Last time, in Jars of Clay | Part 1, we looked at 2 Corinthians 4:7-12,16-18, on how fragile and weak our life on earth may be, but how, on the inside, we hold valuable treasure that God has blessed us with so we can be useful for his kingdom.
Paul reminds us that the life of the believer is compared to “treasures in jars of clay.” I thought that was an odd analogy for Christian life, but in thinking through it, I realize it is most appropriate.
When I look at a clay jar, I am reminded of old antique pottery that is usually found in excavation sites of ruined cities. No one really uses clay jars anymore—it reminds me of something fragile, delicate, transient, and temporary.
But what is its purpose?
In that clay jar, you could hold your most valuable items. You wouldn’t be able to tell what was in store until that jar was opened. Also, what goes into making a piece of pottery like that? A lot of work! The clay has to have the right water and mineral balance, it has to be the right consistency, it must be spun on a quality potter’s wheel, it has to bake at the right temperature for the right time, and, most importantly, it has to be formed by a skilled potter!
Paul reminds us—that is who we are!
We are skillfully formed by the God of the universe and are continuing to be shaped and molded into the image of Christ every day.
That forming process is not easy. It requires some flaws and defects to be chipped away and, at other times, it takes a lot of addition, growing, and transformation. One thing is guaranteed, though: we will be perfect in His presence when we leave this earth, but that doesn’t mean the process will be easy! Luckily, God is the one doing the shaping, and, if we are his child, we don’t have to worry about when and how that molding will take place, but rather be yielding to the sanctification that he is accomplishing in us.
The best response we can have is to recognize the change that is taking place and give glory to God, despite the temporal pain and discomfort.
Paul accurately shares everything he went through in another passage in 2 Corinthians, where he counts it all joy for the sake of Christ:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. | 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, 30
What an outlook to have! How do you stay positive with all those things going on?
You have to have an eternal focus!
Paul knew that everything he was facing and suffering through would be temporary. He knew that nothing he would face here would be worth compromising for his relationship with Christ. And he knew that the reward for persevering would be worth every short term difficulty here on earth.
After reading that, my ACL tear
didn’t look nearly as bad.
In fact, it gave me a new perspective in finding joy through trials and tribulations on earth, knowing that God is molding me more into his likeness through each difficult situation by allowing me to depend on Him. It really convicted me to stop making excuses when I cry out to God for my difficulties and to rather have the attitude of thankfulness when sacrificing everything to glorify him.
I am thankful:
- thankful for my torn ACL, since that teaches me to slow down and spend more time in his word and in prayer
- thankful for the small apartment we live in, which forces Brittany and me to spend more quality time in close conversation together
- thankful for the expenses that have to be paid, knowing that God has never placed us in a situation of need or want
- thankful that we go through fertility issues, which show us the importance of how precious that future child is to God
- thankful that we go through health issues, knowing that it is one step closer to spending an eternity with Him!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. | James 1:2-4