Jars of Clay

We want to avoid physical and emotional pain, suffering, and death. But we cannot. As long as we are on this earth, in these bodies, we will face these unpleasant experiences. But the Apostle Paul shares a unique perspective:

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again…Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us…And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. (2 Corinthians 4:7-14, CEV)

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. Clay jars are fragile, common items. They are not valuable, but do serve an important purpose: to hold something valuable. The same is true of our bodies; they are fragile and made of common components. (Selling the chemical elements of a body would only earn a few hundred dollars!) But they hold a treasure:

…Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord…Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, CEV)

The time will come when I, the Lord, will write my laws on their minds and hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10, CEV)

The treasure inside our bodies is a heart that knows Jesus and has been changed by Him! That heart connects to God, grows in love for Him, prompts us to be like Him, and reveals His glory to others. It is a privilege to have the treasure of far more life inside of us!

The real power comes from God and not from us. We do not have power to overcome sin and difficulty — to walk in far more life — on our own. Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). And we do! The Holy Spirit gives us the power to: understand spiritual truths, apply wisdom to the challenges we face, and obey God (Isaiah 11); speak the truth powerfully (Micah 3:8); share the gospel of Jesus with others (Acts 1:8); have hope, love, and self-control (Romans 15:13 & 30, 2 Timothy 1:7); and pray to God (Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26). I love how this verse describes what we have in Christ:

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (I John 4:4, CEV)

God empowers us to remain connected to Him, experiencing His love, joy, peace, hope, and more in every challenge we face. When we are disconnected from Him, we have the ability to find the breach and repair it by applying His truth. Our jars-of-clay bodies are not powerful, but the treasure they hold is!

We are never crushed…we never give up…we get up again. God’s power does not make us immune to pain, but it does empower us to spiritually thrive through it. Our connection to Him enables us to see earthly challenges from an eternal perspective. We know we are not fighting alone through this life; God is with us. He will give us direction, insight, and wisdom. He goes ahead of us and behind us, clearing a path for us to travel through life and ensuring our treasure gets through safely (Psalm 139).

Our bodies show what His death was like so His life can also be seen in us. The fact that we struggle yet exhibit far more life is a testimony to Jesus’ presence in our lives! Without Him, the trouble we face would bring despair. But we have joy, peace, patience, hope, and more from the treasure we carry. God’s power is not limited to our private struggles, it empowers us to love others, even when it is hard. Jesus said the love we show other treasure-bearers reveals to the world what is inside of us:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

The apostle Paul writes a practical illustration of this:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  (I Corinthians 12:7, 26)

His power is clearly shown through our interactions with others in our jars-of-clay family. We demonstrate His presence when we suffer together, rejoice together, and use our spiritual gifts to bless each other. He has entrusted us with the power to extend His love and grace to others and grow their treasure!

Just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. The treasure we hold is not ruined or lost when our jar of clay cracks or shatters. These jars are only temporary homes. I look forward to the day our treasure is freed from this fragile vessel and transferred to the glorified body God has waiting for us. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) Then we will experience far more life forever! But while we remain here, we embody His power and are called to carry His message of hope to other jars of clay.

Sisters,
How have you experienced your body being fragile but the Spirit within you strong?
How would you describe the “treasure” in your own words? What Bible verses can you think of that describe it?
What challenges has the Holy Spirit given you power to rise above? Where are you disconnected from Him?
How are you living out His instruction to strengthen and support other believers?
Bask in the treasure of far more life today as you share His message of hope with others!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Grace Kusta Nasralla from Pexels

Time to Invest

We all have 60 minutes each hour. 24 hours each day. 7 days each week. 52 weeks each year. We can invest our time wisely and reap huge dividends, both now and in heaven. Or we can spend it on pursuits that yield a temporary thrill at most. One choice lets us survive while the other helps us sustain far more life.

So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes. (Ephesians 5:15-16, TPT)

People who spend their lives for God’s purposes do more than accumulate possessions and experiences during their time on earth. They understand their God-given purpose and mission is to love Him and share His love with others. Investing in God’s work may not generate instant results, but it does produce eternal rewards. The far more life we find as we take full advantage of each day reminds us that our hope rests in Heaven, not immediate gratification on earth.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24, NASB)

Whatever you do. Life is not a collection of spiritual and non-spiritual activities. When the Holy Spirit lives inside us, everything we do is a spiritual activity. We can work for God, regardless of our job. We can recreate or rest for God. We can learn and grow for God. We can give and serve for God. We can also do each of these activities without God. The choice is ours; will we choose life or far more life?

It takes more than just showing up to maximize our eternal yield and walk in far more life each day. The heart behind our investment is a key factor in the yield. Mundane tasks — like laundry and changing diapers — can be more profitable than leading a Bible study; it depends whether we are simply doing the “right” thing with an empty heart or “taking full advantage” of opportunities to love God and others. We take full advantage by remembering His instructions:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV).

Acquiring earthly treasures — belongings, experiences, even relationships — can bring us temporary pleasure. But investing our heart and time in God’s purposes leads to far more life and treasure that will last for eternity! We do not always understand the impact of our investment, but God is orchestrating the efforts of many individuals to accomplish His will.

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. (I Corinthians 3:8, NLT)

Investing in God’s work of planting and watering spiritual seeds can take more than our time; it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. We know there will be an eventual payoff, but we can still grow weary from our labor. How do we maintain far more life in those conditions?

A wise friend once shared an “energy equation” that has been helpful to me. She explained that we all experience three types of interactions/activities: those that energize us (+3); those that are neutral, neither adding nor taking energy (0); and those that draw more energy than they give back (-3). If we are regularly in the hole, we are guaranteed to burn out and miss far more life. To be healthy, the sum of these interactions must consistently be zero or above. To experience far more life and have all we need to invest in God’s kingdom, we need a positive balance.

When my energy equation is below zero I often read or play mindless computer games to “rest”. But while my brain is distracted by those pursuits, I remain tired and reluctant to re-engage. Since they are not refreshing, those activities are probably a 0 rather than the +3 that I need. But if I invest the same amount of time exercising, meditating on God’s Word, writing, or napping, I find myself energized and ready to re-engage. Rather than “unplugging” by retreating into a virtual world, I am learning to ask myself, “What do I need right now to truly energize my body and spirit?”

As you look at your calendar and commitments, be intentional about your time investments. Prayerfully consider what you have to give each day and the refreshment you need to live far more life with a God-pleasing heart. Allowing time for connecting with God, eating healthy food, exercising, laughing, and sleeping is important for sustaining far more life. Remembering to include those in your daily energy equation will enable you to consistently join God in investing in His kingdom…people. Those are the only investments that will continue paying dividends for eternity!

Sisters,
Is most of your time spent or invested? Are you consistently experiencing far more life?
Are your treasures primarily on earth or in heaven?
What is your energy equation right now? What will truly energize your body and spirit?
Pursue far more life today as you invest in God’s kingdom!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso