“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16)
The first part of this verse describes how a believer need not lose heart at the deterioration of their body, because they can see a corresponding spiritual growth in their lives that is preparing them for heaven (See yesterday’s devotion on this here.) But a key facet of this verse is found in the next phrase: “IS BEING RENEWED DAY BY DAY.” This phrase describes the ongoing process of sanctification, or holiness, in the life of the believer.
One of the important things this reminds us of is that sanctification is a PROCESS.Holiness doesn’t happen all at once. “Is being renewed” indicates that this is something that is present, and ongoing. Therefore we shouldn’t be discouraged if we aren’t immediately “holy” all at once. Holiness doesn’t happen in an instant, in one crisis “experience.” It happens over time.
Spiritual growth in holiness might be compared to physical growth. A maturing person grows slowly, over time. In fact, physical growth is imperceptible to the eye on a daily basis — yet it is indeed happening. In the same way we should not be discouraged if we can’t always see our spiritual growth; it may yet be happening incrementally. But just like physical growth, if it is truly happening, it should be observable over time. Over the course of a year, or 5 or 10 years, both we and others around us should be able to see our progress. This is one of the reasons why we need to evaluate ourselves periodically. Are we indeed seeing that growth in our lives spiritually?
It is not just going to “happen”, however. We must participate in that process, by spending time with God in the spiritual disciplines of His word, prayer, etc. As we do that, we “are being renewed” gradually, day by day, into what He has planned for us. But the point of this key phrase is that the process of sanctification happens gradually. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t actually see the growth every day — but also don’t be content if you don’t see it at all over time!