The Reason God Wants You a Fragile Jar of Clay

Paul was afflicted. It was as though it did not matter which way he turned; someone seemed always to be persecuting him. To find trouble, was to find Paul. Paul and trouble were like two peas in a pod. According to him, he experienced affliction in every way. He was perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. He was always carrying in the body the death of Jesus.

  1. How about you? How goes it?
  2. How’s your day, your week, your life?
  3. Do you feel afflicted?
  4. Have you ever been afflicted?
  5. Have you had seasons where things just did not go your way?

Let me venture a guess here: you have. How do I know this? Because you’re human; you’re a fragile jar of clay. You’re a disposable pot.

How about this twist on perspective? Though times of affliction are some of the more undesirable times in a person’s life, it is precisely in those moments when God receives His greatest glory.

This perspective also raises an important question, at least to me: Do I want my affliction to be a means to glorify God? Better yet, do I want to be afflicted at all? I remember vividly unique seasons in my life when I was afflicted, and God’s glory was not at the top of my list of hopeful outcomes. My primary aim was escaping the affliction.

However, if I were honest, I would say it was in those moments of affliction where I experienced God in incredible and unusual ways, and the people that I served during those seasons experienced God’s help through this broken jar of clay.

I’m confident you’ve had those moments too.

Yes, there is a tension here: (1) I am not looking to suffer; (2) I know that my suffering magnifies the fame of God. It is also true to say that there is nothing that will objectively measure my Christian maturity more than when I am in times of personal difficulty.

Though I can “fake you out” some of the time, I cannot fake you out all of the time, and personal affliction is one of those times when the real me comes out, whether for the good or the bad. To know the real me is to understand me when I’m afflicted.

However, there is good news!! I do not have to despair. There is always hope for the Christian.

That good news is that God will not leave me alone in my affliction. God is in my suffering–always–working His good purposes through this weak and fragile piece of clay.

Few passages in the Bible break down God’s comprehensive help for the believer more clearly than 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. In this passage, Paul gives us one of his most profound gospel-centered perspectives on affliction.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12    

Living In a Disposable House

We have this treasure in jars of clay. – Paul

I think sometimes I can forget that my body is decaying and disposable. Though the gospel is evident, teaching me that I am a dying man, I can drift from this truth, thinking my life and creature comforts are more important than the life God is calling me to.

Honestly, the container I live in is not all that important; at least it should never receive primacy in my heart. But what is in my container is the thing that is important and the thing that matters most. Whenever I put too much emphasis on my container, rather than the content of the container, I am tempted to lose heart. I can despair.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair. – Paul

When I do not see myself as a pilgrim who is passing through this wilderness land, I can be tempted to savor the life I live more than the purposes of God, the one who is writing His story into the life that I am living.

You can frame the real question this way: Am I more interested in and fixated on the container, or the content in the container? Which is it for you? What occupies more of your mental time and emotional space?

  1. The problem-centered person will focus more on and talk more about the problems in his/her life.
  2. The Christ-centered person will focus more on how to put Christ on display through the circumstances in his/her life.

Suffering Does Not deny the Gospel But Confirms the Gospel

From Paul’s perspective, he did not see suffering as the thing that should dominate his mental space or conversation. He seemed to understand that life in a “clay world” was set-up for failure, brokenness, and deterioration. He got that.

It’s kind of like lamenting growing old, turning gray, or experiencing increased diminishing capacities. These things are who we are as clay pots. Dying is what we do. We are jars of clay that were not built to last. We were built to die, to suffer affliction, and to be nicked, dinged, broken, and damaged.

The issue should never be primarily about what is happening to us, as far as our afflictions are concerned. God made us weak and fragile. Fragile things are always afflicted. The real deal is that we are vulnerable and moldable clay pots that God wants to inhabit.

This mystery about our “clay-ness” raises a question and points to a secret: why would God make something so weak and fragile?

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. – Paul

By design, God entrusts this secret to failing, wounded, weak and sinful people, so it will be apparent that the power does not originate from us. It isn’t the result of a strong personality or a keen finely honed mind or good breeding or training. No, it arises solely from the presence of God in the heart.

Our earthiness must be as apparent to others as the power is so that they see that the secret is not us, but God. We must be a transparent people, not hiding our weaknesses and failures, but honestly admitting them when they occur. – Ray Stedman

God has always intended for us to be jars of clay, which contains the treasure of God’s glory for us to put on display.

Be warned: God will not compete with us. It will either be our strength or His strength, but it will never be our strength and His strength. Therefore, for His strength to be magnified, He created us in breakable, disposal, weak, and fragile clay pots.

Putting God On Display

Big Idea – It’s not about the pot, but about what is in the pot. If you could accept the fact that you are weak, broken, and damaged, you would begin to see and experience God working in you, bringing about His glory to others.

You are a jar of clay, called to put the gospel on display through your brokenness.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. – Paul

Notice the paradox in Paul’s “suffering theology.”

  • On the one hand you are afflicted, but on the other hand, you are not crushed.
  • On the one hand you are perplexed, but on the other hand, you are not driven to despair.
  • On the one hand you are persecuted, but on the other hand, you are not forsaken.
  • On the one hand you are struck down, but on the other hand, you are not destroyed.

It takes a paradox to put God on display. It takes a clay pot, and it takes God’s power in the pot. Though you will be afflicted, you will not be crushed. Though you will be perplexed, you will not be driven to despair. Though you will be persecuted, you will not be forsaken.

Reminder – Guard your heart. Your affliction is not primarily about your sin or someone else’s sin. It’s about God working in you. Sovereign God is always working, always on the job, and still helping you to put His name on display.

God’s primary work is what affliction is about in your life. Your sin or someone else’s sin is merely the means by which God’s name goes on display. Guard your heart against the temptation of bitterness when thinking about affliction, especially how your affliction came to you.

God is with you. God is working in you. This suffering worldview is a life-shaping, trajectory-altering, gospel-centered, gospel-motivating truth.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. – Paul

The difference between experiencing affliction, perplexity, and being struck down, but not being crushed, driven to despair, and destroyed, is how you understand and live out the power of the gospel.

Believing the gospel is different than being willing to live according to how the gospel is supposed to work in you. Experiencing the life of Jesus comes by embracing the death of Jesus.

The suffering Paul experienced was so people could see the gospel through his broken jar. While he was experiencing the death of Christ in his mortal body, he saw the life of Jesus manifested in the lives of others.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. – Paul

Do You Believe This?

How many times have you seen the life of Christ manifesting itself through the death of Christ? If you have seen or experienced this, you know the only way it happened was because of God working in and through a broken jar of clay.

I have heard many testimonies through the years about men and women who went through sufferings and how through their sufferings they shared the life of Christ with others.

Sometimes God will put you in places that feel like death, but you know if you embrace these things by faith, the life of Jesus will come through your brokenness.

It was Paul’s faith in the gospel that kept him from losing heart. He was willing to go through more and more suffering if only the life of Christ could be manifested to and experienced by others.

What Paul wanted for himself and others was a practical experience of the gospel: Christ took on death so we could have life. Living like Christ means living with weakness, challenges, and difficulties while dying to self for the sake of others.

BTW: you will have to do this daily. But here is the good news: the more deaths you die, the more you will put the life of Christ on display for others, and the more God will be glorified.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24

There is no way around this big truth: if you want to live, you will have to die.

  • Out of death comes life.
  • Out of weakness comes strength.
  • Out of jars of clay comes the power of God.

The suffering you experience today is not a denial of the gospel, but a confirmation of the gospel. Living the gospel life is what this life is all about, and it is the only way to live this life for God’s glory. When you willingly choose to take on the death of Jesus, the strangest thing will happen; you will put the life of Jesus on display.

  1. How can you die today?
  2. How is God calling you to put Christ on display?

Perhaps you need to reconcile with your spouse, even though you’re not the primary one who is guilty. Is God calling you to die to your expectations, rights, and preferences for a greater glory–His glory put on display?

Maybe you are a teenage son or daughter who is walking waywardly from God and your parents. Is God calling you to die to your anger, to take on the death of Christ so that you can demonstrate His life through you?

Believe this: no matter what affliction you are going through, God promises that if you will willingly embrace the death of your experience and turn your heart toward this kind of gospel teaching, you will not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed.

Yes, you will experience death, but the life of Christ will shine out of your broken jar of clay.

Call to Action

  1. Will you believe the gospel today, functional, practical gospel?
  2. Will you ask God and others to help you to live out the death of Christ today?                                                         Source: Rickthomas.net