Wasting Away And, Yet, Thriving
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16
Have you ever been in the middle of enduring something difficult, yet felt stronger?
The church is an interesting thing. It’s filled with people who the world despises and often considers weak and foolish. They say our faith is just a “crutch” for the weak or the opiate of the masses.
Suffering Often Marks the Church
The church has suffered much over the millennia. Sometimes Christians have suffered by choice, like when Christians chose to stay and care for the sick during the Black Plague or when they give generously to those in need leaving little for themselves. Other times, the church has suffered at the hands of others, especially cruel governments.
There are many times since the start of the church where Christ-followers have been outwardly wasting away, as is described in 2 Corinthians 4. Yet, God does not leave us alone in our suffering. In fact, He not only stays with us but strengthens us in a way that is foreign to the world.
The Opposite of What They Expect
Many governments over the centuries have tried to stomp out the church. Persecution still happens today in places like China, Iran, and many others. Yet, something strange often happens to the church in these times and places. The church flourishes.
Right now, it is estimated that Iran has the fastest growth in the Christian church of any nation. China is expected to have the largest population of Christians in less than 10 years. These are both places where churches get shut down and Christians are arrested and abused or even killed for the faith.
On the contrary, places like Europe and the United States, where Christians have had been free or even favored now see the slowest growth or even a decline.
There’s life and then there’s life. Jesus promised abundant life. So, how have so many Christians suffered? The abundant life Jesus brings is one of the Spirit. Life from God, alone, that wells eternal. This life does not require money, status, earthly comfort, or earthly freedom.
So, the person with abundant life from Jesus may be wasting away on the outside, but thriving inwardly in Christ. This is how in Acts Christians considered it a joy to be beaten for their faith. This is the strength that raises us up on eagles’ wings. We have true life and that life is fed constantly through the Spirit as a branch attached to a vine or a tree planted by a stream.
So, we need not fear wasting away.
We don’t need to cling to our wealth. We don’t need to be afraid of caring for the sick. We don’t need to despair a despotic government. This is not because God promises to give us great wealth, health, or a favorable ruler, but because Christ’s abundant life is greater than any suffering of these earthly things.
We need only to abide in Christ.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.“
– Isaiah 40:27-31
Help me not to cling to the things of this world, but be willing to live boldly for You, willing to sacrifice all. I know You promise to never leave me nor forsake me. For I know you promise to uphold me with Your right hand and strengthen me in my weakness.
In Christ’s Service,