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Treasure In Clay Pots

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. (NIVUK)

Marketing is all about making people want to buy. It makes us expect that products will be presented in enticing packaging, accompanied by compelling advertising and endorsed by celebrities. But the gospel is not like that. No, not at all. The good-news message, about how to be saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is the finest treasure apart from Jesus Himself. And it is only contained in the hearts of people who have already been saved.

What are those people like? They are ordinary, sinful human beings who have repented and sought the mercy of God, appealing only to the grace of Christ and His substitutionary death for them. That is their qualification for containing God's treasure. They are still weak, prone to temptation, confused at times, experiencing stress and sometimes near to breaking point. Paul knew what that felt like: he was certainly no super-human celebrity, as the Corinthians wanted him to be (2 Corinthians 11:5). But he experienced the life of Jesus inside his own body, sustaining him to live another day, to follow Jesus and share the good news with other people.

Ministry was not a career for Paul; it was a commission which daily risked death. He treated his personal sufferings as opportunities to see how God's grace would bring power despite his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul wanted the Lord to authenticate the gospel message by transforming his weak body and perplexed mind. Even his preaching was not eloquent (1 Corinthians 2:1), like Moses before him (Exodus 4:10); but what he said had life-giving power (Romans 1:16). Death often stared him in the face, but God used him to proclaim the gospel to penetrate hearts and save souls.

These verses should expose two lies some Christians believe. Some think that their leaders must be seen to be successful and prosperous if their churches are to succeed (Matthew 6:2-4). Paul would strongly disagree. It is the content of their hearts and truth of their preaching which matters, not their 'power packaging' (1 Corinthians 1:26). Others think that because they have no special profile, God cannot use them. Again, what the world thinks of them is irrelevant compared to the life of Christ within them. They should not see their weaknesses as disqualifying them from sharing Jesus – it is His power in their weakness which validates the gospel message. God's remarkable treasure is contained in ordinary or even apparently worthless pots. Those who glorify the pots will not see the glory of the treasure. But those who love the treasure will honour the pots, give thanks for all that Christ has done in them and want to serve Him as they do.

Glorious God. Thank You for Jesus who lives within my heart. I repent of my egotistical desire to be honoured by the world; or of self-loathing, in thinking that I am useless. Please help me to treasure Jesus and all He has done in my life, expecting You to use me despite all my weakness, so that the gospel may reach other people whose life-style packaging cannot bring them peace with God. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams