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Strengthening the Inner Person (Psalm 31)

Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

-Psalm 31:24

The concern of Jesus Christ for our lives is infinitely greater than the concern of empty and outward religion. The latter is ultimately built around appearances and external conformity. Is it well with your soul? Outward religion does not really care. Instead, the question is, Do you meet the requirements? Do you align, or at least appear to align, to the agreed upon form? This outward form may even be righteous things, like the commands of God. But it is satisfied with merely conforming us externally, even if we do the right things for the wrong reasons and end up lifeless and miserable.

We should rejoice in the fact that Jesus is not like this. He is not after such a shallow form of godliness. He came so that we might have life, and life abundantly. Paul wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant to you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14, 16). Paul’s prayer was that the Ephesian believers would experience the strength of the Holy Spirit in their inner person, which meant Christ would be dwelling in their hearts, because they would be rooted and grounded in His love (3:17). God’s concern is for shaping who we actually are, through a right relationship with Him that begins in the heart.

We should also rejoice that God does not merely want to strengthen whatever content is already in our hearts. If that were the case, we would only be strengthened to go on in our sin. But Jesus comes to claim and transform us; His love pushes out evil, like light pushes away darkness. Psalm 31 promises to those who hope in God that, “He shall strengthen your heart.” The strength is God Himself. We are not merely promised to grow stronger; we are promised that the Holy Spirit will come in and do a work. He fills our hearts, so that we can say with David, “The Lord is my strength” (Psalm 28:7).

The first step in responding to this truth is to receive it for ourselves and give direction to our own souls, especially in times of weakness or when we feel downcast. We can begin to say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God…” (42:11). When you come to the place of prayer, be of good courage and actively hope in God, knowing that the Holy Spirit is faithful to strengthen your inner person, even if you have physical ailments, even if you are exhausted, or beset by trials and overwhelming circumstances.

The next step in applying this truth is, like the Apostle Paul, to begin sharing Jesus’ heart for others by caring about the inner person. When was the last time we prayed for someone, not simply for their circumstances to improve, or their health condition to turn around, but also for the peace of God to reign in their heart and mind? How often do we pray for the increase of joy through the Holy Spirit in other believers? Jesus went as far as to say that His goal in giving us commandments was that we could experience His joy and have fullness of joy (John 15:11). Likewise, do we pray for the unsaved to become aware of the emptiness and lovelessness inside of them, so that their hearts will turn and seek for truth, life, and love in Someone outside of themselves? 

In a world obsessed with appearances and material things, I believe God is challenging us to be heavenly, rather than earthly, by cultivating the inner man or woman, in ourselves and in others.

-Pastor Alex

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