Jeremy Sarber

Strengthen the inner man to strengthen the outer man

I think it was Warren Buffet’s son who once gave an interview claiming that he didn’t know his family was rich while he was a child. They lived in a modest home, drove average cars, and did nothing to suggest that his father was incredibly wealthy. Sadly, Christians tend to live like that from day to day. We have access to the riches of God’s glory, but we live as though we’re spiritually impoverished. Our prayers are a good example of that. I know that we’re just trying to be humble, but we pray as though there is little chance that God will answer. No, pray with boldness. Live as though you are a child of God.

Here’s the first step: Strength with power through God’s Spirit in the inner man. Paul prays that God may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Eph 3:16). Isn’t that interesting? The Christian walk doesn’t begin with external things. Going to worship with the church does not make one a Christian. Praying to God does not make one a Christian. Avoiding sin and keeping commandments does not make one a Christian. Christianity begins on the inside.

How many times have you felt that your faith was lacking? Maybe you felt down about yourself as a Christian disciple and thought, I’m a lousy Christian. That’s normal. The question is, where did you go from there? Did you think to yourself that maybe you should give more money to help those in need? Did you think that maybe you should volunteer more of your time to help others or maybe spend more time reading your Bible? These are good things. They are excellent things. But I would encourage you to stop. Before you act, dig a little deeper. It may be that your inner person needs the help.

Paul was very concerned about the physical well being of the churches. He worked tirelessly to raise money for the church in Jerusalem because they didn’t have food and basic necessities. Even so, he tells the Corinthians, Do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2Co 4:16). The inner self needs to be a priority for us. While we should be sacrificially serving others, how long can we continue those efforts if our own inner man is wasting away, losing strength?

So how do we strengthen the inner man? We can’t. Only God can reach and heal the inner person. Only God’s Spirit can give us that deep, internal strength we need. Only he can energize and empower us from within. It is the Spirit that gives power. The Spirit grants us the ability to do great works. It is the Spirit who makes us able to be effective witnesses for Christ.

Of course, that begs another question: If the Spirit must strengthen the inner man, then what are we to do? First, we pray. Isn’t that what Paul is doing in Ephesians 3? He’s praying that we might have strength in the inner being. Second, we indulge ourselves with every morsel of spiritual food we can get. Like physical growth, spiritual growth needs nourishment. Peter said, Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1Pe 2:2). What is spiritual milk? Based on the previous chapter in 1 Peter, he’s likely talking about the living and abiding word of God (1Pe 1:23).

Listen to J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:

We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives. We are always facing death, but this means that you know more and more of life. (2 Corinthians 4:8-12 PHILLIPS)

Then, he says, This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength” (2Co 4:16 PHILLIPS). In other words, the health of the inner man is more important than the health of the physical man. If we neglect either of them, we’re prone to neglect the inner man. We have it backward. The inner man can support the outer man, but it won’t work the other way around.