Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Frail Bodies

I want to start this article with an admission, I am not a young man anymore. I have always viewed myself as a young man, even as two decades have passed since the day I came as a 28 year old preacher to work with this congregation.

Twenty years, and I am rapidly approaching my 48th birthday. Now, I know that “young” is a relative term. There are many in the congregation that would still consider me a “whippersnapper”. Actually that term means an insignificant person, according to Webster, but I have always heard it combined with the term “young.”

However, my body tells me that I am well into middle age. I was ill last week, and it took a far greater toll on me than it would have in years past. My joints ache, other parts don’t work as well as they once did, and my kids tell me I act old. So I guess I will have to admit it, and get on with dealing with it.

Of course, that is not what this article is about. Instead, I make the admission to introduce the following passage of scripture from the pen of the Apostle Paul:

“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).

The sentiment of the verse is easily discerned. We realize that every day we are on earth, we are one day closer to our death. Our physical bodies peak at a relatively early age. Physicians say that for a man that age is between 18 and 20 years. While that may be so, the “inward man,” referencing the spiritual man, grows stronger each day. Each day the physical man grows more frail, and the spiritual man gains one step toward eternity. This realization is cause for increased zeal and a strengthened hope. The finish line is near, and the time of rejoicing is at hand!

At least, that is how it should be. And, that is how it was for the apostle Paul. As you read the entire context of 2 Corinthians 4, you get a wonderful perception of the nature and degree of Paul’s faith.

First, the context indicates that Paul’s statement was made in the midst of persecution. He was not simply bemoaning the fact that he was growing older. “Our outward man is perishing” was a recognition of the precarious state he was in due to his faith in God. Notice the turmoil in his life:

“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (vs. 8-10).

Despite the danger and tribulation that was present in Paul’s life, he maintained an optimism born out of his realization of God’s divine protection. He could not be crushed, brought to despair, or destroyed. He always had Christ with him, and this providence led him to diligence and a positive outlook. As he wrote in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”; and later, in verse 37, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Paul’s optimism reached even to the possibility of his martyrdom for Christ. While imprisoned in Rome he wrote of the possibility of his execution. Not knowing whether he would live or die, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-24). Notice that while conflicted, Paul knew that death was far better.

Viewed in this light, Paul knew that whatever he suffered on earth, it was insignificant when compare to eternity. Going back to our context, note his final words:

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Even severe persecution is but a “light affliction” if our view is on eternity. Paul looked for “the things that are not seen” (vs. 18), and this allowed him to rejoice even during times of trial.

We may be getting older, brethren, and our bodies more frail. But, with each passing day we are one day closer to eternity. One day closer to an everlasting abode with God. Hallelujah!