“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Twice in this chapter Paul encourages us not to lose heart. That can mean only one thing; there are circumstances that may cause us to lose heart. He gives just two in this part of his letter.
In the first verse of this chapter he writes, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” He has just compared the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. It isn’t that there was any failure on the part of the Old Covenant itself but it did not provide any means by which men might keep it. What it did was reveal the sinfulness of the human heart by its revelation of righteousness and the holy nature of our God.
As we discover how far short we fall in comparison to God’s glory we may become discouraged and lay aside any further attempts to please God. When we feel this way it is because we have seen His glory more clearly than before and that is meant to be an encouragement to press on, not to give up. We don’t see things clearly now but the very fact that we see at all shows that we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (3:18). Instead of being discouraged Paul writes that God’s intention is to encourage us by this.
Secondly, as we age we are met with the frustration of the weakness of the body even though we know that we are nearer to Jesus now than ever before. The weakness of the body that comes with age, such as diseases that effect sight, hearing, speech or mobility, may cause us to become discouraged. It may be that we read verse 16, quoted above, and whole heartedly agree with Paul’s assessment yet still miss the point.
Aging and bodily death are no reason for discouragement. They are every reason for joy for the one in Christ. He writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (5:8). The aging body we inhabit should not discourage us but lift our hearts with eager expectation that soon we shall be with the Lord and He shall give us a new body apart from sin. Without bodily death we can not know the bodily resurrection we so eagerly desire.
There is more. In this life our body, though corrupted by sin, may be the means by which Jesus manifests Himself in this fallen world. Paul writes, “Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (4:10, 11).
Do not lose heart. In our mortal bodies we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and He will manifest Himself also in our mortal bodies “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7).
Do not lose heart. For though our bodies are aging and will perish we are being renewed day by day ready for the day we see Him face to face “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”