Peninsula Community Church
Treasure in Jars of Clay
October 15, 2017
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Before us today is an awesome picture of the reality of life and the power of Christ within us. When we look at the phrase, jars of clay, we find that it is an interesting phrase. Jars are containers. They serve a purpose. In this case, Paul tells us that it is a container for that which is most valuable. We are the jars of clay and within us is the presence of God.
Through the years, I have seen some interesting ways people hide their treasures. I have seen people put money in the freezer. The idea is that a thief would not look in the freezer and in the case of a fire the money would be safe. I have seen people who would paint an old mayonnaise jar white and place their valuables in the jar. One of our friends would place their valuables in a tucks pad container as they said no one would consider looking in there.
Paul wanted his readers to know that we are a jar. We might be imperfect and we may be fragile but we are a container created by God. We see this in Jeremiah 18 in the story of the potter and the clay. What we find is that the container itself is not as critical as why the container was created. It is also important to know that what the container looks is not as important as what is inside the container. Scripture also tells us that outwardly we are wasting away but inwardly we are being renewed. As clay pots we can be broken, damaged, and cracked.
Throughout my life, I have been guilty of dropping things and breaking things. In fact, my friends have at times called me “grace” because of my clumsiness. Perhaps you have had one of those moments where you have broken something? Perhaps it was a vase, a planter, or a pot. Perhaps the item you broke appeared to be strong and durable, but as you knocked it over, you realized the exterior was fragile. How many times have we broken something and then attempted to glue it back so no one would find that we had broken it? In this passage, Paul is reminding us that as a vessel of clay we are a fragile vessel, but it is a vessel that houses the presence of God.
Here is a fact that we know through Scripture. While we are weak and fragile, He is strong. It is in our weakness that He is manifested most. Too often, we can believe that weakness is a negative character flaw. I am sure you have heard the statement do not let them see your weakness. Or, do not let them see you sweat. In other words, do not be honest about who you are and what is going on in your life. Hide your emotions. Hide your pain. But that is not God’s word and that is not God’s way. When we are weak, His strength is revealed in us in ways that we cannot imagine. There is strength in weakness when we turn to God.
Look at what Paul says about all of this. He says, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. This is an amazing statement and one that fills us with hope and faith. Notice what Paul says. First, we are under great pressure, but we are not crushed. How often do you feel the weight of the affliction you are under? When afflicted we can feel knocked down and devastated by the issues we face. Too often, it seems like there is an endless barrage of problems, and we reach the point where we are waiting for the next shoe to drop.
To understand this, we must know that we all have problems. We will face issues. We will encounter difficulties. We have been instructed to not be surprised when you face these things (1 Peter 4:12). Difficulties are a part of our life and there is no way to avoid them. I love the “Rocky” movies. I know that it is just a movie, but it illustrates the power of this concept. How many times do we find Rocky beaten to a pulp, but somehow he finds an inner strength to rise up and continue the fight? In the movie Creed, the latest addition to the Rocky series, Creed has been knocked down and on the mat. His mind is racing through history and the events of his life. He gets up and goes on to win the round. That is what Paul is saying here. We are afflicted. We are beaten up, but we are not crushed. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.
Secondly, Paul states that we are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We all have problems, but our problems do not have to drive us to a place of lost hope. It is noteworthy that the word perplexed means to be completely baffled. The word despair is defined as the loss of all hope. When we are baffled by the issues we face, we can be drawn to a place of hopelessness. We are blinded by the difficulties we face. In the moment, there is a real sense that this is the way it will be, and we will be at the mercy of the pressure of the trials in our life. Paul acknowledges that we all face issues that can perplex us, but we do not have to see our life degenerate to hopelessness. So, you might be perplexed, but you do not have to be hopeless.
Thirdly, Paul states that we are persecuted, but not forsaken. Loneliness is one of the toughest emotions we can experience. Feeling forsaken can diminish our faith and hope. Persecution causes us to feel we are all alone and abandoned. In 1 Kings 19, we find that Elijah had been faithful to God, but is facing a time of discouragement and despair. He is feeling hopeless and lost. He is feeling alone. He makes this statement, “I am the only one left who loves you and is following you and now the others are trying to kill me.” Do you ever feel that way? You might reach a point where you scream, “God why me?” “I am doing everything I know to do and no one else is doing what is right? I am all alone.” Then God reveals a great truth to Elijah. Elijah was not alone as there were seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed a knee or kissed Baal. This was an important revelation of truth, as one of the great tactics of the enemy is to isolate us and deceive us into thinking that we are alone and no one cares. This drives us to isolate.
Finally, Paul states that we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. I love that Paul does not try to minimize the impact of the difficulties we face. He is honest and does not deny the fact that we will have difficulties and those difficulties can rock our world. Like Rocky, we can be knocked down, but we do not have to be knocked out. We may be damaged, but life is not over. We may have cracks, but our life does not have to be over. Our exteriors may be cracked and dented, but God uses cracked and dented pots.
The question for you might be how can this be? I am beaten up. I am in a great battle. I am weary. I am tired. Paul reminds us that we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but it is okey because we are reminded of a powerful truth. We are clay pots that are fragile and easily broken, but it is to show that the surpassing power of God is at work in us. The choice of words here is important. Notice that Paul does not just say His power is at work in us, but it is His surpassing power. You know what that means? There is more power in God than any power in the persecution and the issues we face.
Listen to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This is not a sadistic concept, but it is a recognition of the power of God working in our weaknesses. Notice that Paul prayed three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. Rather than remove the thorn, Jesus stated that His grace was more than sufficient to get him through the issues. The question for us is where am I putting my faith and trust. Is our focus on the problem or is it on the Lord, who is more than sufficient than my problems? When we recognize the Lord as our source of strength, it is there that we are the strongest.
So what would happen if we embraced the fact that we are jars of clay? What if we did not ignore that, as a human, I really do get tired and weary sometimes? What if I had a biblical understanding of what it means to be weak? The response here is not to work harder or even do more, necessarily. Trying harder in our own power does not resolve our problems or our weaknesses. Generally, working harder leaves us more depleted and tends to destroy our joy. Jonathan Parnell writes, “Embracing weakness brings more peace because we realize afresh that God loves us by his grace, not because we are strong. Our joy doesn’t rest in our ability, but in the approval God gives us in Christ, the one in whom he chose us before the ages began according to his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9).” For that reason we can rejoice in our weakness. For that reason we realize and accept that we are the containers for the all surpassing power of God.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom