Summary: The Holy Spirit is a treasure inside of us earthen vessels.
Treasure In Earthen Vessels
2 Cor 4:7-9 & 16 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ... For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Cheryl is a 29-year-old Army sergeant from St. Louis. Her job is to train soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. But the greatest struggle in her life is not the combat she engages in daily with well trained, able-bodied warriors. Her greatest fight is with a hereditary disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia or FFI. As I read her story in the most recent issue of National Geographic I was somewhat surprised to learn about the absolute necessity of sleep.
There is harmful, and even fatal, effects of persistent insomnia. Sleep, and the necessity of the physical rest that it brings to our bodies, is one of the enigmas of the medical and scientific arenas. With all of our knowledge and understanding, science and modern medicine is hard pressed to tell you exactly what sleep does for your body. However, the evidence presented by the disease that Cheryl battles is that when the human body fails to sleep, it dies. Patients with FFI never live long after the disease finally robs them of their capacity to sleep. Death comes for no apparent reason, with no obvious cause. A lot of interest has focused on the cause of the death that overcomes those that suffer from this genetic insomnia but there is no obvious physiological reason for death. The best explanation is simply that they die from a lack of sleep.
Of course, the obvious application of this little piece of knowledge is that we really do need our beauty sleep. There is no doubt that some of you live just like I do and, by ignoring the needs of our bodies, we may very well be doing incomprehensible damage to our physical well being. However, as I was to contemplating that truth, God began to deal with my heart from another angle. There is no doubt that I neglect the physical needs of my body in the realm of rest and refreshing, however, the tragic truth tonight is that many of us also neglect a spiritual desire of the same nature. There exists a rest and refreshing that comes only from the presence of God and I am convinced that we ignore that need at the peril of our spiritual well being.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul describes born again believers as vessels that contain the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. What a wonderful treasure we have been entrusted with. What a tremendous transforming truth that we have received. The knowledge of God and the revelation of the mighty God in Christ is the very light of truth and it is described by Paul as a tremendous treasure. One would suppose that, in keeping with the analogy, the treasure would be safeguarded in an infallible receptacle, a fortress, or a stronghold. However, that’s not the case at all. According to Paul the glorious gift of God, the precious treasure of the Holy Ghost, resides in jars of clay.
This is an important truth. We may have been filled with the spirit of God but we are still simple, frail, human vessels. The Ancient of Days, in a wisdom that defies human logic has chosen to house his spirit in the hearts of mere humans. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, reveals the reason for such a decision. God has chosen to house the treasure in earthen vessels to show that the excellency of the power that works within us belongs to God and not to us.
Often, when we study this passage we place our focus on the treasure, on the wonderful thing that God has given us. However, tonight, I want to turn our eyes towards the vessel. The vessel is just a simple container of clay. It is, in all truthfulness, a weak vessel. It is subject to trials and troubles; it is burdened with problems and imperfections; it is but a frail jar of clay. But God is not afraid to house the revelation of his glory in human vessels because He controls the trials, He masters the storms, and He provides the grace to overcome the imperfections.
God is glorified through weak vessels. Paul said, on a different occasion, “When I am weak, he is strong.” When, in spite of my weakness, this frail human vessel shines forth with the incredible power of God that surpasses human understanding, all of the glory belongs to God. That’s why he chose these human vessels to become the ambassadors of heaven. Because anything good that comes from these jars of clay can only be attributed to God. God is glorified in these feeble earthen vessels.