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Sunday, March 07, 2021

"Our Weakness, God's Strength, and the Gospel" by Joel Michaels [LEFC Sermon Notes]

"Our Weakness, God's Strength, and the Gospel"
Joel Michaels
2 Corinthians 4:7-18

As the apostle Paul starts into Ch.4 of his 2nd letter to the Corinthian church, he paints a picture of what it is like to be an apostle, or in our day a missionary or to make it a little more personal, a Christian telling others about Jesus Christ.  We need to spread the Gospel to our family, our friends, our
neighbors, coworkers and on down the line.  If we don't have a burden for others, we made need to check our relationship with Christ.  It's not easy to do, tell others about Jesus, but maybe this passage will help you and me to have some courage and realize God is with us in the work.

Paul speaks the Truth, so here we go.  

Follow along in your Bible as I read  2 Corinthians 4:7-18.

Let's look at vs 7 and the phrase “ But we have this treasure.”

Paul was an apostle and a missionary out starting churches, but Paul had the thing that it took to start these churches, a treasure.  We need to know what this “treasure” was.  To find out jump back to vs. 5-6 in this same chapter.  

What is the treasure?  It's the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is the “treasure “ Paul is giving out. It is the treasure that is in Paul.  People need the Gospel treasure to become Christians and when you have Christians you have a church.  That is how it works.

So that is the treasure.  Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation.  Make a note of that.

A question for you: What do you keep a treasure in?  A vault? A safe? A treasure chest on a deserted island with a big X marking the spot?  Those things make sense.  Maybe not the deserted island.  Something safe and secure and strong.  Locked up.

What does Paul say God keeps his treasure in?  Look at vs. 7 again.   A jar of clay, a human.  
Genesis 2:7 “ the Lord formed man from the dust of the earth”

Paul is a jar of clay, so were the other apostles, so are our missionaries, so is our pastor, and you and me.

Think about a jar of clay.  It's not something we would keep a treasure in.  A jar of clay is weak, brittle and fragile.  If it has a lid it can't be locked.  If you drop it, it breaks.

Let me ask you another question:

Who told you about the good news of Jesus Christ?  Who passed the treasure on to you?  Were they super humans or just regular people, who were Christians?  Did they have frailties, faults, maybe an illness that held them back physically?  I can answer that question for you, yes they did. They are or were jars of clay.

So at this point you may be asking:
Why would God do that? Why would God put this treasure in a jar of clay, a weak, frail human.
Why would God leave this important thing up to people like Paul, Peter, Timothy or our missionaries?  They get sick, they have bad days, they get down.
Why would he leave it up to us?  There are lots of days I feel broke and fractured.  I'm not the best of anything, the best dad, the best husband, not the best technician at work, and not the best Christian.

So why would God put his treasure in us, in me?  The crazy thing is, he did.  God's thoughts and his will are on a so much higher plane than ours, what doesn't make sense to us is his perfect plan.

Read vs. 7 again.

God chose to make it this way to show us and everybody else, it's not about the container the treasure is in, but the treasure itself and God's all surpassing power.  It is God who made the light to shine.  It is Jesus Christ, God the Son, who saved us from our sin.  Remember that treasure from vs' 5 and 6.  It is for His glory.

When humans have earthly treasure, something of value, it typically comes with power and pride.  We hold it to ourselves.  In God's wisdom he wasn't having that, so his treasure is in a jar of clay.

Another note for you.

God shows his power through our frailty and weakness.  I was thinking something else, jars of clay can't be locked, there is no point, you could just smash the jar.  They are made to hold something until you need it.  A cookie jar is made to give out cookies.  We have this jar of clay, all are different, but they are made to give out the treasure God put in them.  It begs the question.  What are we doing with the treasure? Are we giving it out?  A question I wrestle with.  Am I telling people about Jesus?

Now if it was left up to us.  This work of giving out the Gospel from this jar of clay, we would crack.  We would break and fall apart from the stress.  Remember how in vs 7 this was to show God's power.  It is God who holds it all together.  His strength, his power hold the jar together, after all He made it.    He kept Paul together, He keeps our missionaries together, He will keep us in one piece.  So, His treasure, the Gospel will continue to spread through this world, his power is moving it along from Paul right on down the line.

Look what God does for Paul, this jar of clay in vs 8-9.

Does the work of an apostle sound easy?  Is it easy to be a witness for Jesus, to tell people the Gospel?
Not usually.  Sometimes it's severe hardship.  Paul knew something about that, read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, in this same letter.  Sometimes with us it's not hardship or persecution,  it's just us not wanting to offend, maybe scared, or worried about what people will think.  God will give the strength and the courage.   

The struggles of being a Gospel spreading Christian are real.  You may have experienced struggles yourself, if not read some biographies about missionaries or gospel workers.  It is a burden for the lost and a trust in God's provision that motivates.

It is God that keeps His workers in one piece. It is his plan to show His power. It is His strength not ours. 

I don't care how tough we think we are, we will crack.  Only God prevents it and does it faithfully.  We don't need to wonder if He might help us to give out the treasure.  He will help us.  God chose weak vessels to give out His treasure to other weak vessels.

The point here is God holds us together to to do the work he has called us to do, that is to tell people about Jesus.

I need to bring this to a close but I want you to see a few more things like vs 15. 

Friends, Paul is not around anymore, maybe the person who gave you the treasure, who told you about the Savior, is not around anymore, but grace is reaching more and more people.  It does because it is through these jars of clay that God shows His power, and His glory and this treasure that He wants out in the world goes forth.
A few points for you to think on.
-We are weak jars of clay, but God is exceedingly powerful
-We have a treasure to give, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-It's all about God's power and glory.

Lets read vs 16-18 to close.

We press on. We fix our eyes on the eternal.