Words by Michele Bennett Walton // Images by Candice Hackett
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
—2 Corinthians 4:7–18
We live out our daily lives amid people enslaved by the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Separated from Christ, unredeemed humanity worships beauty, hopes in the here and now, and fears all that reeks of age and death. The messages bombard us, and the glances of others accuse us when we fail to sacrifice our time, energy, and money on these worldly altars. Secretly, we may find our own hearts caught up in the anxious pursuit of airbrushed beauty and vitamin-enriched health.
As Christians, we carry both life and death in our bodies each day. Whereas unredeemed man is dying in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22), we are both living and dying at the same time! What does this mean for us, for our physical bodies? Paul describes our bodies as “jars of clay”
—frail, imperfect, and yet useful vessels. These are the vessels that God has ordained to carry the light of the gospel, which is a much higher calling than the pursuit of earthly beauty and success. So we understand what it means to carry life in our bodies.
Perhaps the more puzzling question is this one: What does it mean to carry death in our bodies? For Paul, the meaning is apparent; when Paul described himself as “afflicted
,” and “struck down
,” he was speaking quite literally. Chapter 11 documents these experiences. Throughout 2 Corinthians, we see how Paul’s very person is the vessel God uses to show his character to people in the midst of circumstances beyond human endurance (2 Cor. 1:9).
Many of us will never find ourselves facing the types of persecution that Paul faced. Yet we still have daily opportunities to show God’s kindness, strength, and mercy in the face of what those around us fear. We are fragile but functional pieces of pottery, putting the death and victory of Christ on display before the world. “So we do not lose heart”
(4:16). This doesn’t mean that we will stop noticing the wrinkles or be unconcerned about a diminishing 401(k), but it does mean that we can regard them as the transient things they are. We do not sell our souls for the sake of our bodies, for another little potion or another little jewel. What difference would it make today if you remembered that your body is a jar of clay? Ponder the “eternal weight of glory”
awaiting you (v. 17).
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Content taken from The Women's Devotional Bible, ©2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
Above image by Dianne Jago.
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