Christianity 201

February 24, 2013

Treasure in Jars of Clay

Blog AnniversaryThis weekend the parent blog for this one, Thinking Out Loud, celebrated its 5th birthday. Because I don’t really share a lot of myself on this blog, I wanted to share a weekend article with you that expressed some of my personal values. I hope you find it interesting and perhaps challenging. Click through to read my version of What Really Matters.

II Cor (NLT) 4:7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

2 Corinthians 4 7Last night we listened to a sermon in which this passage was quoted. The pastor used a term in substitution for “jars of clay” to try to demonstrate the meaning in the Greek, which reflects the everyday-ness, the common-ness of the earthenware vessels referred to. I am not going to repeat that here. I spent some time today trying to find some confirmation in commentaries for the term that he used, but was not successful.

But it did make me think about how totally inadequate we are to carry God’s treasure. But we are God’s “jars;” God’s vessels in this world. He has no other plan. That God chooses to dwell inside people whose best attempts at righteousness are described as “filthy rags.” Maybe it takes a little hyperbole from a pastor to get me thinking about that…

Mary Fairchild writes:

That seems like an odd place for a treasure. Usually we would keep our valuable treasures in a vault, in a safety deposit box, or in a strong, protected place. A jar of clay is fragile, and easily broken. Upon further inspection, this jar of clay reveals flaws, chips, and cracks. It’s not a vessel of great worth or monetary value, but rather a common, ordinary vessel.

We are that earthen vessel, that fragile clay pot! Our bodies, our outward appearance, our essential humanity, our physical disabilities, our shattered dreams, these are all elements of our jar of clay. None of these things can bring meaning or a sense of value to our lives. If we focus on our human side, despair is bound to set in.

But the wonderful secret to overcoming despair is also revealed in these verses in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4. Kept inside that broken, fragile, ordinary jar of clay is a treasure, a priceless treasure of immeasurable worth!

At the blob, Under The Big Topp:

I am not compelled by my great faith.
If the strength of my witness depends on the greatness of my faith – then there is no point in my opening my mouth. No one will be impressed or impacted by the words I speak. However, I cannot wait on the sidelines of this global, gospel war until I feel like a soldier.
I am not a woman of great faith.
But, God does not depend on my greatness…
I depend on His.

At the blog Hub City Underground:

God wants to use you to reveal himself to the world. There is a significant, unbelievable comparison here between the perfect, all-powerful, glorious God and imperfect, unholy, common, profane and ordinary people. God doesn’t want to share his glory with anyone. But God wants to display his glory and his power. The best way to display his glory and power is to use imperfect, common and ordinary people like you and me. That way he always gets all the credit.

God has always used ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The question is: Will you let him use you?

Joel Dietrich looks at death — the overarching theme in this chapter — and introduces the verses that follow:

We don’t like death because we lose those that we love. We don’t like suffering or watching suffering. Very often we pray that God would take all suffering away and postpone death for our own selfish reasons. Death also reminds us of our own sin and that we too will die because of them.

All around us people are suffering and dying. Many of them do not know who Jesus is or what Jesus has done for them. For these people death has not lost its sting and they have no hope for the future. Our world knows suffering and death. It’s knows the hurt involved with both. But the world does not know Christ or have hope in Him.

As Christians we have hope in life everlasting and we know that death isn’t the end but the beginning of life eternal. Yet we still doubt in our Savior. We look around us and see the violence in the world. We see dictators that try to wage war and commit genocide. We read about gang warfare and innocent children dying on the streets. We have friends whose marriages struggle and fail. We see families torn apart from fighting. We see suffering, pain, and death in all forms around us and wonder how we can go on.

The answer is found in the clay pots of our text…the treasures of God.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Look at those words…and at your very lives. Each of us in our own way has been hard pressed on every side, we are perplexed by the problems of this life, persecuted for our faith in Jesus, struck down by our sinfulness, from disease, heartache, and pain. But through Christ; through the treasures of heaven we are not crushed, we are not in despair, we are not abandoned, and we are not destroyed. While the world, sin, and the devil attack on all sides Christ is ever present. Even though it may seem we are at the end of all of our resources…God is not at the end of His resources. God is always with you, always protecting you, always carrying you. He will never let you be destroyed.

Finally, the blog One Passion, One Devotion had this quotation from Sandy Warner that I couldn’t trace back to its original page, but this is truly an amazing final takeaway from this passage to think about:

WEAK INSTRUMENT – A BROKEN CLAY JAR — The instruments that the Lord used to defeat these Midianites are amazing. They carried hidden fire inside clay jars which they brought into the enemy’s camp. It was not until these jars were broken that their torches blazed. Of course the jars of clay are us and the light is Jesus Christ and His fiery passion within us. When we are broken and vulnerable before the Lord and before our enemies, we are in the place where God wants us to SHINE.

Image: RPM Ministries article Dust and Divinity

Here’s a blog that uses the same terminology the pastor used in his sermon.  The language is not as forceful as what we heard on the weekend, I like this rendering a little better.