Summary: Weare jaras of clay who serve out of weakness.

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Title: Jars of Strength

Text: II Corinthians 12:6-10

Thesis: We are “Jars of Clay” who thrive out of weakness.

Series Review

We are:

• Jars of Treasure in whom and through whom Christ is seen.

• Jars of Caring to whom and through whom God comforts and cares.

• Jars of Generosity to whom and through whom God gives.

• Jars of Strength to whom and through whom God is strong.


Do you remember Mary Lou Retton? She was born with hip dysplasia and had a hip replacement as a child. In the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, she edged out her opponents by scoring perfect 10’s in the floor exercises and vault to win Olympic Gol for best all-around competition in gymnastics. She was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985.

Today Mary Lou Retton is 40 years old. She is married, has three daughters, and lives in Houston. She is still 4’9” tall and still weighs 95 pounds. She no longer does 8 hour a day gymnastic sessions, but she does work out 45 minutes a day, five days a week on an elliptical-trainer.

This is what Mary Lou Retton said about herself in an article printed in the Denver Post on Monday of this past week. She said, “I am a work in progress like any other 40-year old working mother and wife.” (Glen Asakawa, The Denver Post, Fitness 3F, January 21, 2008)

I like that… I like the idea that Mary Lou Retton sees her life as a work in process. She does not live in the past. She did not hop off of the potter’s wheel when she won the Olympic God and declare, “I’m all done now! I’m finished!” She has stayed on the wheel… she is not who she was.

Her past experiences do not reflect her present reality.

I. Our past experiences can be a great source of satisfaction, but they may not reflect present reality.

• I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t, because I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and message. II Corinthians 12:6

When we carefully read the text, three insights emerge:

• What has been cannot be denied… truth is truth.

• What has been is good for getting put up on a pedestal.

• What has been may disguise what is… weakness and inadequacy.

Paul had a pedigree. In the previous chapter he wrote, They say they are Hebrews, so am I. They say they are Israelites, so am I. They say they are descendants of Abraham, so am I. They say they serve Christ, so do I. In fact, I serve Christ more! II Corinthians 11:22-23

Paul had life experience. I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, received more lashes than I can count, faced death again and again, been ship wrecked and lost at sea, beaten, stoned, faced danger, lived with weariness, been hungry, thirsty, and cold, and in addition to all of that, I worry about the churches all the time. II Corinthians 11:23-29

Paul had ecstatic spiritual experiences. He met Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 where Jesus confronted him and asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” That experience led to a radical conversion in which he became the radical follower of Christ we knew him to have been. In the verses immediately preceding our text today, Paul tells of what sounds like an out of body experience in which he was caught up into paradise where he saw and heard things beyond description. II Corinthians 12:1-4

Not only could Paul feel pretty good about himself and what he had done with his life… those to whom he told his story could easily have put him on a pedestal.

This is the problem with the past and the pedestal: they may not reflect present reality! Paul was concerned that the past and the pedestal would be inconsistent with what others actually saw in his life and heard in his message.

It is a sad thing to be an unworthy occupant of a pedestal. Second century Roman statesman, Cato the Elder once said, “After I am dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.” (Cato the Elder, 234-149BC, AKA Marcus Porius Cato)

In the 2000 Olympics, Marion Jones won three gold medals: the 100m dash, the 200m dash, and the 4x400m relay. In addition, she won two bonze medals. She was the first woman to win five medals in a single Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. She had hoped to complete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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