2 Corinthians 4:6 – 5:11
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. “(2 Corinthians 4:8,9)
Before we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, let’s be reminded of what we are – humble clay pots! Not diamond-studded golden bowls, just plain old clay pots.
But notice an incredible incongruity, an incomprehensible irony. Someone has put in this clay pot a magnificent treasure. So the value is not in the pot, but in the contents. What is the treasure? The light of the Gospel? The glory of God? The presence of Christ? Yes! And somehow or other that treasure takes a fragile, insignificant, common clay pot and transforms it. Watch what happens.
Nothing exposes our fragile vulnerability like suffering. Some of the clay pots have been shattered, those we love die, and we are shaken. But we don’t have the normal response.
Why do we not have a standard clay pot response? How do we have the response of some magnificent royal vessel? This passage answers those questions- the why and the how. First then, why? Why do we respond so a-typically? Psychologists might say we are suppressing our real feelings and endangering our psychological health. But Paul seems to have another reality that transforms humble, fragile, vulnerable clay pots.
The shattered clay pot doesn’t remain a jumble of broken shards. Brian sat in my living room and spoke confidently of his good health, his strong body, his expectancy to live long and serve God well. But at that very moment his clay pot was cracking all over and a few weeks later it was dead. But Paul says, Sunday’s coming! Brian will be put together again in a beautiful strong body. Resurrection!
God’s life, power is put on display. This is what happened with Bart. Those who knew him reflect on the character of Christ that was demonstrated in his life. Some who didn’t know him have stepped forward to take his place. By living at risk for God’s purposes in this world, serving in a distant unsafe land, he joined our Savior in giving his life for lost people. With his blood he indelibly marked a fledgling program in church-starting evangelism. God’s power has been vividly put on display.
How can a lowly, fragile, vulnerable clay pot ever hope to respond this way? It is the power of God. 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Dick Woodward would say “I won’t but he will, I can’t, but he can, I don’t but he does.” The treasure in a clay pot.
A broken pot gives testimony of our inner condition, letting, the contents of the pot spill out. I went to visit the hospital room in a Colorado Springs burn unit. Ben’s pot had been shattered. He was in a car crash and a young man came every day to help. For long months he came, and Ben spoke of faith. Hardened family members, strangers, and this new friend came to Jesus because the faith spilled out. 2 Corinthians 4:11: “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ”I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak.”
Faith turns our world right side up exactly at the point circumstances turned it upside down. True faith works no longer for the visible, lightweight, temporary stuff, but for HIS happiness, fulfillment. As long as we live for the seen, the light weight, transient stuff, we demonstrate that we do not yet live by faith.
What we live for is all brought into focus by the shattering of the clay pots. What would spill out of your clay pot if it shattered today?