Treasure in Fragile Clay Jars
Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.
Paul preached the word of God humbly yet boldly,
2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods.
We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God.
We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.
and with integrity.
3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,”
Paul knew the Genesis account: God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
has made this light shine in our hearts
Paul remembered that as he was traveling to Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
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.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
I love the word “but” in the Bible. J. B. Phillips translates the two verses above like this (emphasis mine): We are handicapped on all sides, BUT we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, BUT never in despair. We are persecuted, BUT we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down BUT we are never knocked out!
I add these examples to the BUT of Psalm 73:26 and my heart rejoices! My flesh and my heart may fail, BUT God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
Revelation 4:11 (NIV)
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
The NIV puts it this way:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Particularly during the years when my mother was changing for the worse with Alzheimer’s, I found these verses to be so strengthening and true! It was almost as if it were a proportion — the more I saw the decay of her body and mind, the more I imagined her renewal in spirit! God was faithful in what I could not see!
Often afflictions appear only to sour us and make us more rebellious and discontented. But let us remember that afflictions help prepare us for the glory hereafter. Affliction draws our hearts away from the love of the world: it will enable us to appreciate by way of contrast the things God has prepared for them that love Him.
Here then is what faith is invited to do: to place in one scale the present afflictions; in the other, the eternal glory. Are they worthy to be compared? No, indeed. One second of glory will more than balance a whole lifetime of suffering. What are years of toil, of sickness, of battling against poverty, of persecution, even a martyr’s death, when weighed over against the pleasures at God’s right hand, that are forevermore!
May God grant us faith that will enable us to anticipate the future and live in the present enjoyment of it.
HERE we are with “Trading My Sorrows” again, since part of the song comes from verses in this chapter: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. This performance is by Hillsong.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.