by Shawn Brasseaux
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 KJV).
Last week in our previous study, “The Tentative Status Quo Versus The Immutable Word of God,” we compared God’s Word to the current state of affairs (the status quo). In every sense of the expression, “the complete opposite of today shall hold true tomorrow.” In our example last week, you had a “smokin’ good time” Friday night, and then a “smokin’ Saturday” when your house burned to the ground! But, as we discussed, your circumstances never reflect God’s attitude toward you—God loved you just as much after the fire as He did before the fire. Our circumstances are always changing, but God’s Word has never changed and it will never change!
Now, we want to focus on something more personal: the concept of the “inward man” and the “outward man,” so I must present a new illustration to you. Suppose a Christian is lying in a hospital bed and dying of cancer. She is in the prime of life but now she has a few hours left to live. Her husband and young son observe her suffering, but they can only wait, hope, and pray. Does God love her in these last few moments? If God still loves her, why is He allowing a Christian of all people to suffer? Why does He not heal her? We ask those questions, oftentimes angry with God. We focus on the outward man, ignoring what matters most: the inward man, the part of us that neither ages nor dies!
Look first at Philippians 4:11-13 KJV:
“11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Whether the Apostle Paul was destitute of material goods, or having abundance, God had equipped him to make it through it all! Whether hungry or full, sick or well, helpless or courageous, God will always be there with the believer. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The Holy Spirit through Paul instructs us “to be content” in all situations. You ask, how can someone be content during a trial or time of deep heartache? How can you be content while suffering? How can you not feel anger toward God when someone you love is dying? (By the way, according to Philippians 1:13,14, Paul wrote Philippians 4:11-13 while he was in prison!)
When your circumstances get discouraging, God is still working inside of you! Every Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling them, something that will never change with his or her circumstances (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:13,14; Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit is continually working in our inward, new man (our new nature that we have in Christ, as opposed to the “old man,” or the sin nature we have in Adam). “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
This is what the Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 4:16, and also in Galatians 2:20,21 KJV: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Our “outward man”—the physical body—may be healthy right now, but it is destined to get sick, weak, and eventually die, just as we saw in 2 Corinthians 4:16 moments ago. This is why every person will be resurrected bodily one day, as the Lord Jesus said in John 5:28,29, those to the “resurrection of life” (believers) and the rest to the “resurrection of damnation” (the lost).
But, why does our outward man die? Why do we grow weak and sick? Does this mean that God does not love us? Of course not! Creation is prone to decomposition and death, all because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:18-25): “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23)—sin causes both physical and spiritual death. Prior to Adam’s fall into sin, there was no such thing as suffering: man’s actions precipitated pain and death, not God (Romans 5:12)! Even the Lord Jesus suffered the same physical sicknesses and had the same infirmities we have—of course, He never sinned like we have (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22).
Do not determine God’s love for you by looking at your circumstances; look to the eternal things to see God’s love for you! Do you not remember what you just read in Galatians 2:20,21? Your circumstances do not gauge God’s love for you! The Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for you”—this is how God proved His love for you. Every time you get sick, God would have to prove His love to you over and over. However, God proved His love for you once for all—on Calvary’s cross, and that will never change, and it will never need repeating!
Your primary focus should be on the inward man, not the outward man. The outward man—the physical body—you can see today just may not be alive tomorrow, but your inward man (your soul and spirit) will remain. Paul’s life was not always easy, and neither will ours be if we are dedicated to serving the Lord, but God the Holy Spirit will always be working in our inward man.
Provided that we have faith in His Word as we study it, it will bring forth fruit: the believers in Thessalonica were once pagan, wicked Gentiles; now that they were saved, their lifestyles changed completely, and they quit bowing down to dumb idols to now serve “the living God” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Just like all the other early Christians, the Thessalonians were suffering great persecution, but they were holding firm to the eternal Word of God (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; cf. Philippians 1:6,27-30). God loved them, and no matter what happened, they depended on God to get them through—they got through, and so can we! “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
God knows that you are going to have trying, difficult times in life, especially as a Christian: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Satan will try to discourage you by persecuting you and attacking you. But, as a member of the Body of Christ, God has already equipped you with the strength and power you need to get through your trials (Ephesians 6:10-18). He is there with you, forever, and He will console you. Let us take comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 KJV:
“3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
Even when you do not feel like God is there, or you feel that He has lost control of the situation, He is there, He is there, He is there with you!
Jesus Christ loved you enough to die for you. That is something that has not changed, and it never will change. Even lost people who mock God are still recipients of His grace, His unmerited favor. God died so they could have an opportunity to be saved too! And we take comfort in the fact that regardless of what happens, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We have the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ praying for us and interceding for us before God the Father, and we have victory in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:26-34). God our Father will always take care of us, and even if we have to face death before the rapture, He will see us through it!