Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jars of Clay - A and R

A and R are in East Asia. Well technically they are in Thailand right now. The pic of them is from their vacation on Phi Phi Island. (With the sunglasses R looks like the Top Gun version of Tom Cruise.)

Their first semester ended with a bang as over the Christmas season, A and R’s team was able to share the Gospel with around 600 students through lectures and parties! Some of the believers involved with them were able to join in and share about Jesus with their friends and classmates through parties. In January, they started following up with students that indicated that they were already Christians or were ready to make a decision to follow Jesus. Several students prayed to receive Christ and many are very interested and wanting to talk more.

R writes that as he neared the end of the first semester he was reminded what a great “job” we have. “I get to be a part of people going from death to life, from darkness to light, from hopeless to full of hope, from lonely to loved everyday. It’s a blessing and honor and a work that I deserve no part of.”

R also writes that his walk with the Lord has been growing and deepening of late. “I have been seeing my tendency to run from hard situations and not to embrace them and grow through them. I have focused my studies in the bible on hope lately. I have been looking through the bible continually reminding myself of whom and what I should really be hoping in. I have found myself placing my hope in vacation time in February, or getting back to America, or in friendships, or in entertainment. I am learning that I must be very intentional about putting my hope for peace and joy in the Lord and nowhere else.”

Recently, I was looking at similar passage about embracing hard situations. In 2 Cor 4:7-18, Paul talks about how we have a treasure in jars of clay. This treasure is defined in the previous verses. It is a light - the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. As I read this, I imagine this fragile jar pot with a light in it. So when I read what Paul says they are experiencing, I picture someone taking a hammer and whacking this jar…

We are hard pressed on every side, (WHACK) but not crushed.

Perplexed, (WHACK) but not in despair.

Persecuted, (WHACK, WHACK) but not abandoned.

Struck down, (WHACK, WHACK, WHACK) but not destroyed.

With each whack, more light shines forth! The more cracks, the more of the light, the more glory, and the more of the knowledge of Christ. Paul says that we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is not from us but from God. He writes that he was experiencing death of Jesus in His mortal body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed. Death was at work in Paul. But life was at work in the Corinthians.

It is similar for us. We experience death - maybe not to the degree that Paul did - but little deaths as we place our hope in Christ and not in things we have left behind. Sort of like Keith Bubalo’s illustration at briefing on giving blood if you recall that – a little bit of death as we assume ‘the giving position’.

Though Paul doesn't use the word 'hope' in this particular passage, he is talking about the hope of the glorious appearing of our LORD. It is because of this hope that Paul writes that he does not lose heart. Though outwardly we are are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. He reminds us that our light and momentary troubles achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. The scales of balance are overwhelming in our favor. We can fix our eyes not on the seen but on this unseen eternal, hope.

May this week we each place our hope for peace and joy completely in the Lord and nowhere else.

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