Many of you know that I am a huge Patriots fan. Over the years the haters have mostly been soft spoken because we dominated their teams over and over. However, this year’s Super Bowl loss was painful and the haters have come out of the woodwork to make their comments. I admit it’s hard to shake off the loss but I can’t imagine how much more so for Tom Brady. First he missed that pass early in the game on that trick play only to have Nick Foles do the same play and catch for a touchdown. Then on their closing drive, Tom was sacked for the first time in the game causing him to fumble the ball and ultimately lose the game. You don’t shake that off very easily.
I’m sure that we have all had moments in our life that were devastating to us – even bigger than losing the big game. I know the feeling of “shaking it off” and then waking up the next morning and remembering the pain of the moment. Sometimes we can seemingly shake it off, but do we really get over it? We hang onto the emotion, the pain, the depression, the unforgiveness, maybe anger, resentment, and the fear of it happening again.
Some of us have been chewed up and spit out by a boss or co-worker. Maybe it was an intimate relationship gone bad. A business transaction that went south. A ministry opportunity that backfired. Maybe you took a stand for something and you ended up taking heat for it. We may “shake it off” but on the inside it’s hard to get over.
Look at what Paul said to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 13-18)
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.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have 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 to himself. 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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Paul is telling us that we are but simple vessels – fragile, inferior, temporary, expendable even. Yet what we carry in us contains and coveys a message. Here we are, these “earthen vessels”, ordinary, imperfect, easily cracked – yet the God of the universe chose to give us the treasure of His Son Jesus. Those of us who believe, we now have a priceless treasure in this jar of clay.
We are still vulnerable, still fragile, still imperfect. The difference now is, the pressure doesn’t crush us, the uncertainties of life don’t squeeze the hope out of us, the harassment of the enemy doesn’t mean that we’ve been orphaned. We may get knocked down, make mistakes and fail, but our failures are not fatal or final!
These words, born out of persecution and hardship, became a means of encouraging fellow believers in their journey of faith. Paul turned his focus inward and upward—inward to where God was daily renewing him, and upward to where his sufferings for Christ’s sake were continually increasing his eternal reward. With these words, he exhorted the believers at Corinth to do the same.
1. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. What is our “trouble” was really an opportunity for us to trust God and let Him prove Himself strong? Explain how you could or couldn’t live with that.
2. What if rather than praying for God to take away our “trouble”, we asked Him for strength to GROW through it? What are the things in your life right now that you can potentially do that with? What could be the potential outcome?