ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART VIII | Enduring for Eternity | 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:7–18
Christopher Rich – February 28, 2021
ENDURE | Courage in Weakness
PART VIII | Enduring for Eternity | 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Introduction | What wears you out?
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series ENDURE: Courage in Weakness.
What is actually built to last? What is valuable? What we see about ourselves and experience in the world does not always seem enduring, strong, or valuable. At a certain point, as we age, we begin to see greater decay not greater glory. As we experience difficulty, we seem weaker not stronger. As we experience loss, we can lose vision of what is valuable. When we rely on that which can wear out we are left disappointed and despondent. To be prepared for eternity we need a true power worthy to endure. We need to rely on who and what is eternal if we are going to be built to last not just trough difficulty but onward to glory.
PART I |Weak Vessels; Worthy Treasure | 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
2 Cor 4:7-12 | 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 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. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Weak Vessels; Worthy Treasure (v7) – The treasure is the Gospel, the power of God to save in and through Jesus Christ. Verse 6 says light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is shining in and through us. We’ve been given this good news, we possess this treasure, and we carry this to the world.
In the Middle East nearly every home had these common jars of clay. They were cheap and usable. Unlike metal containers which didn’t break or glass that was often recycled. when these jars broke, (or even if they were considered “unclean” (think sin), they were discarded because there was nothing that could be done for them. The Jars of Clay are us. Common daily use. We are formed by a creator for a purpose. But we are fragile. We can break, our lives are temporary. Yet these common weak vessels ones are filled with worthy treasure. Jars of clay carrying a great treasure is like a Tupperware storing gold bricks. The vessel is not valuable on its own but is incredibly useful for carrying something great. Think of a box for an engagement. When you get engaged, no one is asking to see the Ring Case. Even if it’s an iconic “Tiffany’s” box is only iconic because it means you got something from Tiffany’s. It’s because what is valuable, what is amazing, what is brilliant, is what’s inside. Don’t hear this wrongly. We are of great value to our Lord! In all of the created universe He made us in HIS image. We are a worthy of dignity, honor, and respect. We are whole people, so it is not saying our bodies don’t matter (they do!) or only our souls are important (they are). The point of the analogy is given in verse seven. The contrast is between weak humanity compared to our worthy God. It’s not to say we are not valuable but to direct us (and others) to know where the real source of power and our real value comes from. We are not the source of surpassing power. God is. The treasure is in us and is carried by us we are vessels full of the treasure of God’s glory and power.
The treasure inside helps us deal with the journey outside. There is a comprehensive affliction (every way or all sides) there isn’t a type of pain, hurt, challenge or circumstances this does not include or address.
Afflicted not Crushed - Afflicted also translates “hard-pressed”. This means a growing intensity of unbearable external pressure. With overwhelming affliction if we’re these jars of clay with treasure inside we are actually strong enough to endure. When a jar experiences extreme pressure, if it’s empty, it will eventually shatter. However, if it’s filled with a powerful treasure emanating internally than regardless of the strength of the external pressure crushing in, it cannot break because of the power pushing outward and onward.
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places - Ernest Hemingway
Perplexed; but not driven to Despair – Perplexed describes the feeling of being confused, cornered or even condemned, as you find yourself not knowing what to do next or able to see a path to safety and flourishing. When we’re suffering when we look at the world we can be easily disoriented or even despairing. We question and wonder what is the purpose of all of this? Anyone else a bit confused by the last 16 months? Anyone driven to despair recently. This isn’t a fault if you have been, but rather a reminder that we don’t always understand or see the whole story as it’s unfolding. We can be cornered but reminded there is always a way forward even if we cannot see it. If the story seems hopeless that means the story is not finished yet.
Persecuted, but not forsaken – Hounded relentlessly by people, systems, or structures which seek our harm rather than harmony. When we think we are not favored or attacked we think perhaps we’re suffering because God has turned His back on us. We believe we are forgotten, abandoned, or worse, rejected. Jesus was “forsaken” in our place so that we have a relationship with God who will never leave or forsake us.
Struck Down but not destroyed - This is both a military term and mindset. To be struck down in battle means the enemy has the advantage you’re on the ground they’re over you ready to for the kill. Game Over. It is when hopelessness and depression overwhelm us and we don’t see how we can get back up. We should be done, dead, and defeated but instead in the Gospel we are not destroyed but rather we are delivered.
To understand this tension being lived out, look to Jesus’ life and death. These four-fold comprehensive trials Jesus endured in ministry and death. Hard pressed and crushed. Check. Perplexed and despairing (In the garden asking is there another way as he’s sweating blood in existential agony) Check. Persecuted and forsaken (religious/civil authorities plotting your execution, bearing the sins of the world and experiencing being forsaken by God) Check. Struck down and destroyed (Breathed his last on the Cross, dead and buried) Check. Because Jesus has suffered all this, we “carry” Jesus death with as we endure. When we suffer, we remember the death of Jesus for us AND we are empowered by Jesus life given to us. Jesus life we carry is one of healing, righteousness (sinless) and communion with God (I and the Father are one) so we can endure even experience suffering and sacrificial lives. This suffering is not always just an unpleasant part of the journey. Often it is the vehicle God uses to actually transform us into who we are meant to be.
Kintsugi “gospel” – Japanese art of filing or mending a broken vessel with gold. A plain bowl/vessel is just that, but as it’s use it gets chipped, dropped, cracked, and fractured. But instead of discarded which transforms something common into something uniquely valuable and beautiful as scars aren’t hidden and burred but are highlighted showing how a journey of great brokenness leads to greater beauty. Feel the pain, don’t pretend it’s not there. When you’ve cracked and broken all super glue does is make it look like it’s together pretending nothing happened while the results of the brokenness are evident to all. The Gospel of Jesus is life giving and sustaining turning out brokenness into eternal beauty. Because of our great hope we
carry in us in the death and resurrection of Jesus we can never be defeated even when enduring distress.
PART II |Grace & Gratitude | 2 Cor 4:13-15
2 Cor 4:13-15 |13 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, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
What comes out when you are hard pressed? Claiming an enduring faith in Jesus is easier when things are easy. Many of us are blessed in so many ways, but when faced with difficultly or discouragement it is harder to see the past provision, current presence, or future promises of God. Where our faith is truly placed is revealed the greater the struggle or suffering. What do you confess or trust in when things are difficult? What we have heard, internalized, and know in us will come out of us. We will speak what we believe. We put on our faith in what is temporary rather than what transcends all current events. We are in great need of what has the capability to unite us so we can individually and collectively endure. Our society faces great division where each week seems to fracture us further. So we say “we’re in this together” or “unity” but really we know how divide we are or how shallow unity is if it’s determined by our current perspectives and positions on politics, culture, etc. This isn’t limited to just our community and culture. The church is suffering too. Weekly I talk to pastors from across our region (even Canada) and who are seeing and feeling fractures of disunity grow and grow. The Corinthians were an extremely disunified church. When we hear “same spirit of faith” but look around and find and highlight our areas of disagreement we feel a disconnect. We so easily focus on what divides us when we have something great that unites us, the same spirit of faith. But Faith in what?
What story are you telling? What flavors your discussions? What story do you believe? Believe what we say, and we say what we believe. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” What internal narrative are you believing and what story are you telling yourselves or other especially when there is suffering? It’s hopeless, it’s over, I am being hounded, I am forgotten. What is in the world is stronger than the God who made the world. “I believed, and so I spoke” Paul is quoting Psalm 116 a song of God’s provision and salvation during affliction. God is gracious, merciful because He hears our pleas in pain and answers with deliverance from distress, relief from suffering, and strengthens us so we can continue to walk out the life HE has already prepared for us. BECAUSE God has done these things the psalmist and Paul say “I believe and speak” what I KNOW is true. He says affliction and pain is real, suffering is hard and seemingly ending, people are mor than just untrustworthy, they can be terrible. But God is good, God hears, God Cares, God acts, God saves, so we can rely on the fact He is worthy, powerful, and true. We rest and respond.
God Gives Rest, We Respond with Gratitude - Our shared “spirit of faith” leads us to live and practice a life of gratitude (increase thanksgiving). That’s our “what” we do. But gratitude doesn’t just happen, it is a response to something given or done. When we are brought low, our shared faith isn’t in a vague belief things are going to work out but it’s a specific object of faith. So our “why” driving our gratitude is resurrection. Both the resurrection of Jesus (our focal point) and our promised resurrection. Because in Jesus we worship a God who is alive we also have the promise that death is not our end but that we will be resurrected too. This can be good news but not if it’s resurrection only. If the movie Groundhogs day taught us anything it’s that endless life without any transformation and purpose isn’t heaven, it’s hell. So our enduring gratitude is not only because of the promise of life, but ALSO life in the peaceful presence of God with His redeemed and restored people. God’s Resurrection Power is used for Restored Presence. We are individually redeemed and then unified to be so all in Christ, me and you (even when it feels like us and them) will be brought together and raise us up into the peaceful presence of the God of all comfort.
Grace for us and through us. God’s glory is so good and He marshals it for our sake (benefit). We have been given a contagious grace that spreads as it fills and fixes broken people and fractured communities centered on communion with God and each other. Our enduring response to this gracious redemption is radical gratitude. When we have received the grace of God in Jesus, we enthusiastically share it with others multiplying gratitude.
PART III | Outer Decay; Inner Renewal | 2 Cor 4:16-18
2 Cor 4:16-18 |16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Outer Decay and Inner Renewal - This brings us back to our internal and external lives. Because God saves, brings resurrection, and reconciliation despite our disunity or our own deterioration, we Don’t lose Heart. He says “don’t lose heart” (faint running) because we easily want to (or do) lose heart the longer we’re running.
For as we are too much taken up with the present life, so long as everything goes on to our mind, the Lord, on that account, by taking away from us, by little and little, the things that we are engrossed with, calls us back to meditate on a better life. Thus, therefore, it is necessary, that the condition of the present life should decay, in order that the inward man may be in a flourishing state; because, in proportion as the earthly life declines, does the heavenly life advance, at least in believers. – John Calvin
Courage and comfort in weakness come when we behold the paradox of what we see and experience verses what is true. Our outer bodies will waste away, but God is renewing our souls each day. So as we age in our journey watch gray hairs creep in, wrinkles grow, vitality diminishing, even endurance fading we can be comforted knowing that as much as what we see before us slipping away even more is being done in us as God is producing transformation and preparing us for eternity. This is especially true in suffering.
Light & Momentary; Heavy eternal Glory - When we are suffering we don’t think it’s light and momentary, when we are in, it’s intense and seemingly unending and we think senseless. That is what we perceive. Here is what is true. It’s not senseless it is purposeful and productive because it’s preparing us to both receive AND carry and eternal “weight of glory” that isn’t comparable when you consider its greatness. It is glory and life eclipse distress and affliction they are seen as light and momentary. This doesn’t minimize or marginalize the pain it maximizes how great the glory is that dwarfs our despair. For the glory to have “weight” means its substantial, valuable, and enduring. We have hope even in suffering when we can see and know there will be an end. While it can feel like a crushing weight and senseless suffering, it is purposeful and temporary.
What can we see? Affliction, death, decay, while discouraging we are not defeated because So much of the pain is seen and felt but it will end. It will not last forever. Suffering visits for season then will pass away. What is unseen? Perseverance, glory, life, renewal, all unending and never fading. The hidden treasure we carry the gold veins of healing, the spiritual bonds of unity are all unseen but they are also unending. What brings us pain is temporary but what brings us joy is eternal. Do not lose heart, keep running the prise is unseen but inexpressibly glorious. Praise God for choosing to fill jars of clay with His great treasure. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you endurance in the midst of affliction to not suffer ultimate defeat. Grieve suffering you have endured and give gratitude to God for the promise of resurrection and eternal glory when we Trust Jesus!
More in ENDURE: Courage in Weakness | 2 Corinthians
June 20, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XX | Courage to Endure | 2 Corinthians 12:20-13:14
June 6, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XIX | Enduring Weakness | 2 Corinthians 12:1-19
May 30, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XVIII | Leading out of Weakness and Vulnerability