Three Striking Paradoxes

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Introduction

I will say a couple of things by way of introduction:

  1. This is a great passage of scripture. One that I love to read over and over. It alwaqys encourages me. I put it up there with Isaiah 53, Psalm 23, I Corinthians 13, Romans 8, or any of John 21 chapters.
  2. With that said, as much as I love to read and study this chapter, I have had a difficult time coming up with a sermon outline. I feel rather inadequate because I know at best, I am only scratching the surface.
  3. I see not only comparisons and contrast in this passage but also divine paradoxes. A divine paradox is a statement of truth which on the surface does not seem possibly true. It appears to be a contradiction but in reality, is not contradictory at all but a profound principle. [Example: God is a God of Love and hate. Seems contradictory, how can He be both? Simple: He loves good and hates evil.]
  4. There are three that I want to discuss and the first is more of a contrast than a paradox. It could be converted to a paradox.

 

 

I. GREAT TREASURE IN A CLAY POT

Usually, expensive things come in fancy boxes. Jewelers don’t put diamond rings in a paper bag but God has put an infinite treasure of inestimable worth in a clay jar or pot. The little clay pot that Paul is referring to was the cheap, common, expendable clay lamps that were sold in the market place for one half of a cent, one little copper coin. The oil in the lamp was worth more than the lamp itself. These little clay lamps were very fragile and prone to break or crack.

Our bodies are the clay pots and the treasure is the gospel. God’s purpose in putting a great treasure in an inexpensive and common clay pot is so the attention will be on the treasure and not the pot itself. There is nothing more annoying to me than a so called minister of the gospel carrying his own introduction and expecting me to read it. Who cares where he went to school or how many degrees he holds or what positions he has held in the convention. I don’t congregate on Sunday to admire or worship clay pots and especially cracked pots. It is not about you. It has never been about you and it will never be about you. The focus is on the TREASURE inside the pot, not the pot. This tiny clay pot or lamp is to manifest the light. When I look for a lamb, I don’t get fooled by the decor on the lamp, I want to know how much light it illuminates.

Another passage comes to mind [ I Corinthians 1: 26-29]…26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

Tasker says, “Wonder of wonders, the treasure of the gospel entrusted to men who are subject to infirmities, limitations, instability and insecurity.”

Why does God choose the weak, the common, the ordinary to carry the precious gospel? It is so that God will get the glory. Men have a tendency to worship other men, especially the ones with think are outstanding, great, popular, awarded, recognized, successful or wealthy. By using the common everyday ordinary, God gets the glory.

II. STRENGTH PERFECTED IN WEAKNESS

Let’s fast forward to chapter 12 where Paul testifies...Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Did you get that…God’s strength is made perfect in human weakness. Unbelievable!

It is hard to glory in your weakness because none of us are fond of weakness. We all admire strength, not weakness. Paul did not want to be weak, He prayed three times that God would take his infirmity and make him strong but God said “No, I want you depending on Me, not yourself. If I made you strong; you would rely in your own strength.” {JEV II Co.12:7}

One of the most amazing things about the gospel ministry is that the devil and his followers [some are members of our churches] are never allowed to do their worst. Actually, God never allows them to know the degree of our weakness. It is a part of the hedge that God has put around us to keep us from being destroyed by the enemy. I love verse 8-9…We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

In this series of participles, Paul contrast our constant humiliation with God constant ‘Grace’ which is always sufficient.

  • Although we live under constant pressure from every direction–we are not crushed.
  • We may get perplexed [have doubts] but we never give in to a spirit of despair because of God’s grace working in us.
  • We are hunted, persecuted, watched with critical eyes by those who oppose us but we are never alone. We have God’s abiding presence and the encouragement of friends who are praying for us to succeed not fail.
  • We get knocked down all the time but we get back up. We get knocked down but not out. We get injured but we don’t take ourselves out of the game.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The ministry is not measured by bars and stars, but by scars.” A vessel that gets shaken, broke or cracked spills out, overflows from the blows. It is God’s way: we want Him to use our strengths but He prefers our weakness. Dr. Wiersbe tells the story of he and a friend going to hear a young minister. After the young man had finished a flawless presentation, Dr. Wiersbe’s friend said, “He lacks one thing, he must have his heart broken.” You may not understand this but I do. I’ve heard young and gifted speakers deliver a message like a machine but that is the point. We are too mechanical and the only remedy is a broken heart or cracked pot.

III. LIFE RAISED FROM DEATH

The third contrast or paradox is life from death. Look at verses 10-14….

10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself together with you.

Jesus experienced death everyday of His life. The cross was ever on His mind. He completely died to self in order to serve others. Jesus told His disciples, “If you wish to come after Me [follow my example], deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me daily.” No man can follow Christ who has not taken up his cross and of course, the cross means death to self. But for those few who are willing to die to self, Jesus gives them a life that is far better than the one they died to.

I grew up a sports fiend. Out of seven children, I was the only one who loved sports. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that “Sports” was my life. I ran track in Jr. college, played intramural sports in my last two years and loved every minute. Played football, basketball and softball. There were a couple of things that I wrestled with when the LORD began dealing with me about preaching the gospel. One was: “How could I possibly be happy a part from sports?” I knew before I graduated High School that I was not going to be a professional athlete but I was considering a life in coaching. You can’t follow Jesus until you lay all this stuff on the altar which by the grace of God I did and 47 years later and I thankful for God’s grace. I gave him my life and He gave me a much better life than I dreamed was possible. It is a striking paradox but when we die to self, He resurrected a better life in place of our old life.

But Paul is not talking just about that surrender when God calls. Paul is talking about experiencing death every day of our lives. In Paul’s day, travel was very dangerous. Paul literally risk his life to get the gospel to places like Corinth. Plus there was all the riots, jail time, beatings, ship wrecks, etc. Paul faced the threat of death constantly. He lived in the presence of death but in so doing the life of Christ was exuding from his scars, his brokenness, his weakness and his death to self.

Conclusion

Paul was beginning to see the big picture. God was using Paul’s daily death experiences to get the gospel to more and more people which was creating more and more thanksgiving and thus God was getting more and more glory.

In John 9:24, the scriptures read…So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” They are the Jewish Religious leaders and they are telling the man born blind to ‘Give glory to God’ which he was doing. The Jewish Religious Leaders did not believe that Jesus was God. Here they are acting as defenders of the faith, “Give glory to God.” I have learned through the years that those who exhort others to give the glory to God are not doing it themselves. The Jewish religious establishment could not give glory to God because they wanted it for themselves. When you reach that point of seeing your utter depravity and die to self, you will discover the inexpressible joy of giving God the glory. But you can’t do this as long as your carnal self is seated on the throne.

I can assure you that Paul was filled with joy and thanksgiving when he saw God getting glory. This is what makes worship so wonderful.

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