ache a little more the day after activity than they did last year. Even the mind starts to operate just a little less clearly. Maybe it’s just that I am not getting enough sleep or enough of a certain vitamin? Well, maybe it’s simply that I am a year older than I was on this date last year, too. It’s all a reminder of the fact that I will not live forever in this world and with this exact body, for the organs, bones, joints, tendons, and tissues that I was given at birth were all infected with the fatal disease of sin.

 

On the other hand, my soul has been totally cured, released from being enslaved, and freed to rise above all of the pain and loss of this world. That doesn’t separate me from the condition of others or from the inevitability of my own physical decay, but it does change my priorities so that how I deal with the issues that life brings my way becomes more important than the issue itself. God wants me to continually turn to Him and to seek out His will in everything. Then, even the most serious illness and the most disabling injury can become a step along a path of renewal when we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s perspective on those situations. There is no physical or emotional pain that He does not understand, and there is nothing that I can face in this life that my Lord will not and can not take me through.

 

God doesn’t ask me to just grit my teeth and endure my days, and He never leaves me in a state where the day to day experiences of life are empty, futile, and frustrating. Instead, the Spirit of Christ speaks to my heart to provide encouragement and brings insight and understanding to my mind. Then, the disturbing and troubling times that are an inevitable part of living in a failing body that resides in a corrupted world are brought into perspective. It is through and during this daily walk with Christ that the aspects of my being that matter are renewed. For during these times of clear focus on the Lord’s direction and provision for me I gain great insight into who He is and about how He works. My spirit is renewed, transformed, and set free by this deepening relationship with Christ.

 

We do not lose heart, but though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

Each passing day seems to bring another sign that time is not all that kind, for the mirror will reveal another spot here or a wrinkle there, and the joints ache a little more the day after activity than they did last year. Even the mind starts to operate just a little less clearly. Maybe it’s just that I am not getting enough sleep or enough of a certain vitamin? Well, maybe it’s simply that I am a year older than I was on this date last year, too. It’s all a reminder of the fact that I will not live forever in this world and with this exact body, for the organs, bones, joints, tendons, and tissues that I was given at birth were all infected with the fatal disease of sin.

 

On the other hand, my soul has been totally cured, released from being enslaved, and freed to rise above all of the pain and loss of this world. That doesn’t separate me from the condition of others or from the inevitability of my own physical decay, but it does change my priorities so that how I deal with the issues that life brings my way becomes more important than the issue itself. God wants me to continually turn to Him and to seek out His will in everything. Then, even the most serious illness and the most disabling injury can become a step along a path of renewal when we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s perspective on those situations. There is no physical or emotional pain that He does not understand, and there is nothing that I can face in this life that my Lord will not and can not take me through.

 

God doesn’t ask me to just grit my teeth and endure my days, and He never leaves me in a state where the day to day experiences of life are empty, futile, and frustrating. Instead, the Spirit of Christ speaks to my heart to provide encouragement and brings insight and understanding to my mind. Then, the disturbing and troubling times that are an inevitable part of living in a failing body that resides in a corrupted world are brought into perspective. It is through and during this daily walk with Christ that the aspects of my being that matter are renewed. For during these times of clear focus on the Lord’s direction and provision for me I gain great insight into who He is and about how He works. My spirit is renewed, transformed, and set free by this deepening relationship with Christ.