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)
Those who learn to live by the grace of God are increasingly protected from discouragement. “Therefore we do not lose heart.” This truth was touched upon in an earlier verse from this fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). The protection from discouragement there involved mercy and grace. Since we serve the Lord by mercy and grace (and not by our merit or by our resources), we have a built-in supply of heavenly encouragement available to us daily.
In our present verse, encouragement comes from the contrast between what is happening to the “outward man” and to the “inward man.” The “outward man” is the physical person, which can be observed by human sight. This is generally the object of attention among the unredeemed (as well as among believers who are walking according to the flesh). This man is “perishing” because sin has impacted all of us. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Man began from dust. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Due to sin, the outer, physical man is headed back toward that initial starting point. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). For those who do not know the Lord, this is a discouraging fact. They often strive desperately to prevent this inevitable process.
On the other hand, servants of new covenant grace are not discouraged by this fact. “Therefore we do not lose heart.” It is true that our outer man is also perishing. Yet, we see a bigger picture than that. “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” As our outer man is deteriorating, we are still encouraged, because our inner man can be in the process of renewal: “And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10). As we are humbly seeking the Lord in His word, we are being changed, brought more and more into the newness of Christ: “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
O Lord, as my outer man deteriorates, remind me of the encouraging reality that my inner man can be renewed. Help me to desire inner spiritual progress, rather than outer physical prowess. This I pray through Christ, my Lord, Amen.