In my upcoming book, “Imitate Paul,” I draw from Paul’s life five keys that enabled him to be the great apostle, missionary, and church planter of the New Testament. One of those five keys comes from one verse, 2 Corinthians 4:16. This verse is a window into Paul’s secret life with God that enabled and empowered him to overcome every trial and finish his race and ministry with joy.
“Therefore we do not lose heart [at the innumerable trials he had to endure.] Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
This is a huge part of Paul’s life with God, an indispensable aspect we must explore. Paul’s inward man was being renewed and refreshed day by day. With this renewing, he was able to overcome everything being thrown against him. What does this mean? How are we able to participate in the same thing? These are important questions. Without this constant renewal is it any wonder why so many Christians of today are easily discouraged and defeated?
I am convinced Paul experienced more than what so many of us would call, “our daily devotions,”or merely reading our bibles daily, or spending a few minutes in prayer. Paul’s private time with his savior, his heavenly father, and the Holy Spirit resulted in a tangible renewing of his soul and spirit. There was a transfer of the life of God himself. For Paul it was not about an activity to tick off his to do list, but a life giving relationship.
Let’s examine two passages briefly, one from the Psalms and one from Jesus’ words.
Psalm 1 tells of how a child of God is blessed. Verses 2 and 3 say:
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The Psalmist tells us that a delight in the word of God and meditating on it continually will bring a flow of life into our lives like a tree that is planted by a stream of water. Like water brings a life-giving substance and life to a tree, so too does meditating on the living word of God. This life flow is real, tangible, even a substance that results in a renewal to our soul.
As we move into the New Testament, we know that Jesus is the living word. So our picture is expanded, from the written word to the living word, the Son of God. In John 15 Jesus uses the metaphor of the grapevine to drive home the same message. He says “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (verses 1, 4-5) As a believer abides (rests) in Jesus (the vine) there is a flow of life pictured by the sap that flows from the vine to the branch.
So, this is what Paul is speaking of in 2 Corinthians 16, but how? There is no one pat answer here, because there is no formula, no single answer as to how to develop a relationship. It is about spending time and relating, not doing something out of duty with a prescribed checklist in mind. It is about relationship, not a morning duty of reading your bible. It is about spending time with God — listening, communicating, developing your personal relationship. Psalm 1 is still valid today. If we memorize scripture and meditate on it night and day, there comes a flow of life to renew and strengthen. Biblical meditation is one way of deepening your relationship with God.
Paul’s secret place with his savior is to encourage each of us to have our own. Let each of us renew our commitment in this area. Ask the Father to show you and lead you. Deepen your fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Abide in the Vine. Come to the Father as a small child.