Recently I was catching up with an old family friend of many years ago. He was always a big man — tall, strong, large — but now that he is growing older and is in his nineties, he’s not as nearly as large as he used to be. Because of age and lack of activity in his later years, his muscles and size have diminished and his skin doesn’t fit him anymore. In fact, he’s got far more skin than he has body.
You have probably known folks like I have who have gained a lot of weight for whatever reason, just eating too much or some physical problem that caused them to gain weight, but they appear not to have enough skin. It has filled every nook and cranny of their body and the skin is stretched tight all over. On the other hand, we probably all have known someone who as they aged lost their muscle mass and size and like my friend had more skin than they did body.
While that is a physical reality for many people, I think it’s a more common experience that happens to us at times spiritually. You may not have thought about it this way, but sometimes we’ve had those experiences where we have come to know the Lord and grow and grow in our walk with God, honoring God, blessing other people, living in the life and land of strength, and victory — but something happens.
It’s not always an age thing, but something happens and we stop growing in the Lord, stop walking with God, stop exercising our spiritual muscles and vigor and in time the skin of what we used to be just the outside structures and rituals and occasional activities remain and no longer do we have a vibrant inner core and spiritually our skin doesn’t fit us anymore. I think about some biblical characters that seem to have gone through that experience.
You may be familiar with Demas. We don’t know a whole lot about him, but what we do know is both interesting and sad. He’s only mentioned three times in the New Testament and all three in relationship to the Apostle Paul. The Bible says that he was Paul’s companion and co-worker, a fellow worker in the ministry according to Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24. Something happened to Demas, this man who appeared to be on fire for the Lord and working with the Apostle Paul as he drifts away and the Bible says that Paul wrote of him in 2 Timothy 4:10 telling that Demas had “forsaken me, having loved this present world.” From a strong supporter and helper of the Apostle Paul, he became a deserter who went chasing after this world. It appears that his spiritual skin didn’t fit him anymore.
Another example of the same truth can be seen in the other brother better known as the elder brother of the prodigal son. He seems to be the shining example of what we would all want either to be or our son to be: faithful, hardworking, staying with the task and staying with the father. The younger son took his goods and headed off to the far country, but not the elder son. No, he kept on getting up early, going to work, coming in late, doing whatever the father needed him to do. He was just consistent and faithful through and through it appears.
As Jesus tells the story and the younger son comes back home in repentance, the older boy begins to show what was taking place in his life while the younger brother was off out in sin. Though he had stayed there and served, his corroded and bad attitude contaminates everything about his inner being and corrodes and destroys his spirit. While all the external stuff remains the same, we get an insight into what a bitter spirit does to any and every man where it is left to work its venom into our soul. In time, the elder brother appears that his skin doesn’t fit him anymore. You can still make a case for the external stuff, but now you know the inner stuff that is so revealing.
Maybe a greater thing to do is not just find these examples in the Bible but look at our own inner being and really evaluate what our life in the Lord has become. Is it simply a system or a schedule, some activities or friends that have to do with spiritual things that are leftovers from a vibrant life in the past? And what we’ve been left with is some skin without the strength, some flabby outer skin without the inner core of power.
Strange, isn’t it? That sometimes, and it’s not just the passing of time that does that, but sometimes what we used to have that was so alive and strong and active has vanished away and we find ourselves with a skin that doesn’t fit us anymore. I would point out to you that the power of Christ remains available to us, and your spiritual life and service is not geared to age in deficiencies but to a continual walking with the Lord in obedience to Him, a continual connection with Him in prayer, an ongoing search in His word that takes control of your life.
Today you can get before God and in a personal, meaningful, and renewing way find Him to fill your life so that both your walk with Him and the skin that covers it are one in the same.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral