2 Corinthians 4: 7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 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 also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
I remember back in my school days, being handed a large lump of clay, with the enthusiastic encouragement of my teacher that I should unleash my creative genius and form something useful or practical from it, like a vase or an ashtray. After much shaping and squeezing it looked….like a lump of clay.
Paul says that as Christians “…we have this treasure in jars of clay…” (v. 7) This letter of 2 Corinthians was written by Paul as a defense of his ministry to a church which had been infiltrated by so-called ‘super-apostles’, men who boasted of their great gifts and superior spirituality. They loved to impress people with stories of their spiritual strength. Paul counters their attacks on his character and abilities, not by listing his achievements and qualifications, but by cataloging his weaknesses and wounds.
He says we are nothing but clay jars - fragile, plain, ordinary, unimpressive. However, look beyond the externals and you will discover great treasure inside. In the same way, following Jesus is not about outward showiness or giftedness. That would only draw the attention to ourselves. We are simply clay. Yet, inside each of us is treasure – ‘all-surpassing power’ - which can change the world. It’s hidden within and is only released when the jar is broken.
Paul says, it is in our suffering that Christ displays His strength; it is in our weakness that He works His wonders; it is in our pain that we experience His power. Therefore, even though we may go through intense pressure and persecution, we are “not crushed….not in despair….not abandoned….not destroyed.” The power at work in our lives is Christ’s resurrection power, which was released through his death. It makes us victorious in our vulnerability, beautiful in our brokenness, fruitful in our fragility, influential in our inadequacy.
Paul knew that his weakness was not a denial of God’s power – it was the greatest demonstration of His power. If one man, so externally unimpressive, could have the impact on the world that Paul had, the power had to be coming from elsewhere!
As much as we might seek to display our strengths and demonstrate our power, the simple reality is that we are all weak, we all have places of pain, we all feel inadequate at times, we all face circumstances which we find overwhelming. Weakness is simply part of life. We try to run from it, but we can't escape it. Instead of covering up or denying his weakness, Paul embraced it, even boasting about it, because it was in his weakness he experienced the greatest measure of God’s power. His weakness on display also meant that, in whatever he attained or achieved, all the glory went to God.
Know that you have great treasure within. No matter how you look or feel, there is “all-surpassing power” inside you. It is released in your weakness and brought forth in your brokenness. Therefore, don't despise your fragility or pain. His great power will be experienced and seen at work through it, not in spite of it.