The Christian life is meant to be hard, not easy
We are but clay, dust, dependent upon our creator, and this life is meant to be temporary. Yet we tend to live this life as if this is all there is to our existence. But as Christians, Christ has promised us victory, thus our eternal future is secure no matter what this life brings our way. Then how come our experience in this life is different than what the prosperity gospel, televangelists preach on Sunday mornings of wealth, health and happiness as our rights? Most of the world’s Christians are suffering persecution, not like the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Well, if you read most of the books of the New Testament and especially in the Epistles, you will see that hardships and trials – not prosperity, is promised to those who love the Lord. Today’s passage confirms this and shows us Paul’s attitude in them. Particularly in vs 17, 18.
Jars of Clay
2 Cor 4: 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who orchestrates hardships to purify your faith. One day I will reward your faith as it is precious to me. The language of faith is thanksgiving in my sovereignty in all things. I realize that hardships are not fun. But the joy set before you is in the eternal reward because of them. So consider trials as opportunities for reward. As people witness your life as you experience trials, they will see me as the pure gold inside of you shining through the clay jar shell of your life. Remember Gideon’s 300 men? I weeded their ranks down from the thousands to 300 so that I would get the glory for the victory and not them. I don’t want your strength of arm, your wealth, your wisdom and power. I want your faith. Trials and hardships remove your ability so that my ability reveals to all – my glory.
Hardships are opportunities for reward
If you were Paul starting new churches in a predominantly secular, anti-God world; would you preach prosperity as your divine right in the here and now (only for people to be dismayed when they didn’t experience it), or teach the baby church to have an eternal perspective in the hardships that you know that they are going to face in this life? However, and this is what I want to get across today; the hardships of this life which Paul promises are actually opportunities from God for the future rewarding of our faith in heaven. Hardships are not necessarily a bad thing to be avoided at all costs. We don’t have to ask for hardships as they will come naturally, but it is when we give thanks for them that God’s glory shines through. Thus Paul says in 1 Thess 4 to give thanks for the hardships and trials (“all things”). That is when God sees that you truly recognize his sovereignty in your life. Anyone can be a “Christian” when life is easy…
“This world is not our home were just a passin’ through”
Where is your citizenship? If this earth is all you think there is to life, you will be distraught with God over the hardships that mess up your life. But if this world is just a motel as you are passing through, then you will invest your resources in heaven’s causes not just your own. Then your heart is protected because it is longing for a heavenly home, and not dependent upon physical happiness. Your expectations are grounded because when you don’t get the nice house, car, or fancy life that the world projects onto you; you are not down cast or envious. The hope you have in Christ will shine forth to all whom you come into contact with who know your situation and you will be a beacon for others to come to Christ. In the Mt 6:25- 33 Jesus issues a rebuke or warning to the disciples not to live the same way as the Gentiles who seek after the things of this world. And reminds us that God knows of our necessities of life as we seek him first, he will take care of them in his way. And you know that it will be for his glory not your consumption when he does. This life is about growing in faith and that takes trials to strengthen our trust in him and they are light and momentary when you compare them with the glory that we will receive because of them.
More to come,