4 minutes reading time (822 words)

Renewable Now

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In times like this, you turn to the Bible hoping to find something to get you through. Then you discover that the book you are trying to understand, understands you.

For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:8 - 9, Paul writes, "We are hard pressed on every side . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down." Does the phrase "hard pressed" paint a picture for you? Like on one side, you are up against a rock called fear and on the other you are being pressed by the boulder of financial insecurity. Maybe you feel the walls of quarantine closing in.

"Perplexed" is the perfect word to describe the confusion we feel when we listen to news broadcasts or read the headlines. One pundit says things will never be the same. Another says we will be back up and running in no time. Our political leaders seem as bewildered – and bewildering – and we are. When they are not ad libbing dubious advice about how to cure COVID, they are riffing about their favorite ice cream in front of their $ 20,000 refrigerators.

And "persecuted?" Did you ever see one of those paintings of proper English gentlemen sitting atop great galloping horses trying to keep up with a pack of dogs chasing a frightened fox? Do you ever feel like the fox? Can you hear the hounds of hell howling behind you? Do you feel hunted, targeted, trapped?

Paul adds two more words to this litany of struggle: "struck down." That's the phrase the Bible uses to describe what happened to Goliath when he met little boy David and his five smooth stones.

But despite all that, Paul says we are "not crushed . . . not in despair . . . not abandoned . . . not destroyed." How, in the face of all that trouble, can he be so hopeful? Verse 16 offers three reasons.

Our Renewal is Internal

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

When he was little, one of my brothers had to wear a skeleton-like apparatus that supported his legs and forced his feet to turn the correct way. The brace helped, but he couldn't run very fast or walk very far without tiring. When they are needed, braces are invaluable. But external support never outperforms internal strength.

The takeaway: What's going on within you is more powerful than what's going on around you.

Our Renewal is Outsourced

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

The previous point may sound a little like the ever popular "Look Within," bumper sticker you might see on the back of a 1986 Subaru or a Pinterest meme. If "Look Within" was meant to spur you to do some serious self-reflection, I'd say go for it. But it isn't. It's telling you that whatever you need – wisdom, direction, strength, counsel – can be found by simply consulting your own mind. You can find your own truth, choose your own way, be your own person, etc., etc., etc. Few things are further from the truth.

I apologize in advance for the grammar lesson, but Paul uses the passive voice in vs. 16 – helpfully highlighted in the italicized text above. We are being renewed. Not we are renewing. That means that the verb "we," is being acted upon – not doing the action. God renews. We get renewed.

The takeaway: While the renewal we need is internally aimed, the power that provides it originates outside us.

Our Renewal is Measured

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

The charge in my phone typically lasts me most of the day. Along about 7:00 p.m., though, I need to plug it in to a power source or it dies. It has to be recharged – renewed – on a daily basis. It's the same with God. Power from God is like the manna he gave Israel in the wilderness. He didn't give them a week's supply at a time. Every morning when they woke, the manna was there. Enough for that day, but no more.

Why did God measure out the manna one day at a time? My guess is that God wanted them to learn to depend on the giver, not the gift. If they could gather a week's worth of manna, they could forget about God and focus on the food. God would become little more than a grocer. But that's not the relationship he wanted – or wants. God gives just what we need just when we need it. No more. No less. Not because he's stingy or strapped for resources. But because he's not in to social distancing.

The takeaway: If the only time you recharge with God is on Sunday, you're renewal is going to be inconsistent.

In the next post, we'll look at more reasons Paul was able to face hardship with hope. 

Steel Magnolias
We're Going to be OK
 

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Monday, 17 May 2021

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