Working on our family Christmas letter has reminded me that another year has passed. There were some big changes (our son and daughter-in-law moving out of the area), some great blessings (the birth of our first granddaughter), and some difficult challenges (financial issues).
As these years pass, our own personal frailty becomes an undeniable reality. Our “outer man” is undergoing the decay we inherited as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. However, it is not a cause for despair for there is hope for renewal even in the midst of this decay.
You need an answer to the question, “How can I accept the decay (which can lead to suffering) and not lose heart but find strength to go on?” In II Corinthians 4:14-16, Paul give us three perspectives to keep in mind as we end this year and prepare to move into a new year:
- Perspective 1: Thinking rightly about yourself (vs. 14)
Paul says that you think rightly about yourself when you recognize that you can still experience renewal day by day where it really counts—in the inner man. While outwardly you are wearing out, inwardly you can experience newness of vitality, fresh strength and rejuvenated courage and joy.
Picture your life as a garden surrounded by a stone wall. The wall around the garden is in disrepair, the paint is pealing, stones are cracked, and chunks of rock are falling off. But inside, there is lushness and fragrance and beauty everywhere. One day, the builder will come again and the garden wall will be immortally restored.
- Perspective 2: Thinking rightly about your circumstances (vs. 15)
In the world you take a pounding physically, financially, relationally. Perhaps you feel that sense of being pounded right now. Paul describes these things in your life as “light and momentary troubles,” though he, himself, suffered great adversity and afflictions.
You think rightly about your circumstances when you recognize that in the Christian life there is no such thing as pointless suffering (notice the word “producing” or “achieving” in this verse). God always has a purpose. You also think rightly about your circumstances when you realize that what is coming is “far beyond all comparison” to what you are experiencing now. We have a Jesus-prepared place that will last forever.
- Perspective 3: Thinking rightly about time and eternity (vs. 16)
Paul says you need to focus on the unseen. He is not speaking about your physical eyes but about your mindset, your perspective, the way you “see” things. Your thinking needs to be centered, not on what is going wrong from your point of view, but on Christ and the promises. This is where your hope is found.
This eternal perspective is not merely a mind game. Thinking about what is eternal will drive you to be concerned about the things that concern God; his heart can become your heart. Every day you are faced with a choice where you will focus your mind—the inner person or the outer person? Will you be driven by present trouble or by coming glory? Will your concentration be on the temporal or the eternal?
What you think makes all the difference. Right perspective is the road to renewal in the midst of decay.