7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 NIV
I want you, the people reading this to…
…know The Treasure that is Within You to Feel Hopeful to Actively Celebrate God and Persevere.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. — 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
What does it mean that we have this treasure in “jars of clay”? Let’s think about what Paul could be saying. We know from verse 6 in this same chapter that the treasure Paul speaks of is the light of God’s glory in our hearts. This light is powerful and marvelous. It is eternal and it leads us to know more about God and His glory by helping us to see the truth about Christ.
But what about us? We (at least this side of the resurrection) are fragile. Our bodies fail and are constantly plagued by decay. We are the jars. We are made of dust. But this treasure that God has placed in us is made of His glorious light.
Mental, Emotional, and Physical Pressure
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. — 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV
In keeping in line with our fragileness and God’s surpassing greatness, Paul goes on to show how he and his ministry companions as well as many of us today are under pressure. Again, keep in mind the clay jar metaphor going on from earlier.
They were under pressure mentally. Their world was caving in and the rubble of it all was pushing on them from every side (v.8 “hard pressed”). Have you as a Christian ever had this happen to you? Your world feels like it’s falling apart and everyone around you is accusing you or demanding something from you and you feel like you don’t have enough mental energy to handle the strain?
Other translations say that Paul and his friends were troubled on every side or afflicted in every way—can you relate?
But even in the midst of this trouble, God shows us His glory and power by the follow-up statement “but not crushed”. Even in the midst of what they were going through, God did not allow them to be crushed. When our world is pressing in on us from every side, our God will not allow it to conquer us.
They were under pressure emotionally. When your world is crashing down around you, it’s easy to become confused. It’s easy to start questioning everything you know. About yourself. About reality. About God. And having no idea what to do in the situation.
It’s also easy to give in to all this confusion and despair. Look, many of us have been there—we don’t know what’s going on anymore and so we shut down. We shut down socially, we shut down mentally, and we shut down emotionally. The only things we feel are sadness, worthlessness, a sense of a loss of purpose and we just keep thinking and rethinking about these things. This is despair.
But our world or rather the world around us falling apart is not the end for the man or woman of God! As Paul states, even though they were in that situation, they did not give in to despair. They were able to keep going emotionally because God, not the world around them, is their source of stability and He can be ours too!
They were under pressure physically. People didn’t just turn their backs on Paul once he became a follower of Jesus and strangers didn’t just shun him. They actively tried to kill him! In fact, so actively that they once got a mob together and STONED HIM. We read in Acts 14:19 NIV that: “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.”
But even this is not the end. Because as we read in the next verse: “But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”
Paul was not abandoned even though powerful people sought to take his life. God had given him friends to stick with him even in the worst of situations. But suppose he had no friends, would this verse still be true? Would Paul—would we—be forsaken? No! Low that every man should leave us God is still right by our side!
But what about if they (those trying to kill him) had succeeded? Would not he then be “destroyed”? No! Because though man may kill our body, it is God who preserves our soul! And will He not also clothe us with a resurrected body at the end of all things? (Romans 8:11, Matthew 10:28, Philippians 3:20–21)
These people have no power against us save what they can do to us in the here and now.
God sees us through the anguish, through the confusion, and through the physical persecution because He is good and He is powerful!
Carrying the Death and Life of Jesus
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. — 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 NIV
As we are living this Christian life and as they had suffered through various persecutions, we are reminded of the suffering and death our Lord went through. And just as He was given a resurrected body, so will we receive a new body by His power at the resurrection (see Philippians 3:20–21). This brings us courage.
But more than that, if we are carrying around with us every day the effects of that death, namely forgiveness of sins and the experience of grace, we can then carry out the life of Jesus in our everyday lives by extending that same grace and forgiveness to others!
Just as we share in Jesus’ death when we are suffering or persecuted, so we will also share in His resurrection! (see Romans 8:11)
Life. At Work. In You!
So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. — 2 Corinthians 4:12 NIV
As best as I can figure, it appears that by the sufferings Paul and his companions were going through, they were able to be a life-giving example to the church in Corinth. And by his willingness to suffer these things to bring the Gospel to the people at Corinth, he is imparting the life that God’s message, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit bring to those who accept it.
With this in mind, it is easy to say that though death may be at work in him or through us by the suffering we may face in living a committed life to Jesus, these sufferings are worth it for the life that they begin to work in those who hear and receive.
I do not think this is not a far stretch seeing as the next verse talks about sharing God’s hope-filled message.
Speak What You Believe
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. — 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 NIV
Now some of you might be wondering what Paul is quoting from when he says, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.'” and I was too, so I looked it up (with the help of google and serval commentaries and found that he is quoting from the psalms. Specifically Psalm 116.
And in this psalm we see a lot of the same themes of suffering and God’s faithfulness that we see earlier in this passage, it’s possible that this was hanging in his mind as he wrote about the sufferings he and his companions were going through.
However, when Paul quotes from this psalm, he chooses to focus on one specific part of it, verse 10 which reads:
I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: — Psalm 116:10 KJV
He likens himself to the psalmist by saying that they have the same spirit as each other, and this can be seen in the similarities of what the psalmist talks about and what Paul talks about. As well as the fact that though they are suffering they are still speaking to and about their Creator and Sustainer God!
What more for those like Paul and the other apostles who saw the Risen Jesus.
This encouragement of seeing the Risen Jesus gave Paul and the other early apostles the strength to carry on even in the face of death because as they reasoned “the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus”. There was no reason to fear because they know that the One whom they had placed their trust in and who was faithful to Jesus (who is Himself faithful) would be faithful to them as well in raising them up to be with Jesus.
And not only that, but to be with each other as well. As the rest of the verse reads “…and present us with you to himself.”
Those relationships do not end at death, because we belong to the same body and because we serve the same Lord, and because we are members of the same family, we will all meet together at the feet of our Lord and Savior.
This should be encouraging to you! Not one moment invested in each other’s life will be wasted if we are in Christ.
All This is For Your Benefit
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. — 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV
How is “all this” for our benefit? It seems to me that Paul is saying that the affliction that he and his companions were going through that brings life to the church at Corinth and to us, is what benefits us.
And although I don’t quite get what grace, in particular, he is referring to, it is clear to see that he is overjoyed at the prospect of more and more people coming to a saving knowledge of and relationship with their Creator God through the grace of Jesus the Christ!
He wants to see all those who come to Christ express joy and thanksgiving for the gift that God has given them. And really, as those called to continue on this message, it should be our aim as well to see men and women come to know Jesus and to praise Him for His goodness.
After all, this brings glory to God and joy to our hearts and His!
Decay and Renewal
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. — 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV
Because of all of this, because our troubles in this world are only temporary, and because we know that the light of God’s glory is in our hearts, we do not need to give up or even lose hope.
Yes, our emotions may fail us, yes our world may come apart, and yes our bodies may fail us and are indeed constantly doing so. But even so, our inner man, our spirit, is continually growing into more and more Christlikeness as we continue to submit to Him and to the Holy Spirit’s power to change us!
A Hope That Outweighs It All
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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV
Though Paul suffered, his eyes were not focused on such a temporary predicament, and neither should we be because what comes next is so good that it dominates any feeling of the pain that we had to go through on our way to it.
Imagine that if you will for a moment, there is great pain in the birthing of a child, but once he or she arrives, where is the mother’s focus? Is she not filled with joy at this new life that she’s holding?
So it is with this life, (as the apostles talk about elsewhere) the struggles and pain we are going through are merely birthing pains, when we come to the end of this life or when our Lord comes back, we will be beholding that new life that God has given us in Himself. No more strife, no more suffering, only the goodness that comes from God.
And that’s what Paul (and I believe also what The Holy Spirit) wants them and us to be focused on. Not this temporary trouble which we can see but the eternal glory which is ours in Christ. Though we cannot see it now, one day we will and here’s the kicker, that glory is just as real now as it will be in the day it’s revealed—all we need to do is keep our eyes focused on it.
For more from Tom, check out his new book, No Fake Christians!: Paving A Way To Genuine Faith.
Find yourself on a better path towards genuine faith.
What’s genuine faith all about? Does the way we live our lives truly reflect our claim as followers of Jesus? It’s time for a spiritual check up to see which areas of our lives are urgently needing God’s healing and deliverance.
No Fake Christians! is an open and loving rebuke as it talks about the things that we, Christians, should and should not do. It challenges us to take a hard look at our own spiritual life and how that is played out in our actions and attitudes.