Paul when writing to the church at Corinth was rotting away in prison. His enemies were gloating. The outer game didn’t seem to be going well. But he wrote that he was a jar of clay that carried great treasure: “We do not lose heart - though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. The bible says that there is an outer you - your skin, hair, face, body, reputation and persona. But there is also an inner you - your character, your spirit, your soul.
The outer you is what everyone sees. It gets dressed up, applauded, whistled at and ignored. The inner you is invisible. The outer you can be coerced by other people or forces. The inner you is always free to choose. The outer you can be measured and weighed and chemically analyzed. The inner you has a unity and mystery that is staggering. The outer you is temporary. The inner you is eternal.
Paul - had never been a movie star. One of the criticisms he lived with was people saying he was not very impressive in person. His outer person wasn’t just aging, his body had been whipped and stoned and starved and beaten and locked up in a cell. “It doesn’t bother me much” he said “it’s what is inside that matters”. “Something is going on inside of me, it’s like the opposite of what’s happening outside. Outside I’m dying a little every day. Inside I’m coming to life. Inside I’m growing, changing, I keep getting stronger, joy keeps bubbling up - even in the dire place I am in. I keep getting more hopeful - even though I know my body is going to die soon. It’s the strangest thing. I’m dying on the outside, but inside I’m coming to life. It’s fabulous”. Paul had mastered the inner game. His thoughts and desires ran constantly God-ward. And he found himself as an old man in prison more alive than he ever had been.