Summary: So often we think that life needs to be smooth and easy for us to be successful, but God calls us ’jars of clay’ - it’s a fact we should live and celebrate.
What are your hopes for 2010? Lots of people made New Year resolutions in the past couple of days. Statistically the top ten resolutions are:-
10. Reorganize Life
9. Be More Charitable
8. Learn Something New
7. Get Out of Debt
6. Stop Drinking
5. Enjoy Life More
4. Stop Smoking
3. Lose Weight
2. Get Fit
1. Spend Time with Loves Ones
Now when you have a closer look at that list you will notice that every resolution is positive in nature. Most people are looking for a better and easier life. Which is understandable. But not necessarily realistic.
Human experience tells us that life doesn’t always go as we hope.
We face disappointments, and challenges.
We have times of limitations and inability.
We find ourselves having a sense of weakness, helplessness and overwhelming failure.
That is not being negative. It is being realistic. Indeed the Scriptures focus on this very same issue.
As we read this passage, let’s make sure we understand our culture. Ours is a world where self-esteem is the king of the age. You can’t make people feel bad about themselves. You need to make sure you encourage people, even when they are hopeless. Many schools don’t give grades now, you just end up in a band so your personal weaknesses don’t stand out.
At all costs we must avoid making people feel that they don’t have what it takes. That is our culture.
Then God comes along and says, “You know what. Let’s have a realistic assessment here”.
You are all jars of clay.
You don’t have a lot to be boastful about.
Physically that is the case. In verse 16 Paul reminds us that Outwardly we are wasting away the Greek behind this phrase means “to rot, to decay, to ruin, to corrupt”. It’s not a positive picture … but neither is ageing.
• When we are 20 we have energy to burn and the strength to match.
• When we get to 30 we discover a few niggles.
• By the time we are 40 the niggles have turned into chronic pain.
• At 50 our stomach loses its ability to stay in our pants.
• At 60 we start to become thankful if we can go into the day with less then 3 pains.
• By 70 well …
As one old person remarked, "Some days I feel like I’m falling apart, and what scares me is that they don’t make parts for me anymore!”. We are just jars of clay. From dust we are made, to dust we will return.
But it isn’t just the physical issues. There are also the spiritual issues. Consider the way your mind works.
The angry words you say which cut other people apart emotionally. Wicked thoughts which cause you to reflect on lust, pride, covetousness, and hate. Think about the greed which makes you desire for the praise of men rather than of God.
It is an issue. We know it. Paul also knows it. In another part of the Bible Paul writes, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15,19).
At some point in the assessment we must confess our helplessness and weakness as we deal with the temptations of life. We are but jars of clay.
That is us … jars of clay.
We are not vessels made of brass, silver or gold.
We are earthen ware, cracked pots, if you will. By our very nature we are fragile. Under the pressures of life we chip … we crack … we even shatter.
That’s the picture which Paul wants us to identify with. We are jars of clay.
Now, on the surface, you would think that such a description is not a good description. However the reverse is true.
We are jars of clay.
And we should celebrate.
Because, as jars of clay, we still have a ministry! It’s a very powerful ministry. The ministry of cracked pots.
You see our effectiveness is not based on our pizzazz, charisma, good speech and eloquent presence. Our effectiveness is based on the fact that these jars of clay are full to the brim with a priceless treasure.
Paul here borrows an image from the Roman army. After victory in battle the Roman legions would march into the city of Rome displaying the spoils of war. In these victory processions it was customary for plunder like gold, silver, and jewels to be carried in jars of clay. Always the eyes of the people would be drawn to the sparkle and glimmer of the treasure, not the dullness of the container.