Knocked Down but Not Knocked Out2 Corinthians 4:1-18Theme: Treasures in jars of clay.This week’s lessons teach us the importance of having an eternal outlook on life.
LessonIn considering ourselves as clay jars, what matters is whether or not we make that vessel available for God to use. Your life is a vessel, and you can hold it back. You can say, “No, I want it for myself. I want to fill it up with the wisdom of the world. I want to fill it up with fame, prestige, and money.” If that is what you want to fill your life with, that is what you get. And because all those things are perishable, what your life contains perishes when you do.
Or you can do what Paul did. You can give that vessel over to the Lord Jesus Christ and allow him to fill it up. He will not fill it up with things that perish. He fills lives up with the glory of the Gospel and he uses those lives to spread this great treasure to other men and women.
Paul explained that living that way is not easy. Paul describes himself as hard-pressed, perplexed, and persecuted. Do you see yourself in those terms? Have you ever felt hard-pressed on every side? I do not know a good Christian worker that does not feel hard pressed on every side, at least sometimes. The problems of the world are unending, and if you make yourself available to help people, there is no end to those that will come or the needs that will be presented to you.
Have you ever been perplexed in Christian work? I know I have. One thing that perplexes me in Christian work is the difficulty of getting it done. It is difficult to find the people because there are many who are not willing to do what needs to be done. It is difficult to finance. The best Christian works I know struggle under a burden of perpetual difficulty in the area of finances. I am puzzled by that. I say, “God, why should that be?” I can give myself reasons. I do not know that they are the right reasons, but I can say that God is teaching us to have faith. Also, God knows that perhaps, if things were easy, we might misuse the money. But I still find myself saying, “God, it shouldn’t be so difficult.” So I find myself perplexed.
Paul also mentioned persecutions. I think there are kinds of persecution that occur in families where one becomes a Christian and the others do not. But generally, there is not much persecution. In some areas of the world there is lots of persecution. Paul also mentioned being struck down and given over to death for Jesus’ sake. Some go through that, but somewhere along the line I think most of us fall out. Yet to a greater or lesser extent, this is the experience of those who try to carry on a faithful ministry for Jesus Christ.
If Paul were here, we would have to say, “Yes, Paul, we, too, have found these difficulties although not to the degree that you experienced persecution.” What I think Paul would say to us at that point is this: “Yes, that’s true. This is going to be your experience if you live for Christ, because it’s the way of the cross.”
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18). There is no getting around the fact that if you follow Jesus Christ, these things follow. However, Paul went on to say that hardship is not the whole of the Christian experience. When we look at these things, we see all kinds of troubles. But when we look upward to God and to what God is doing, we are renewed because we recognize that God is doing a glorious work, not only through us in the lives of other people, but in us as well.
Paul also discussed this in terms of the resurrection. He referred to his own personal resurrection in verse 14. He wrote, “…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” That is a glorious hope. That transforms the circumstances. It is not only a case of what God is going to do at the end at the final resurrection. There is also a sense in which God is working in us to produce a resurrection even now. Paul calls it “being inwardly renewed” in verse 16. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
With what are you filling your own vessel?
What is true of all believers who turn themselves over to God to use?
Where should we look when we are facing hardship or persecution?
PrayerAre you feeling hard-pressed in your Christian service? Ask God to renew you spiritually, physically, and emotionally for the work he has called you to do.
Scripture MemoryMemorize 2 Corinthians 4:16.