Jars of Clay (II Cor. 4:7-18)
Maryam and Marziyeh are glowing. The two young women are not fashion models or Hollywood actresses; they are not corporate leaders of successful businesses or wives of men who can afford to give them any of this world’s trinkets.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Maryam and Marziyeh are simply followers of Jesus who found themselves prisoners in Iran’s infamous Evin Prison for their faith. They were not treated well there.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
There is something that seems to radiate out from their faces that belies the ordeal of their experience as prisoners. Released from their prison only a few months ago, the young women tell the story of their ordeal in a book entitled Captive in Iran.
It’s not a new story, though – it’s the story of those who have immersed themselves in the ministry of God’s internal affairs. The movement of God’s Spirit in the lives of His people is remarkably relevant because He is not passive in the midst of our various sufferings. We all suffer in various ways; that’s part of being human. But when we participate as ministers of His kingdom plans, we find that our hardships, rather than crushing us, become the catalyst for our internal growth. That is what the Apostle Paul means when he says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
It’s something worth pondering when we examine our own lives. Think of the trials, the upsets, the traumas we’ve experienced. Have they crushed us? Do they leave us in despair, feeling abandoned and destroyed? That is what this world will do to every one of us. That is its default setting. We’re all jars of clay wondering whether our next fall will be all it takes to shatter us.
But Paul reminds us that the treasure of Christ living deep within these feeble clay jars of our lives accomplishes something eternal. It testifies to the fact that there is something supernatural going on in our lives when we are facing troubles.
He says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” He is not saying the power is within us, as if we ourselves were capable of staving off destruction. We are not jars of steel. He is saying that we reveal God’s power to transform lives from the inside out, when we allow Him to work through our pain. Others will see Christ in us as we face difficulties aware of His presence with us. That is the glow we see on the faces of the Iranian women.
Rather than trials wreaking havoc on our lives, God’s ministry in and through us is a resource for our growth and development. It’s not just for today or tomorrow, but it makes us people fit for eternity’s vast realm.
“Therefore we do not lose heart…for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Father God, we choose to embrace Your presence in our lives today, not to escape our troubles but that You would transform us through them. May Your strength carry us, Your love comfort us, and Your truth embolden us to be ministers of Your kingdom.
We are but jars of clay in Your hands.
(Photo and story Credit: http://billygraham.org/story/former-prisoners-of-iran-now-voice-of-hope/)