“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Here in one sentence is expressed the secret of the release of the power of God. God’s destiny for us is to carry his power, the treasure of his presence.
The enemy knows how to attack. That attack so often comes in the form of one thing after another that gradually wears away our defences, grinds us down and leaves us weak, exposed to temptation, and feeling like giving up. We carry the treasure in jars of clay. Clay pots were the humblest form of kitchenware in those days. They were cheap and unattractive. Their greatest value was the food they held within them.
Paul does not make this statement to suggest that we are worthless to God. He makes it to point out that although in ourselves we are nothing, in him we have the capacity to carry something great.
To carry this treasure brings great joy and great pain. The greatest treasure of all was found in a man hanging on a cross. Jesus knew he was carrying the treasure of God’s presence, and what that would mean for us when he hung on that cross. And he is not only our salvation, he is our example. God exhorts us to run the race set before us, because Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. The race at times will be hard and painful, maybe excruciatingly hard and painful, but we can run the race even as he did. You cannot carry the treasure without carrying the cross. But in the end it is always worth it.
Paul was at a time of great crisis in his life when he wrote 2 Corinthians. According to chapter 1, the affliction was so severe it caused him to despair even of life, to feel that the sentence of death had been passed on him. Yet this is the man who in the same letter mentions the signs and wonders and mighty works God had done through him, who describes his experience of being caught up to the third heaven. He also tells us how he was rejected and abandoned by the people he had led to Christ and in whose presence all these mighty works had been done. Most pain is caused by people, and the greatest pain is caused by people we love. Yet still we carry the treasure.
God is always investing into our lives in order that we might be more productive and fruitful. Everything he does, even things that seem painful, have a positive purpose. Even where the enemy is without doubt at work, God has an unlimited capacity to bring good out of evil.
Therefore, in times of trial and testing, remember this: God is at work in your circumstances, accomplishing purposes you cannot yet see or understand but which are nevertheless real. He is drawing you closer to himself. And he is changing you to become a greater blessing to others.
I want to be a man who is weak in himself, but strong in Christ, a poor, perishable vessel containing eternal treasure, dying but living, in my poverty pointing always to his glory. If by my dying day I’ve become that man, I’ll have won.