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

Until We See Him

For more than a week I’ve been away from my family, taking care of immigration paperwork mostly, but also getting to visit with good friends.  I had a scheduled flight to go home yesterday, but another unexpected twist has pushed the trip home to today. 

I look forward to seeing my family and they look forward to my being home.  I’m not bringing them to a place I have been preparing for them. I’m going to the place they’ve been waiting for me. 

As believers, however, we are waiting for Jesus to come; not to a place we are preparing for Him (He’s preparing a place for us), but to a people prepared for Him. 

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Paul spoke of a reward he expected to receive because of how he fought and how he ran his race. But this reward was not only for him; it is a reward available to all who fight or run well. The expectation is that if you “love His appearing” then you will run well until you see Him. 

I suppose the questions each of us must ask are, “Do I love Him to the degree that I love that He is coming?” “How am I going to show Him that I’ve been anticipating (looking forward to) His return?”

Have you ever gone to get somebody, and even though they knew what time you were coming, they waited to get ready until you arrived?  It’s frustrating and disappointing that someone who knows you’re coming doesn’t seem to care enough to get ready “before” you arrive. 

My fiend, we know that Jesus is coming, but we don’t know when. Yet, we should be ready for His arrival which triggers our immediate departure. This tells me that if we love His appearing we should spend our time doing the things that matter for where we are going, not so much for where we are staying now. 

Remember, we are not taking a vacation with Jesus. We are not returning to this place, we are getting ready to vacate this place. Be ready to go at any moment!  He is coming for us. We will see Him soon.