It was quite interesting this past week as my body popped all the way from the bed to the coffee pot then to the recliner where Kensi and I have our morning Bible reading and prayer, that such a particular painful morning we read the passage of 2nd Corinthians 4:16 that says: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” I thought about how certainly the outward man, or as Paul would describe even as “earthen vessels” (4:7), is certainly growing older day by day. The very thought of “earthen vessels” or “jars of clay” (ESV) in relation to our physical bodies is definitely descriptive as they are fragile, easily worn. In just looking at photos of me 20 years ago, I can see how young I appeared. I could even remember that my body wasn’t in as bad a shape then. As I always say, “high mileage, low maintenance” on this body. Whether we take care of our physical bodies or not, the physical body we have on this earth was not designed to abide forever. Some things we do may speed up the process of “falling apart” and unfortunately, I have done a few of those things.
It’s easy to think on the physical body and all the ailments that we experience, and it’s quite easy to get discouraged. This old tent will become tattered and torn as we sojourn on this earth, and as we know from the apostle Paul, in the very context in which he is talking, he and his companions were oppressed, persecuted. Paul was beaten, stoned, left for dead and so forth. However, it is interesting that although Paul does make slight mention of his afflictions, he doesn’t MAJOR in them. Paul makes a very intriguing statement about these afflictions in 2 Cor. 4:17: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It is certainly true that Paul could find the good, the silver lining as we say, in EVERYTHING! Although Paul does admit being “afflicted,” but he chooses to focus on what is being produced from those momentary afflictions. I think when Paul looked at a reflection of himself, he could look passed the old tent he was presently living in. If we all look at how much we have changed physically over the past 10 years, we will conclude we have all changed in some form or fashion, with hair getting either thinner or greyer or both, and maybe a few wrinkles here and there. We could focus on all that, but what we need to focus on is as Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:18: “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Here’s the thing. Paul knew this and something we need to know. We can only focus on one thing and I mean focus by saying we have good sight on it while everything else is blurry. It’s like holding an object up in front of your face. If you are looking at the object, that which lies beyond that object is blurry. However, if you look past the object to what lies beyond it, then the object becomes blurry and that which is beyond the object has become clear and in focus. It all depends on what we choose to focus on! Paul didn’t choose to focus on the physical body and all the maladies that come with it. He was focused on the renewal of his inner man! He was well aware that his old tent was frail and worn, however his inner man was being renewed day by day. This old tent that we have should push us, should motivate us for inward renewal.
As Paul continues in chapter 5, he goes on to emphasize this point about the outward man, being that old tent that is being torn down. Paul says, when this old tent is torn down, we have something better, something greater, “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Paul says that he is looking forward to the tent being torn down, so he can have a building from God! Let’s think about this contrast that Paul gives here about a tent and a building. If I were to give you the option of choosing to stay in a tent or a building, which one would you pick? Most, if not all, would say a building and for good reason, as the tent will not be the best for protection against the elements, inclement weather, and such, nor have the security and/or the durability that a building will have. Get that imagery in your minds. Yes, we are in these “old tents,” as sojourners/pilgrims on this old earth, dealing with inclement weather all around us in the sin-sick world. I think of Abraham who traveled around in such a manner from place to place, going where the Lord directed him. You know what Abraham longed for? Do you know what he was looking for? (cf. Heb. 11:8-10) That’s what Paul is saying here. In 2 Cor. 5:2, Paul says “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” While in this old tent, Paul longed for, earnestly desired for, groaned for something better! I thought about this as I have seen Ayden and Jaxon playing with a tent that the grandparents had bought for them. The more that they use it, the more it falls apart. A piece here and a piece there not functioning as it originally did. Paul says, yes in this tent there’s burdens, but he GROANED for that day when “mortality would be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4b; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-54). While we are in this “old tent” and while we experience sadness, illness, and such, Paul gives us the reminder that God is the One who has prepared us for this very thing and has “given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:5b). We have blessed assurance of a building from God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!
If we want to know whether we have become accustomed to this life and this “old tent,” ask yourself if you feel the way Paul felt here? Are we “groaning” for that building from God? I think it helps for us to see this physical body we have as just an “old tent.” It’s not meant to be a place to abide forever. This old tent will be torn down and something better is awaiting! All the things that are associated with these “old tents” should again motivate us to look for, earnestly desire, to GROAN for that building from God which will in turn motivate us for our inner man to be renewed day by day.
For now, we are in this “old tent,” which means we are absent from the Lord. We’re not home with the Lord yet! As Paul lived in this old tent, it reminded him that he was absent from the Lord (cf. Phil. 1:19-24; 3:8-21). And while he was absent from the Lord, he continued to “walk by faith, not by sight.” While in this “old tent” Paul sought to be ever pleasing to the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9). For the time would come in which the tent would be torn down, and he would appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).
I hope that it is our aim today as Paul’s, that while in this “old tent” we endeavor to live ever pleasing to the Lord who one day will judge us according to what we have done in this “old tent” whether good or bad.
Something to think about. Have a great week! – DJ 🙂