Vessels of Earth

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

For the past week I’ve been physically ill and have felt so limited.  My regular schedule already leaves me feeling, from day to day, that I can never accomplish everything that needs to be done.  My desk hardly ever sees the light of day, and the back burner never goes out.  Then, when you add illness on top of that, it is a recipe for feeling even less capable.  My illness has affected my throat and it is painful to swallow, let alone speak.  When you’re the pastor, not being able to speak makes you feel even more useless.  What good can come out of this?  How can being sick help me to do what God has called me to do?  Or what others depend upon me to do?

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels…”  That is all we are, vessels of earth – of clay.  God has put the most wonderful, valuable, incredible treasure, not into vessels of fine gold or some other durable substance, but into frail, breakable, and unimpressive vessels of earth.  This was not a mistake on God’s part.  He purposely chose that we, who would carry the message of the Gospel, and know the riches of Christ, be nothing more than vessels made from the dust of this world.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:14

Have you ever felt useless?  Have you ever felt incapable?  Have you ever thought that you’re not up to the task?  Have you ever wondered why God didn’t choose someone else more capable, or who seems to “have it all together?”  Well, you’re not alone in wondering, but there is an answer if you’ll accept it.  “…that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”   God is not looking at our vessel the same as we do.  He does not expect our vessel to be impressive.  In fact, the less impressive our vessel is, the more impressed others can be with God instead of us.  It’s not our power, but His power that needs to be excellent.

Sometimes we just need reminders of what we are made of.  We are something He has formed and fashioned for His purposes.  Not every vessel will be the same size, the same shape, or for the same purpose.  However, every vessel has its purpose – not to be questioned by the vessel, but accepted by the vessel.  What matters is not what we want to be used to do, but how He chooses to use us.  Not what we can handle, but Whose hands we are in.  Not that we are trophies, but that we carry His treasure.  We are clay and it is futile – absolutely useless – to pretend we are anything more.  A reminder by illness or circumstances outside of our control are needed from time to time lest we forget the real source of excellency – the real power behind what it appears we do.  For our value is not determined by what we can do, but by the One who has chosen to use us earthen vessels.

Thanks for the reminder Paul!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Goodbyes

I just did one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve had to do in my life. I dropped my oldest child off at the airport to head off to college; not just a state away, but half-way around the world.  We won’t see her for Thanksgiving or Christmas as so many other parents will see their college-bound children. Maybe we will see her when summer comes around. Why is it so hard to say, “goodbye?”

I’m happy for our little girl who has grown up to be a good and godly young lady. Her smile and the twinkle in her eye still capture her daddy’s heart as much now as they did when she was a little baby in my arms.  

I remember well, a conversation I had with the Lord the day she was born.  I recall speaking to God about this “new love” I was feeling in my heart that I had never known. I felt a little closer to God, understanding now – the heart of a father. Again, I feel that I’ve entered deeper into His fellowship, learning what it is like to be separated from someone you love while they go to do His will. 

Things in life are not permanent. Even our offspring must spring off to begin lives apart from mom and dad, just as we did many years before. I suppose letting go of anything is hard, but some things just have more of an attachment than others. Some hurt more when they are taken from your hand. 

Goodbyes are not easy, in fact, they keep becoming more difficult. Comfort is found in that this is not a goodbye to send her off to the unknown; she is in good hands – God’s hands.  We realize that the next joy we’ve not yet experienced would evade us if we did not first go through this sorrow. 

We now look forward to, with anticipation, what God will do with her life. I suppose that God, with anticipation, looks forward to what He knows He is making of our lives. Let us not disappoint Him.