Paul faithfully ministered to the church at Corinth (and many other churches) in spite of all the hardship in his life. His ministry was not an easy one, but he refused to give up (v.1). He was unswervingly committed to preaching and teaching the gospel that had transformed his life. And he was committed to the purity of the gospel message: Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead to save lost sinners. He refused to pollute that message with slick-talking sales tactics or “tampering” with the truth of Scripture (v.2). He was determined to pierce the darkness of sin-blinded minds with the light of Jesus (v.4-6).
I love Paul’s description of believers in verse 7: “We have this treasure in jars of clay.” He compares our lives to the kind of clay (terra cotta) pots in which we plant flowers. These clay pots are cheap, common, and easily broken; they are made of dirt, so they aren’t meant to last very long. They are not ornamental — not made as objects to be admired — but designed to be containers. In Paul’s day clay jars were used as receptacles for household garbage or as “chamber pots”. Believers are like these clay vessels, but there is more to us than meets the eye! We are perishable containers with priceless contents. We contain the priceless treasure of the life of Jesus Christ!
If you have ever worked with clay pots, you know that they are fragile. It doesn’t take much pressure or much of a blow to chip or crack one. But because of what — or rather who — is in us as believers, we are unbreakable! Paul said that he was “afflicted in every way”, but not crushed. He had been knocked down, but not knocked out — not because of his own strength, but because of the strength of Christ in him. If you are going through a difficult time, remember that the force of life’s external pressures will never exceed the internal force of Christ in you!
When life beats you up and knocks you down, don’t lose heart (v.1, 16). In comparison to the glorious future God has prepared for you in heaven, anything you go through in this life is just a “slight momentary affliction” (v.17). When your old clay pot is finally broken beyond repair, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead will raise you, too (v.14). Until then, with eyes of faith, keep your focus on eternal things — like the gospel, the glory of God, the hope of heaven, the Bride of Christ, and the love of Jesus (v.18). Hang in there. Don’t give up. You may be a “cracked pot” but the life of Jesus can be “manifested in your mortal flesh” (v.11). Let His light shine through the cracks and holes life has knocked into you!