God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part I
What to Do when Your Body Fails
Introduction: the series: God’s Answers for Failing Bodies, addresses a common experience that requires God’s trustworthy answers. In my rheumatology office, a common daily life scenario is played out. It is common for a person to tell me in a variety of ways that he is not happy with his body and he is not happy with “life.” The bottom-line thought is that his body has “betrayed” him or “let him down.” When his body is bad, so is “life.” He just feels bad.
The person is discontented and dissatisfied. He does not like what has happened, how he feels, how his body works or does not work, and the lifestyle he has. He contrasts his present limited activity status to that which he had prior to his bodily problem.
There is a reality that we all must face. A person’s body will fail, sometimes sooner than later, with death the ultimate body failure (Romans 5:12-14 – sin, misery, and death entered the world). This is a result of living in a fallen world.
Bodies fail in any number of ways. The failure may be in the context of an acute illness or one that lingers. The acute problem (such as pneumonia or appendicitis) is usually readily diagnosed and treated, and the body often is returned to a functional state similar to the one before the illness.
At other times, an acute condition is an added burden to a body already heavy with problems. In that case resolution of the acute problem may not result in a return to normal functioning.
Another scenario of body failure is the development of a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Bodily failure may be associated with cancer, neurological conditions, joint problems, and many conditions. Chronic illnesses cost the person in several ways. For example, there are financial costs, time costs, uncertainties, and dependence on others.
Also, unrelated to a specific disease, a person is “fearful of getting old.” Deterioration with age affects everything including our bodies (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8). Older bodies simply do not function as well as younger ones.
In addition, failure of one’s body to function as he desires may occur when no obvious disease is found to readily explain the person’s complaint. Such is the case for those who report pain without an apparent cause. The person may receive any number of diagnoses.
Patients can give many reasons why they are dissatisfied with their bodies. The major reason: their bodies hurt, they are uncomfortable, and they are not able to function “like they used to.” Moreover, many people will explain that they fear death, suffering, and or loss of function. Others may be concerned about finances, including the cost of medical care and potential loss of income. Some people are concerned about time.
A patient will tell me that it takes time to care for his physical problem and he does not have the time — or want to take the time — to care for his body. He can give any number of reasons including having too many people depending on him, too many responsibilities, or other priorities in life. Taking care of his physical problem is not one of those priorities. He may say he resents being dependent on others, even on his spouse.
Patients want me or their physician to “fix” them in some fashion. Sometimes they want me to fix the “unfixable.” If I am to be a blessing to them, it is vitally important for me to properly understand their definition of physical problem and their definition of fix. Far too often, patients use the term fix to mean the removal of the physical failure and or its effect. Many times, a person’s hope rests entirely on the expectation and desire to have a body “like it was,” functioning like it used to, not hurting, or at least “better than it is now.”
The person presents quite an agenda based on his identity. As I listen and examine the patient, I wonder if he is he ready to discover: God’s Answers for Failing Bodies. I wonder the best way to present that answer.
As a physician, I approach the patient from the body in. By that I mean I must address and practice God-honoring medicine. As a counselor, I will not ignore the body but bring those together from the inside out. Biblical truth helps me to accomplish both of those goals.
- How is your body? What is your response?
- What biblical truth do you know and apply daily in terms of the physical aspect of your being?
- How does being a believer influence your thoughts and desires in term of your body?
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part II
2 Corinthians 4:16-18: God’s Satisfying Answers, part A
We continue the series: God’s Answers for Failing Bodies. Since breakdown of the body is an ever-present reality, consider the following questions:
- How do you respond when your body is not working like you want it to?
- How does your response help or hinder you in accomplishing your goal?
- What answers do you have when faced with the reality of having a body that you don’t like, a lifestyle that you don’t want, and the loss of the lifestyle that you used to have?
- Where do you seek your answers?
- How have your answers been helpful?
- How do define stewardship and what is your plan for being a good steward?
These important questions regarding the reality of God’s answers for Failing Bodies require answers that help bring about victory. The believer may be faced with living daily with his failing body. However, victory is a reality for the believer as it was for Christ. Please remember the word victory. We will return to it later.
What are some common answers to the questions? Sometimes a person will offer no answers. They have no answers including God’s answers for their failing body. It is as if the person would rather grumble than find God’s answers. Moreover, he may think he is beyond resources. He may be seeking help and hope, but he is not sure how to define either except as “relief.”
Sometimes the patient will give answers that he has heard from someone, has read, or heard in the media (radio, television, book, or the paper). Those types of answers usually include references to medications, surgery, needles, unproven remedies, cognitive therapies, and or more effort on the part of the patient.
Another patient may say that his hope for failing bodies lies in just “getting by,” “coping,” or “accepting” his circumstances. He thinks the Bible teaches such an approach. He has labeled himself as a coper, and acceptor. Knowingly or unknowingly, he is facing the reality that these answers do not and will not produce satisfying results.
Specific diseases require specific treatments. Yet, sometimes proper treatment cannot reverse the failing body. People do age, get sick, and eventually die despite the best efforts to care for them. In the final analysis, the desire for a changed body on this earth, while not wrong, can lead to futility and further bondage. But not all is lost! There is hope.
It is wonderful that the God who designed our bodies has provided answers for failing bodies. Those answers are found in the Bible and when properly applied, they lead to living victoriously in a broken, perishable body. The victorious life on earth is a foretaste into heaven and is intended as a privilege and blessing (1 John 3:1-3). More on this issue later!
The Bible is not a medical textbook. But it does not need to be! It does provide everything necessary for a believer to gain victory in the problem (2 Peter 3:15-17). Good stewardship is one key aspect of victory (See my books: Endurance: What is it and How it looks in a Believer’s Life and How to be a God-Pleasing Patient)
What are God’s satisfying answers? I begin with Paul, a man who was familiar with a broken body (2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 6:4-10; 11:23-28; 12:1-10). In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul defends his apostleship and ministry in a most personal way. His focus was much like Christ’s. Both focused on glorifying God by pleasing the Father. Jesus perfectly completed His Messianic ministry, and Paul imitated Christ although imperfectly.
There were attacks on Paul including his person, his body, his integrity, and his message. He knew these attacks were actually directed at God. He called his readers’ attention to some of his bodily experiences. The verses above from 2 Corinthians described extremely difficult circumstances – God’s providence – that took their toll on Paul’s already decaying body.
Paul knew that “life” does not have life in and of itself. Life is yet another term that the culture uses to ignore and deny God. If all comes from God, then life represents God’s control in running His world. A term for that fact is God’s providence. Providence is God’s good, wise, and powerful control and care for all of His creation and His creatures for His glory. That includes both hard and easy times however defined.
Paul makes clear his allegiance to God and His sovereignty early in the letter. He summarizes his thinking in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
v.16: As a result, we don’t give up even though our outer person is decaying because our inner man is being renewed daily.
v.17: This temporary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison,
v.18: since we aren’t looking for the things that are seen but rather for the things that are unseen. The things that are seen are temporary but the things that are unseen are eternal.
In these three verses Paul addresses God’s answers for failing bodies; he explains why these answers are the key to victory. Like many people, Paul did not want to be interrupted. He had work to do, a mission to complete, and many responsibilities to meet. He was the greatest missionary the world had ever known and yet he found himself slowed down and encumbered. The fact becomes more vivid when we read 2 Corinthians 12:17-10.
Moreover, people were depending on him; he was faced with much unpleasantness. His body ached (6:4-10; 11:23-28; 12:7-10). He was faced with uncertainty and the real threat of death (1:8-10; 4:8-10).
Paul was under great pressures from without. The circumstances were a reality. However, his response to them was a different matter. A vital fact for getting victory no matter the body problem that one has, is this: circumstances – life – are neutral. Let that sink in! But they are the context in which a person demonstrates his belief about God and the significance of his relationship with him and God’s with him. Some may consider this is heavy theology, but it is necessary theology! It is the road to victory!
- What is your response to the truths stated in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18?
- How did Paul spell victory?
- How do you spell victory/
- What are the results?
God’s Satisfying Answers: Part III
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, part B
We continue the series: God’s Answers for failing bodies. In the context of his circumstances, Paul did not live the lie! Living the lie is a result of being an unbeliever. An as unbeliever, the person thought, desired, and acted anti-God and pro-self. Such is the result of the believer’s remaining sinfulness and the habituation developed from prior membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. The unbeliever has a natural inclination to ungodliness.
When an unbeliever Paul loved the darkness and rejected the light (John 11:9-10; 3:17-21). The unbeliever’s motto and mantra, and sadly too often the believer’s as well, is: life must fit my schedule: my way, for me, and for my pleasure. Failing bodies don’t fit in. He must have relief and a different body. He sets his sights on relief.
Paul, the believer, thought and desired differently. He did not consider circumstances bigger than God. He did not live the lie! What is the lie? It is the thought and demand that life is for me now. The now is the person’s main concern. Rather Paul did not demand, give up, or give in. He was not overwhelmed. He may have been down but he was not out! He did not consider himself a victim! He knew his resources were not exhausted. Why not?
Our verses (verses 16-18) give the answer. They teach God’s answers for failing bodies:
- Paul had the correct facts (verse 16): the outer man is decaying but there is inner-man renewal. He did not give in to feelings and give up on God and life (also see verse 1). He was wise. Proper thinking led to a proper interpretation of self and facts.
- He had a correct measuring standard to interpret the facts – the Bible. Biblical truth and its application enabled him to properly understand the now. The now is the present life including bodies and circumstances. The now is that which can be detected by the senses. His standard – the Bible – moved him to interpret life – the now – in terms of eternity and God’s purpose for him now – in his present life (verse 17).
- He had the right lens – saving faith, true hope, and biblical truth – with which to view himself and God’s providence (so-called life) (verse 18). Evidence of inner-man renewal was part of the unseen known only through the eyes of saving faith. He had the correct interpretative grid and lens so that he could correctly interpret what he took in by his senses: see, hear, touch and feel, smell, and or taste.
Paul knew that his body was decaying – he was experiencing it – he felt it. But he did not live by feelings! He acknowledged the fact of decay by using a word which means “to corrupt throughout, to decay wholly, or to perish.”
Paul relied on biblical truth to help correctly understand. He realized that God had not completely reversed the curse of sin on a believer’s body in this life. That change is reserved for Jesus’ second coming and heaven.
In the Corinthian passages, those things that can be seen – experienced by the senses including sight, feeling, taste, touch, and hearing – are realities including but not limited to physical failure and bodily decay (verse 18). Paul, and perhaps you, could see and feel his own deteriorating body as well as that of the bodies of others. \His sense experience was correct.
However, as noted above, Paul had a different interpretative grid. He had eyes of saving faith and true hope. He interpreted his sensual experience suprasensually! He had physical eyes but more: he had “spiritual eyes” which are the eyes of saving faith and true hope based on biblical truth. In verse 18, he spoke of looking at (from the word “scope it out”; “spying out” or “focusing on”) the unseen which included inner-man renewal.  God was at work!
The unseen is a reality that is determined by faith, saving or non-saving faith. Man was created a faith-based being. Post-fall, all mankind functioned by the grid of non-saving faith. Consequently, the now took center stage. The material, temporal, visible, and physical became man’s chief concern. Getting for self undergirded this concern.
This concern and its pursuit is divorced from biblical truth, for the unbeliever all the time and sadly for the believer some of the time. Avoidance of and relief from God’s providence is the unbeliever’s goal. Often it is the bel3eiver’ds as well.
Moreover, at some point in his life, almost everyone knows and functions as if there is something bigger than him and that every person has a destiny. That was Paul’s approach to life as given in Philippians 3:3-6. Getting and gaining for himself controlled him as it does every unbeliever in varying degrees.
As a believer, Paul’s interpretative grid consisted of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. He was able to properly understand God, himself, others, and circumstances. He knew the Bible was God’s tool-truth to be read, understood, and applied. Therefore he saw and understood the now – the present through the lens of the eternal (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). Both he and Jesus had work to do on earth which was part of living in the now. But each one saw beyond the now to eternity. Moreover, Paul understood that resurrection life began at salvation. He rejoiced!
Paul lived in the light because he was light (Ephesians 5:8-14). Paul knew man was a whole person: inner and outer man. The outer man includes the brain. There is no word in the original language for brain. Paul knew that man with this dual aspect must be considered as a unit. The inner and outer man is linked and each influences the other and the whole.
Paul drew a distinction. He compared what was happening in the heart (the inner man – the unseen) to that which was on going in the body – the outer man: the seen. The inner man was being renewed (the unseen) while the outer man/body was decaying (the seen). Outer-man decay was the result of being in Adam and of personal sin. The inner-man renewal was the result of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
Only the believer can live according to truth. It is the privilege, blessing, and joy of the believer to perceive and evaluate life suprasensually – through the eyes of saving faith and true hope using biblical truth as his interpretive lens.
- Explain Paul’s seen – the now and physical and his unseen – the spiritual.
- Paul is speaking of a perspective that controls thoughts, desires, and actions. What is yours?
- How do you see the unseen?
Failing Bodies: Part IV
2 Corinthians 4:16-18: part C
This is the fourth in the series: God’s answers for failing bodies. The believer’s body will continue to wither and decay, but his inner man is being renewed and will be completely renewed. This is not automatic and requires sanctifying and enabling grace. As part of the inner-man renewal, the believer functions as a good steward. Food and clothing are essentials of life. Some people put good hath in that category.
However, food, clothing, and good health are not the essence of life. True life – eternal life – begins in the now as a relationship with Christ by the Holy Spirit (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-11). True life is bigger and better than the material and physical. True life is and gives the way to victory in the now. There is a link and dependency of the physical and the spiritual because man is a whole person – physical and spiritual.
True spirituality is Holy-Spirit originated, motivated, energized, and finalized by the daily application of biblical truth. The now becomes meaningful and even joyful when the person has eternal life – he is saved. The saved person has abundant life now (John 10:10-11).
God may or may not bless the believer’s efforts by giving him a “better” body. But the believer will be blessed. He is to be more interested in inner-man renewal such that he uses his failing body as a vehicle to grow and change into Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 5:9, 14-17). This is the essence of victory. Becoming more like Christ is necessary for sinner to be safely in the presence of God. Otherwise, he is unclean and in danger of death (Leviticus 11:44-45; 16). Jesus was the only person that the Father was well-pleased and carries His people into eternity (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Hebrews 6:13-20; 12:1-3).
Paul knew that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and never works without, against, or for the believer. Rather, He works in and with the believer. His work is not to be misunderstood as the unbiblical saying implies: “let go and let God” (Philippians 2:12-13). The believer works heartily unto the Lord because God has worked in and is working in the believer.
God changes the inner man at salvation (the new birth: John 3:3-8; 6:60-64; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5). As a result, the new man is a new creation re-created in the likeness of Christ in terms of knowledge, holiness, and righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10).
God continues His re-creative process in the believer. David broken and repentant appeals to this fact in Psalm 51:10. David used the word bara when he asked God to create a new heart in him. David was a believer but he regarded growth in Christ as requiring the same supernatural activity as in creation (see Genesis 1) and in regeneration (Titus 3:5).
The believer is directly involved in daily inner-man renewal. I repeat another important truth: One of God’s instruments for change and growth in Christlikeness is the believer’s proper use of his failing body. This is at the heart of God’s answer for failing bodies.
Please stop and ponder that truth. One mark of a renewed inner man is the believer’s changed focus – from the seen and the now as most important (I call this focus sinful sensual living). Sinful sensual living has the now, self, and getting as most important. Self takes precedent; there is a self-focus and functioning idolatry. The person has reversed the Creator-creature relation and distinction.
The believer’s focus is on the unseen (suprasensual living): John 7:24; 8:15; 2 Corinthians 5:7. The believer interprets himself and God’s providence through biblical truth. In the gospel of John, Jesus rebuked the crowd for their lack of a correct interpretative grid. They viewed Jesus and His teaching and miracles based on what they saw without the use of biblical truth. As a result, they failed to correctly understand Jesus, His coming, themselves, and circumstances.
Paul, following Jesus’ teachings, acknowledged God’s purpose for the now: events and circumstances (God’s providence) of his life. He by relying on and applying biblical truth.
As the believer grows in Christlikeness his dislike for hard times including failing bodies changes. Unpleasantness is still there and is never to be denied. Jesus and Paul didn’t. But the believer, as did Jesus and Paul, sees beyond the unpleasantness to the God of it. This true beatific vision changed Paul’s response and should for the believer.
As the believer acknowledges God’s good purpose in all things he will embrace and use hard times as tools for becoming more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9). Wow, you say! Yes, it is countercultural and counterintuitive. It is the result of supernatural activity begun by and continued by the Holy Spirit. It is suprasensual living. It is part of the essence of God’s answers for failing bodies.
- Review 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Paul writes as a fellow sinner but a changed one.
- What three compartments does Paul express in them?
- Explain using such passages as 2 Corinthians 5:7: Paul moved from a purely sensual interpretative grid to a suprasensual one to interpret the facts and his experience.
What to do when Your Body Fails: Part V
Glory: Earthly and Heavenly
We continue the series: God’s answers for failing Bodies. The believer begins to live by and through the interpretative grid of God’s word rather than feelings, experience, and reason divorced from God’s truth. He reinterprets himself and his circumstances by the gifts of saving faith and true hope based on biblical truth. This is suprasensual living in contrast to sinful sensual living. Right living has a correct spiritual basis (1 John 3:1-3).
The believer has a sensual experience such as an illness. He confidently acknowledges tough times and God’s purposes for them. God’s providence includes both hard and easy times. His providence is always coupled with His promise. What God brings the believer’s is intended by God to be used by the believer to become more like Christ. Wow you say! I agree!
The above is as universal principle that guided Paul and should all believers. It is a call to holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 P 1:16). It is a call for preparation into heaven. Therefore, Paul, trusted God and developed more and more the fruit of the Spirit in the context of his failing body (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).
He was looking for victory, but victory had to be defined God’s way. The believer is called to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). Becoming more Christ is to be a joy, blessing, privilege, and duty. Too often, the believer considers becoming more like Christ a burden and something to avoid if relief does not accompany it. Sometimes people use God to get: a better body, spouse or friend.
Paul had the correct emphasis and priorities in and for life. He knew that a change in his inner man (and the fruit produced by that change) was incomparably unique and superior to relief from physical problems. Again, that statement defies human understanding. If stewardship is divorced from biblical truth, the person’s is self-focused. Self takes center stage and God is ignored and only used to get. Again, these concepts are countercultural and counterintuitive.
Paul focused on truth: God’s answers for failing bodies! The believer knows that things that are seen (“sensed”) are related to the now; they are material, and physical and will not last. His physical body and its failure were only temporary; its end was in sight.
Paul did not mean that the now: the physical and life on earth was not important. He pointed that discipline and physical training was worthwhile – of some value although limited. But godliness has value for all things beginning now and continuing into eternity (1Timothy 4:7-8). The sensual had to be interpreted through and lived according to the suprasensual.
Supernaturally, Paul changed his measuring scale from the system he used as an unbeliever and an immature believer. As an unbeliever he approached life from a purely sensual perspective. Getting for self was most important as demonstrated in Philippians 3:7-11. He reckoned, counted, considered everyone as dung – trash – for the intimacy and fellowship that he had in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Again heavy theology!
Feeling good about himself had been his driving force. He had distorted the true pleasure principle. Instead of enjoying God for who He is and not what He gives, he enjoyed the now for what he could get.
At salvation there was a change in Paul from the insider out which had continued. When he wrote the Corinthians, Paul had matured spiritually. At this point, Paul proclaimed that the seen things (the sensual: the now, the physical and the material) weighed very little on his measuring scale (verse 17).
He did not mean that the now was unimportant (see John 4:31-34; Luke 10:38-42). Paul knew that the physical world and life in it mattered. He understood that this is his Father’s world. He knew God desired and demanded a return on His investment: growing believers as prophets (truth tellers), as priests (true worshippers), and as kings (subduing God’s enemies and bringing some into the kingdom).
Enjoying God’s kingdom work – nature and its beauty – is wonderful aspect of living now. Even that pales when you consider the new heavens and the earth (Revelation 21:1-8)!
But as a believer especially a maturing one, Paul had a different scale, a different measuring instrument and interpretative grid! He had a suprasensual interpretative grid. The now – life and things pertaining to it such as a functioning body –were still important. The Bible encourages good stewardship and Jesus took care of His body. But Paul had a different understanding of the now.
The now, his present life and the things of it, is the stage on which the believer displays the fact that he has a piece of heaven now! Heaven came to him in the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 3:17-21; 2 Timothy 1:14). I repeat: eternal life began at salvation. The believer armed with a new relationship in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, moves toward heaven; while on earth he develops Christlikeness which is a foretaste of heaven. The believer has a proper vertical reference and eternal perspective (see my book: Endurance: What it is and How it Looks in the Believer’s Life). He has his eyes on heaven and his feet on earth as he sees clearly and walks the right path (Romans 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3).
Paul thought and desired as one with “one foot in heaven.” He evaluated things correctly via truth as his new standard. He understood the seen and the now: they are temporary, material, physical, and earthly including bodily failure. Those are givens. He defined the unseen as inner-person renewal, growth in Christlikeness, and a future with God in heaven that began on earth as part of resurrection life now (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-10). He knew and rejoiced that inner-man renewal was a reality in this present life!
Moreover, he contrasted the two and found that the seen was lightweight and the unseen was heavyweight! The heavyweight won! It was much more valuable. However, he did not functionally divide the two. He knew that the inner and outer man were linked and each influenced the other. He remained committed to the whole person – body and soul (heart, inner man). He took care of his body for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Paul determined that glory must be defined God’s way. Glory was not to be found solely in the seen including bodily relief. That too is temporary. However, desiring relief may be part of good stewardship which is part of the unseen. Taking care of the body God’s way for His glory honors God, a worthwhile endeavor (See my book: How to be a God-Pleasing Patient).
True inner-man change is a result of inner-man renewal and affects the whole person including care of the body. Only through such renewal can he or any believer look forward to being in the presence of God forever. Inner-man renewal is a necessity. If there is no growth in Christ, the person must ask if he is a believer. This motivation directed him daily (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). Such is God’s answers for failing bodies.
- Define Paul’s view of the now and the eternal.
- When he compared the two, what did he understand? Do you agree or disagree?
- How does being God’s kind of steward fit into God’s answers for failing bodies?
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part VI
We continue the series: God’s answers for failing bodies. Glory on man’s measuring scale, always for the unbeliever and sometimes for the believer, is often spelled relief. However, when Paul, and believers, uses God’s measuring scale (biblical truth), he redefined glory God’s way.
He called hard times and his failing body momentary, temporary and light. He could only say that because he contrasted the seen and the now to the eternal. The seen including a decaying body was lightweight versus the eternal which was heavyweight. Being in God’s presence motivated Paul as it did David (Philippians 3:7-11; Psalm 34:8)!
He followed Christ’s example (Hebrews 12:1-3). Paul did not minimize or make light of trouble. If he did, he would have cast doubt on Christ’s perfect active obedience. Christ never doubted His call to covenantal faithfulness and the magnitude of the pressure to do otherwise. Hard times occur for both believer and unbeliever. Only the believer views them correctly. Hard times do not produce inner-man renewal. They are only the context. Rather responding in and to them as a God-pleaser is the key for victory. Paul, and the believer, could only do that if he compared and contrasted the now and the seen to the eternal and the invisible.
Growth in Christlikeness now pointed him heavenward. Paul was able to define glory differently. He had a piece of glory and heaven at salvation. Glory weighed much more on the scale than the cessation of or relief from physical problems. Again this is counterintuitive! It can be understood only through grace.
The believer is to follow Paul’s and Christ’s example! God’s glory is continually manifested as the believer developed more Christlikeness. Paul brought the present – the now – into proper perspective.
The ultimate hard time is demonstrated in and at the cross. The agony of being considered sin and sinner and yet being truly God and truly perfect man is mind-boggling. Jesus demonstrated the proper perspective. He lived in the now as He looked ahead to heaven (the eternal). His specific grid was the cross (Hebrews 12:1-3). Jesus had a proper view of the now because He had a proper vertical reference and eternal perspective which He imparts to every believer by virtue of the Holy Spirit.
Paul was sustained not by a desire for a new body (even though he looked forward to receiving his resurrected, glorified body: 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Philippians 3:21). Rather, he was sustained and he sustained himself by the focusing on the unseen which he “saw” and understood only with the eyes of saving faith and true hope. Paul lived suprasensually as did Jesus. Jesus and Paul did not live the lie.
Paul did not let his physical limitations discourage him. He did not depress himself (2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:8-10: see my website post: Was Jesus Depressed: jimhalla.com). Rather, he used the hard times and encouraged believers to do the same! He was excited by what was happening to him in the inner man! Inner-man renewal was more important than relief.
He knew that inner-man renewal was not automatic or easy. Old habits of self-pleasing in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions change slowly. He also knew that he was saved to a life of godliness through disciplining himself (1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Peter 3:18).
Paul began more and more to think, desire, and function more like Christ as a God-pleaser in place of self-pleasing and self-interest. He had to put off self-pleasing and self-dependence and put on Christlikeness. His relationship with Christ meant something!
He knew that a proper view of the now and the unseen produced a mindset and lifestyle that had eternal dividends. Those dividends were not limited to eternity. Life now and in the now was simplified even though his physical problems may not vanish and even increase!
Paul was growing in Christlikeness; he was running the race – conducting himself – God’s way; and he looked forward to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:12). The changes in Paul’s thoughts, desires, and actions imitated Christ. Both focused on pleasing God, Christ perfectly and Paul imperfectly, and were willing and privileged to use hard times to develop fear of the Lord. Such are God’s answers for failing bodies!
Consider. Paul experienced a continuous foretaste of life in heaven – pleasing God and enjoying Him. He wanted more of that (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 3:7-11). He knew the trouble was the context, the classroom, and the crucible for him to develop as a God-pleaser. This growth pointed to temporal and eternal realities: the reality of saving and sanctifying grace now and the joy of the eternal reality of being in God’s presence.
He also knew eternal life and resurrection life had begun on earth! Paul knew that becoming more like Christ was to his benefit because it was for the praise and glory of Christ now and eternally (Romans 8:28-29). Paul lived in the now but not for the now. Rather he looked forward to heaven and was able to please God out of privilege and blessing (Philippians 1:19-21; 1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4).
- Paul was tempted to live the lie, but he did not. Define the lie and give reasons he did not.
- How did Paul imitate Christ?
- How do you imitate Christ and Paul in terms of a failing body? Give reasons and results.
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part VII
What to Do when Your Body Fails, part A
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We continue the series: God’s answers for failing bodies. Paul opened chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians by declaring that he knew how to handle the various pressures of life which are God’s providence (4:1-15). In 2 Corinthians 4:1, Paul wrote: “Therefore since we have this service to perform as the result of God’s mercy, we don’t give up.”
The word translated “give up” was also used in verse 16 (also see Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13). It means “to be faint hearted and fearful, to pull back, to lose courage, to be cowardly.” Jesus gives this same command when He says to various people: to take courage, take heart, and cheer up (Matthew 9:2, 22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; 10:49; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11). Paul is saying that when believers imitate Christ, they are strong-hearted due to the work of the Holy Spirit. Suprasensual living always trumps sinful sensual living.
The introduction in verse 1 paved the way for verses 16-18 (see previous blogs). What was Paul’s secret and God’s superior answer for failing bodies and handling difficult circumstances?
One was gratitude (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul was no coward. He was strong-hearted! He was intensely grateful for three things:
- God and His mercy: Paul was saved. God was exceedingly merciful and demonstrated His mercy by saving him (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
- God and His covenantal faithfulness: God entrusted Paul with a task to do – ministry. Paul knew God would not leave or forsake him, His yes was yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).
- God and His provision: God continually enabled him to accomplish the task through His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 14-17; 8:9; 9:8).
One of the greatest, ongoing joys and contentment in Paul’s life was the renewal of his inner man. The term is cumbersome but it is not to be a hidden truth! Inner–man renewal was manifested by imitating Christ and pleasing the Father. Unless you have the mind of Christ, you will not comprehend that truth (1 Corinthians 2:16). Even then, it is grace upon grace that enables believers to understand, to apply, and to grow. As they do, God is glorified. If He is not glorified, He would not be God!
Paul was satisfied and encouraged. His renewal was evidenced by changed thoughts, desires, and actions daily and a different pattern of life. It was active and visible. There are to be no silent Christians!
Paul knew he was saved. Salvation refers to the Holy Spirit’s initial work in the inner man (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Paul was just as excited and grateful that God’s Spirit was continuing to work effecting inward, spiritual renewal. Paul was forever indebted to God. Therefore, he carried on his God-given tasks out of reverence and gratitude for what he was in Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:12-16). He lived suprasensually.
Later in the second letter to the Corinthians, we read that Paul had a clear vision of what life was all about. One would think that the removal of his aches and pains would have enabled Paul to do a better job. But that is not the way God viewed it as Paul makes clear in 12:7-10:
v.7: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet my body.
v.8: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
v.9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
v.10: That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.
Paul wrote that God wanted to prevent sin (pride) in him (verse 7). This seems so counterintuitive and countercultural especially today. Actually, it is a supreme display of love and mercy! It is one of the lessons of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)!
Even more astounding is the reality of God’s instrument for accomplishing that purpose. God accomplished His plan by afflicting Paul with a specific physical problem – a thorn in the flesh (verse 7). In response, Paul prayed, asking for relief, but God’s answer was “no” (verses 8-9). We are not sure what the physical malady was; apparently God did not want us to know.
Wow, you are probably saying. That is God’s answers for failing bodies! God’s answer is startling enough, but God’s explanation is even more startling as given in verse 9: My grace is sufficient for you. God says, in essence, that it was good for Paul to be in a situation where his own resources were insufficient for him to find relief or to remove him from it.
Paul was faced with a dilemma and choice: does God really know best for me? Who would Paul trust: self or God (Joshua 24:14-15; 1 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:8-10)? Paul was facing the true definition of the pleasure principle and the contrast between sensual and suprasensual living.
- When are you tempted to give in give up?
- What is your response?
- What was Paul’s response?
- Study 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 4:8-10. 12:7-10: record the main message and give reasons why you agree or disagree.
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part VIII
What to Do when Your Body Fails, part B
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We continued the series of God’s answers for failing bodies. A closer look at 2 Corinthians is in order. Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, did not quench, offend, or resist the Spirit and His influence (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Rather, he relied on God’s more-than-sufficient grace and power (see Proverbs 3:5-8; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
v.7: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet my body.
v.8: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
v.9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
v.10: That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.
Paul learned the inexhaustible truth of the inexhaustible God. God never stops being God and holding His people to Himself. Circumstances and feelings may suggest otherwise, but feelings and circumstances never trump God’s presence, promises, plan, purpose, power, and provisions.
Moreover, Paul’s endurance and daily effort were to be a living demonstration of God’s power in him. That is profound! That is part of God’s answers for failing bodies (Again see my book: Endurance: What It is and How It Looks In a Believer’s Life).
The Holy Spirit was not finished! If what had gone before as recorded in verse 7-9 is startling enough, the Spirit intensifies and personalizes the intensity of the Triune God’s wisdom and goodness. Paul’s response fits even more all that is startling. He understood and accepted God’s response of “no” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
We have already acknowledged that Paul coveted the renewal of his inner man (unseen) over against body renewal (seen and now) on this earth. Inner-man renewal does not wait for heaven. Physical, body renewal does!
As a result of his proper understanding of God and the Spirit’s work in the believer, Paul did not complain about God’s method for producing his inner-man renewal. He acknowledged and accepted his responsibility in that renewal.
What were Paul’s response to God’s no and His explanation? Paul said that he rejoiced in his bodily problems and experiences. Wow! Let me be clear. He was no Stoic or masochist. He did not enjoy the discomfort and unpleasantness.
But he lived suprasensually via saving faith and true hope. Therefore he understood and embraced God’s purpose, His wisdom and His goodness. Such is how the phrase God’s answers for failing bodies is to be understood. Therefore, Paul looked beyond the circumstances to the God of “life” – his circumstances. As with Jesus, the eternal controlled Paul’s response to the present.
- Do you think 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is real? Do you think God is like that? Do you think a person could respond as Paul did?
- Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: how does it remind you of Christ?
- What was God’s purpose for Paul and believers in every age?
- Did Jesus receive an answer that resembled the answer to Paul?
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part IX
The Pain and the Gain, part A
We continue the series God’s answers for failing bodies. You might think that Paul would have preferred to grow in Christlikeness without so much hardship. But that is not what he says in verse 10: That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.
The word translated delight carries the idea of thinking well and taking pleasure in. It involves thinking which controls wants and actions. In fact, Paul longed for those situations because he looked forward to the gain not the pain! He redefined the pleasure principle!
Please do not miss that point! The gain – using the situations for growth in Christ –flowed from a right response in and to them. A right response involved changed thinking and wanting about himself and God. A right response was a right response to God! This is heavy theology.
Remember that the biblical concept of gain through pain is played out in everyday life. The pregnant mom is ready for labor and all its discomfort. She understands that without pain there is no gain – a baby! Similarly, an athlete looks forward to the “burn” – achy muscles that are associated with strength-producing workouts. He knows that no pain, no gain!
Jesus the example of pain and gain in John 16:20-22. The night before He died he was ministering to the apostles. He understood that they were still “behind: in their understanding of what was transpiring. Jesus used the example of the women in labor and pain. She looked forward to the delivery. The apostles understood the cross as the way of losers. They were grieved. Jesus told them that their grief would be replaced by joy post-resurrection (Luke 24:36-53; John 20:19-31).
The gain he sought was a result of and evidence of inner-man renewal. The change could be seen – a sensual experience. Paul saw Jesus and Paul speaking truth in love and carry for people both physical and materially and spiritually. Paul progressed in becoming more like Christ when relief was beyond his power – when he was weak – forcing him to rely on God. He considered himself as a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Relationships, identities, and truth matter!
He gave the same truth in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 and 4:8-10. His situation happened that we might not rely on ourselves but God (1:9) and they were hard-pressed on every side but not crushed perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed (1:8). God’s grace is shown most clearly when our own resources are depleted. We are then forced to at least our relationship with Him if we are believers. The unbeliever has no such privilege and resource!
All people including believers at times live as if they are in control. People at heart are choosers and controllers. They want to avoid or to have. Therefore, all people face the living God with the choice between pleasing self or pleasing God (Joshua 24:14-15). Control junkies are God-competitors.
Jesus demonstrated how choosing to please God was the only way to truly please self. This is the definition of the true pleasure principle. Jesus chose to please the Triune God thereby pleasing Himself. Choosing and pleasing are relational issues. The Son so valued His relationship with the Father that pleasing Him glorified the Triune God and the Son was pleased in the giving and the getting. The unbeliever I satisfied with his relationship with himself. Self is the one to honor and cherish!
God forces believers to come face to face with Him in His providence which as I have said, the culture misrepresents and calls it life. God brings people face to face with Him – His power, wisdom, goodness, beauty, and majesty. As the believer matures spiritually, he will be awed and enjoy Him even in tough times. The only other response is to reject God by rejecting His ways and timing. The person has one goal: relief and removal from the situation. He does not have time to grow!
Job was introduced to God in a completely different way than he supposed and proposed (Job 38-42). Only when God brought him into His presence did Job logically and joyfully repent of demanding from God. Job, a man after God’s own heart (Job 1-2) was a changed man! Such is our God and His wisdom: God’s answers for failing bodies.
Paul understood his purpose on earth: to bring glory to God. He could do that best when he was weak – without his own resources to relieve burdens. This, too, is counterintuitive and countercultural. Yet it is the way of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The way up is the way down! The way out of trouble is to stay in it God’s way for His glory and the believer’s growth. Only God knows and has ordained the appropriate amount of time for any situation.
Paul could not remove his physical problems. Nor could he avoid the insults, the persecutions, and the difficulties mentioned in various chapters (2 Corinthians 4, 6, 11). Hardships unrelated to your sin are part of the effects of choosing to please God (John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:12). Of course, God could have removed him from all the hard providences or not put him in them. Instead, God provided grace in them.
Paul’s response in them and to them was a response to God. He lived out truth. Proper thinking and wanting led to proper action. These changes and responses were a testimony to the greatness of God’s grace. It is a source of true hope and comfort for believers in all ages. Such it is for God’s answers for failing bodies.
- What is the principle of gain through pain?
- How is this principle played out in daily life?
- How is the cross the ultimate expression of no pain, no gain? See 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part X
The Pain and the Gain, part B
We continue the series God’s answers for failing bodies. Many with a failing body perceive their life as a drudgery, a “bummer,” a black hole, and or bondage. The person may desire to escape in some form or fashion. He may try to “punch out of life.” Sometimes people become couch potatoes. At other times, people spend an enormous time looking for relief in all kinds of places.
The person may speak of being “beyond his resources.” He might even petition God for relief as Paul did. He may say that God’s no simply means he has to pray harder and longer! The person refuses to acknowledge let alone understand that God has him right where He wants him.
When the goal for and the pursuit of relief is all-encompassing, the person is living by the pleasure principle. Sinful sensual living is a circular, never-ending path even if the desire for relief is not communicated in so many words. This, too, is countercultural and counterintuitive!
This was Paul’s position. Paul knew it and he knew God had him right where God wanted him! Even though Paul as an unbeliever was a self-pleaser by nature, Paul’s nature had been changed –he was saved?! Therefore, Paul did not live the lie. Rather, he responded as a God-pleaser (2 Corinthians 5:7, 9-15; Philippians 3:3-6, 7-11).
The believer’s orientation is in principle away from self and toward God. The change is a result of the Holy Spirit indwelling and activity – inner-man renewal! The change in thoughts and desires make all the difference. Paul rejoiced in God and in His mercy and grace.
Paul kept going because of his thankfulness and eternal perspective. He did not live for the now but for eternity in the now. He lived in the now as a steppingstone into eternity! The road to eternal life had started at salvation. He was living resurrection life in the now, because he was joined to Christ and more importantly Christ to him (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-11; 1 John 3:1-3). Paul endured in his discomforts. Endurance is an active process. He remained faithful by using the hard times and failing body as a tool and vehicle for growth in Christ. He valued the spiritual growth that resulted. Becoming more like Christ was his prime motivation to glorify his God. Such is God’s answers for failing bodies!
Some may say that Paul was an optimistic and hopeful person. The culture uses those terms and often stripped them of biblical truth. Paul was eternally optimistic:
- He had his eyes fixed on the eternal while in the now (2 Corinthians 4:18).
- He correctly measured things by that which was weightier (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- He chose to act upon the truth that he knew about God and himself (2 Corinthians 4:16).
As a result, he did not give up (2 Corinthians 4:1, 16). He did not live the lie. He did not rely on senses and feelings apart from biblical truth. He immersed himself in growth in and service to Christ; he desired to immerse himself in Christ (Psalm 34:8; Philippians 3:7-11). He had a task to do and he would complete it only as a testimony to God’s grace.
God had been merciful to him in salvation and sanctification and Paul demonstrated his joyful gratitude through his ministry to others. Paul used what was unpleasant to become more like Christ. Paul knew the road to victory. Such are: God’s answers for failing bodies.
How will living as a user of hard times to grow and change look in one’s life? This is a great question. I use the oyster as an example to describe growth in Christ. The oyster uses irritation to make a pearl. For the believer, the irritation is God’s providence including failing bodies. The pearl is Christlikeness.
The presence and reality of a failing body requires a response (Joshua 24:14-15). Sometimes the bed may seem the best place and there is a time for bed. But there is a God to please and people to care for. This can’t be done in bed. Getting out of bed may be a monumental task but when it is done for God’s glory and by His grace, it becomes a tool for growth in Christ.
Using what you don’t like requires you to focus off self and your likes and dislikes to God and the best ways to grow and change. In that way you glorify Him. Moreover, life is simplified and growth in joy and contentment follows.
- Inner-man renewal involves moving away from self-pleasing and towards God-pleasing in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions.
- Perform a self-inventory and record how you are to change from a self-pleaser to a God-pleaser. Ask a spiritual person including your spouse to help you.
- Record the your situation and the joy and beauty of becoming more like Christ as you live out Psalm 34:8 and Philippians 3:7-11.
God’s Answers for Failing Bodies: Part XI
As we continue the series: God’s answers for failing bodies please continue your spiritual inventory (Hebrews 4:12). Answer the questions: what do you do with your failing body (or any similar circumstance in God’s providence)? How can you apply these truths to your life?
Consider this faith-in-action plan (FIAP). Imitate Paul as he imitated Christ in the following ways:
- Believe that God is doing something good for you right now in your own situation (2 Corinthians 4:1, 16; 12:7-10). Feelings and circumstances do not trump God’s truth and the presence of the Holy Spirit!
- Focus on the unseen which is “seen” by spiritual eyes – the eyes of saving faith, true hope, and biblical truth. The unseen includes inner-man renewal and Resurrection life. Everyone has a sensual experience. Everyone sees with the physical eyes. It is by the senses that every person takes in information – the facts. That information will be interpreted. Only the believer has spiritual eyes and only he can rightly interpret circumstances.
- Understand that life – physical, spiritual and eternal life – come from God. What He has in store for you right now has an eternal purpose. When you have a suprasensual focus (seeing and interpreting God and His providence through biblical truth), you will think and desire according to biblical truth. Those truths will help you grow in grace and knowledge by rightfully responding to and in them. Therefore, God is worthy of your gratitude and joy (2 Peter 3:18). And you are to live a life worthy of your calling and the God who called you (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12)!
Sometimes I give the truth of a FIAP this way: read and recite Scripture – passages that hold and mold your interests such as Romans 8:28-29, 2 Corinthians 5:9, and Psalm 118:24. These passages help you focus on God, His presence, plan, purpose, promises, power, and provisions.
Next I have the person (including myself!) meditate and memorize the passages according to Psalm 119:9-11, 97, and 105. Believers are to “hide” the Word of God in their very being ready to be applied and used. And lastly, I have the person verbalize and actualize the truth concretely in thought, desire, and action. Thoughts, desires, and actions change one at time.
Many patients say they understand these truths. They have told me that they have repented to God for complaining of the body that they have. That is a great start! They also say that they are looking forward to heaven and getting a new body. There will no problems in heaven like they have now.
However, they say that they cannot go on. The journey is too long and too hard. For them, the mountain of pleasing God is too high, the tunnel too long without any light, and the hole too deep. The person considers himself without resources.
They ask: what are they going to do right now between salvation and heaven? In their thinking they are in a “non-resolvable pickle”! However, they are in the very heart of the life of Christ.
Unlike Christ and Paul, they believe that they are in a theological dilemma. Patients, and non-patients as well, too often view heaven as a fire escape out of hell AND a way of escape from a miserable life. Some may even think they have had their hell on earth.
The fact that resurrection life begins at salvation and they are united with Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit does not influence their thinking and wanting. Moreover, the promise of becoming more like Christ now does not motivate them. The anticipation of being in God’s presence is a non-reality, non-existent, or a less compelling motivation for growth here on earth.
The situation is much like the child who is going to grandmother’s house and is upset they he or she is not there. The journey is too long and too hard. Consequently, believers with this mindset miss the privilege and blessing of growth in Christ now.
Jesus faced this seeming conundrum. However, He did not live the lie. He had resolved to please and glorify His Father by finishing and completing the task of Messiah as the Victor (Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 12:1-3). Only the believer is a victor in Christ. Without these truths and reliance on them, sadly, the person will flounder.
Jesus understood that the beginning, the middle, and the end are one unit and are not to be separated. Paul and John understood that as well (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:9; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). They lived the now with one foot in heaven. Honoring God took precedent in their lives.
They lived according to the true pleasure principle articulated by David and Paul. Neither could get enough of pleasing the Triune God by becoming more like Christ. They understood that growth in Christ was the way to doing that! Both endured all the way to the end and beyond! Long obedience and trust in the same direction was one key for Jesus and for all the saints Praise God! Such is God’s answers for failing bodies. It is your answer as well!
Being thankful for what God has done, is doing, and will do for you as a believer in the unpleasantness is and should be considered a blessing, privilege, and a command (1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 John 5:3). Thankfulness breeds endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Paul taught in the milieu. He used his own physical problems and limitations to teach and exemplify that true hope is not lost in the presence of human weakness. In fact, it is heightened. God makes no mistakes. He is trustworthy, and His grace enables you to faithfully trust Him.
- Write out your faith-in-action plan with appropriate passages: 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 4:1, 8-10, 16-16; 12:7-10.
- Include thought and desires that need to be changed and actions that follow.
- Develop the mindset of enjoying pleasing God according to Psalm 34:8 and Philippians 3:7-11.
Failing Bodies: God’s Answers: Part XII
John 4:31-34 and Application
Continuing the series: God’s answers for failing bodies, I consider how to apply these truths in your life and to help people respond to unpleasant and uncomfortable circumstances in their lives. The answer rests in seeking to grow in the realm of the unseen. Only then will a person be able to use what he does not like as God’s tool for him to grow and change.
The things that are seen are often things that people long to have removed. They are evaluated only by our physical senses and understanding, and not through the eyes of saving faith and true hope. Jesus taught what it meant to see using the eyes of God-given faith and true hope such places as in John 4:31-34:
v.31: Meanwhile His disciples encouraged Him, “Rabbi, eat.”
v.32: But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”
v.33: So they said to one another, somebody hasn’t brought Him something to eat, has he?”
v.34: My food is to do the will of the One Who sent me and to finish His work.
Jesus taught the disciples that there is satisfaction in this life – the now – that is not experienced by the physical senses (the seen). Jesus appreciated the sensual satisfaction that comes from eating a nice meal. He appreciated a sensual experience rightly interpreted. In fact, he uses the pleasure as a comparator. As good as that experience is there is something incomparably superior.
Jesus pointed the disciples to the satisfaction that comes from doing God’s will. The true pleasure principle is the joy of thinking, desiring, and acting as a God-pleaser. Such is suprasensual living. Paul learned well and he taught Jesus’ perspective on life. Paul called it inner-man renewal (2 Corinthians 4:16). Only believers have and can experience this renewal; only they can enjoy true contentment and satisfaction now (Philippians 4:11-13).
Paul knew relationships mattered! He was joyful and grateful for the relationship God established with him. Therefore, he did not give up or give in to hard times (2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:8-10). He did not live according to feelings; he did not demand or ask God to give him an accounting for God’s handling of life. Rather, he used all of life (God’s providence both hard and good times) to develop the character of Christ in himself.
Like Paul, you are in a position to ask and answer the question: “What is better than having a body that functions like you want?” It depends on your standard and reference. God’s answer is this: it is far better to live out of the God-given relationship with the Triune God. It is God’s gift to you.
The indwelling Holy Spirit gives the capacity, orientation, desire, and direction (from His Word) to honor and please God daily in any situation. One does that by using hard times to grow and change. These are theological statements par excellence. That moves us to the heart of the phrase: God’s answers for failing bodies.
Since the believer has such a relationship with Christ, he can be satisfied and content even when he does not have the body he wants. This satisfaction far outweighs the fleeting satisfaction that may come from good health (Psalm 73:25-26).
From another vantage point, Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians by declaring God’s eternal design for believers – it is to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4). That plan comes about only because the believer is in Christ.  True freedom is found in being able to do what God designed one to think, want, and do. Attempts to do otherwise will lead to bondage. Believers are those who have a personal relationship with Christ. They are set free from the bondage of sin and the false reality of slavery to self-pleasing manifested as seeking physical relief apart from Christlikeness (John 8:31-36).
People who expect God to eliminate the curse of sin on their bodies while on this earth will be disappointed and even disillusioned (Romans 5:12-14). God has said that the believer’s full transformation is reserved for the age after the final resurrection.
Moreover, if God did not reverse the curse of sin on Jesus’ body, why should you expect Him to do this for you? Should you demand God to treat you better than He treated Jesus? These questions are bottom-line, heart-searching questions that should teach and challenge you. Please answer them.
Paul’s life was also simplified because he lived out of his relationship with Christ. He was able to focus on God’s truth rather than his own wisdom and abilities in handling problems especially the problem of a broken body.
He knew that his broken body was short-lived, a “brief” inconvenience, when he compared his trouble to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Therefore, instead of trying to change his circumstances, he gratefully set his face toward his God-given ministry as he grew in Christlikeness (1 Corinthians 10:13). Every believer has a ministry to be embraced for God’s glory.
Finally, we should note that Paul said he had learned how to be content (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul’s contentment came from a relationship with and knowledge of the all-sufficient Christ. Paul could not get enough of Christ. Jesus demonstrated that there was only one way to live a satisfying and joyful life. That way, as we discussed earlier, is summarized in John 4:31-34. Pleasing His Father delighted both Jesus and the Father. God was glorified and Jesus shared in that glory when He returned. Jesus exemplified the true pleasure principle.
Jesus trained Himself to please His Father regardless of the circumstances (Hebrews 2:10; 5:7-10). Seeking to please the Father is the only way a believer can live a delightful, satisfying, and joyful life (Psalm 73:25-26). Jesus is the only person the Father was totally pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Becoming more like Christ was God’s original design for believers and is God’s purpose for them after salvation (2 Corinthians 5:7, 9; Ephesians. 1:4). That truth captures the essence of God’s answers for failing bodies.
- Compare sensual and suprasensual living. What do you learn?
- How does knowing that failing bodies are part of the curse on sin and sinners encourage you?
- Failing bodies occur in different shapes and sizes and varied reasons. The fact of the body problem is not as important as your response to it, which is a response to God.
- Write out your response in terms of thinking, wanting, and doing or not doing.
- What changes do you need to make?
Failing Bodies: God’s Answers: Part XIII
We conclude the series: God’s answers for failing bodies. How about you? Are you discontent and dissatisfied with the body you have and perhaps the doctors that God has given you? Are you satisfied with God’s truth that directs you to victory?
The Bible teaches that there is a way to think, desire, and act that is incomparably superior to the pursuit of an ever-consuming, life-dominating quest to have a new, better, and or healthy body (Luke 12:13-21: Luke refers to riches but the concept of getting and having fits any situation).
Like Jesus, Paul was willing to wait to receive glory and his new, resurrected body. In the meantime, he chose to go on pleasing God with the body he had. Moreover, he used his physical problems as an impetus to focus on God’s gifts and growth in Christlikeness. Some may think that is impossible to please God when times are hard. God says otherwise. Who will you believe?
Paul had invested himself in God’s truth. He understood that the very weaknesses he had and sought to be removed by God were tools. They were given by God for him to use to gain spiritual maturity by producing spiritual fruit. God did not rebuke him for his prayer for relief.
God had a more important lesson for him. Pray for relief but pray for a proper response to God’s answer! Paul learned and practiced thankfulness and earnest, joyful service to the Father not despite his body but in the context of his damaged body.
He continued to learn to see good, as defined God’s way, in what the world calls bad. His love for the Triune God motivated him to serve God even when it was hard (see Hebrews 12:1-3 for a word regarding Jesus’ motivation and again my book: Endurance: What it is and how it looks)). Paul, as did Jesus, understood the cross. Praise God that they did! Now the issue is: how are we – you – doing in that same area? How have you responded to: God’s answers for failing bodies?
Believers: consider and respond to Paul’s word in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 12:7-10. Please read and record your answers in the spaces below.
1. How do you and have you responded to the fact that your body is wearing out?
2. Which one is your focus: the wearing out of your body or inner-man renewal?
3. Give reasons for why you focus on the outer man or the inner man.
4. From 2 Corinthians 4:16, what is it that Paul knew?
5. From 2 Corinthians 4:17: please answer:
a. How is it possible for Paul to write that what is going on in the outer man is but momentary and light?
b. What is the glory that Paul refers to?
6. From 2 Corinthians 4:18: please answer:
a. What are the things that Paul refers to in verses 18 and 16?
b. How is it possible for Paul to focus on the unseen?
c. If your body is failing, does this focus give hope? Why or why not?
d. What do you need to do to apply these principles to your daily life?
7. From 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: please answer:
a. What is Paul teaching in these verses?
b. What is your physical malady?
c. How did Paul spell relief?
d. What is Paul’s goal in life? How is it like Christ’s?
e. What is your goal in life, why, and how have applied these passages?
f. What have been the results?
g. Are there any changes you need to make? Please answer what they are, your plans for changing, and the results.
 The inner man refers to a person’s “heart” that is known completely to God, incompletely to himself, and not at all to others. The inner man is expressed in thoughts, desires, and actions which may be observed by others.
 “In Christ” is a Pauline term that pictures God’s relationship with a believer through the finished work of Christ. Paul means that the believer now is in relationship to God not only as Judge and Creator but as Father as well. The believer has a personal relationship with Jesus such that he can call God Abba – Father – and Jesus his brother.