by Mike Ratliff
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Judges 7:2 (NASB)
This walk before the face of God is fraught with difficulty and pain. No one who is His will pass through this life unscathed by affliction, perplexity, persecution, and even being struck down. That may fly in the face of much of the teaching in the Church in our time, but the reality is that Genuine Christians walk through this life being molded and conformed unto the image of Christ. That process is quite painful because much of what is the Christian is chiseled and burned away via the fires of sanctification. As the image of Christ is burned into us, we must remember that whatever is afflicting us will not crush us. What is perplexing us will not result in God forsaking us. Whatever has struck us down will not destroy us.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NASB)
The Greek word used for “earthen vessels” means “baked clay that has been molded into a clay pot.” These vessels were cheap and breakable. They were also replaceable since they were so utilitarian. They were used for all sorts of things around the house; however, their most common usage was that of holding garbage or human waste. This is telling us that God uses us as his “earthen vessels,” for His purpose. If we are mightily used then we must never forget that that happened not because of anything in us, but entirely by the surpassing power of God. The “suffering” mentioned in v8-9 refers to things that, to the world and immature Christians, appears to weaken us, but, in fact, it actually strengthens us.
1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 for He says,
“At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—
3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (NASB)
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB)
God uses the frail and the fragile, not the proud or arrogant or self-sufficient. Our salvation and that of those to whom we minister is the result of His power. We must never forget that it is not the messenger, but God who is working through him or her. In fact, the weakness of the vessel is actually essential to what he or she does in their service to God. Those who are truly used by God will suffer. That is how God works in us. When that suffering comes from people we must never forget that the attack isn’t really against us at all. It is an attack against the Lord Jesus who is the Truth. Jesus’ enemies hate truth. When we teach or preach the truth we must not be surprised when hate comes our way. For the life of Jesus to be manifest in our bodies we must be weak. Our weakness puts Christ on display.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 (NASB)
When we suffer our enemies will say that that is proof that God is not with us. Conversely, it is this suffering that is the proof that we are, in fact, loyal servants of our Lord who is the source of all of the good works we do. The more we suffer because of our obedience the more we must continue to obey Him in our ministries.
Soli Deo Gloria!