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Church of the Nazarene

See the Unseen (2 Corinthians 4:15-18)

    In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul calls us jars of clay, and tells us that we hold a treasure within us, a treasure in a jar of clay. It’s a beautiful image for our brokenness and human weakness and frailty, because a jar of clay is not the most durable of jars. Clay is easily broken, and easily cracked. But Paul uses this image to so that even in that humanness and frailty, we are capable of holding the most valuable treasure there is.
    Paul spends most of 2 Corinthians 4-5 talking about the weakness of humanity, with all of our broken cracks and wounds that need healing. This section of this letter came from Paul’s own experiences with weakness and brokenness at the hands of someone in the Corinthian church. See, 1 Corinthians came about because as Paul became aware of the multiple issues that were in that church, he was led by the Spirit to write to them to address those multiple issues.
    It helped them, mostly, and the Corinthian church began to heal, but it seems that at least one person at the church did not appreciate Paul’s correction. We learn throughout 2 Corinthians that someone from the Corinthian church had publicly ridiculed Paul because of what he had written to the church, even though it was from God and it was good for that church. Paul would have had every right to be offended, angry, embarrassed, and hurt. But, Paul saw beyond that. He looked beyond the circumstances of what was happening, and was able to see the unseen. That’s what I want to talk about this morning, this point that Paul makes that even in the midst of our brokenness and our human weakness, even when we face circumstances that can knock us down and put cracks in us like we would find in a clay jar, we are still capable of holding a great treasure.
    I’m going to be in 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 this morning, so if you have your Bible or a Bible app on your phone, I’d love for you to join me there.
    Paul wrote: “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. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 says here that all this is for our benefit. All of what, Paul? All of our brokenness; all of our weaknesses; all of our human frailty; all of our sufferings and challenges and difficulties; all of our trials and tribulations; all of it is for our benefit. Isn’t that an encouraging thought? It’s not useless pain and suffering, and our brokenness and weakness isn’t a sign that we can’t be used for good. It’s all for our benefit.
    Remember, we are the jars of clay: broken pieces often barely held together, yet still used to hold a great treasure.
    There are numerous places throughout Scripture that talk about the different ways our brokenness is for our benefit. In Romans 5:3-5, Pauls says, “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
    James opens his letter by saying, “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).
    Our brokenness has a PURPOSE. If you’re following along in your bulletin and you want to take notes, this will be your first blank. One of those purposes, one of these benefits, we see in these passages is to refine our character. This is a great benefit, and if we’re going to start to look more like Christ, it’s a necessary step.
    But, the benefit to us that Paul is talking about here isn’t just the refinement of our character. Paul says that our brokenness, our sufferings are so the glory of God will spread. The way Paul actually phrases here in the Greek is so that we will be blessed by the weight of God’s glory falling on us. Our brokenness, our human frailty and the sufferings we must go through comes with the benefit of experiencing the blessing of God’s glory covering us. We get to share in the same glory that Christ does.
    This is the treasure in these broken and imperfect jars of clay. The fact that we get to receive God’s glory, participate in God’s glory, and share His glory with others through His grace is a great treasure. That we get to do this even in our brokenness and human imperfection is nothing short of miraculous. I am continuously amazed that God chooses to use me, in all my weakness, to display His glory.
    Paul talks a little more about this glory in Romans 8:16-18, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
    His glory will be revealed in us in the same way that it was revealed in Christ. Many times, we think about this glory as something that will happen when we pass away and enter into an eternity with God, but Paul talks about this glory as both a coming thing in the distant future, and something that we can see here on earth, just like Christ experienced.
    I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of Mark in my quiet times this month, and while Jesus didn’t experience the fullness of God’s glory again until He ascended into heaven after His resurrection, there were moments of His earthly life and ministry where we see the glory of God revealed in Him. Moments where the power of the Spirit worked in Him to do something miraculous and God’s glory was shown when the people around Him gave God praise for what He had done. God’s glory is both a present and a coming thing for the believer, if, Paul says, we share in Christ’s sufferings as well.
    Paul continues, “Therefore we do not lose HEART. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Heart is your next blank in your bulletin.
    Who here hasn’t been tempted at some point to get discouraged and disappointed by trials, hardships, suffering, our weaknesses? I know I certainly have. Sometimes I let the seeming hopelessness of situations get the best of me. I wonder if, when he had been publicly humiliated by this church member, if Paul hadn’t been tempted to feel discouraged and disappointed as well. But Paul reminds us of this fact that we get to carry and share the glory of God with others, even in our weakness, and because of that fact, we can’t lose hope. He reminds us that we must look at earthly things a little differently.
    Even as our bodies, or as life seems to fall apart, Paul says wasting away, but inwardly, we know that the Spirit is working to bring about renewal. We’ve talked before about the new man in each believer that is being created. A new person that is filled with the love of God and filled with the power of the Spirit to walk according to the fruit of the Spirit.
    In his letter to the Galatian church he wrote, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:24-26). He reminded believers that living in step with the Spirit, walking in His ways, is what the church is called to do. We are called to let the things of the flesh die, and again, to see earthly things a little differently.
    He assures all believers that that our troubles, whatever they might be, our brokenness, is LIGHT in comparison to the eternal glory of the Lord. That’s your next bulletin blank. He’s not trying to make light of our troubles, our brokenness; far from the opposite. Many times in his letters, Paul commiserates and empathizes with others who are suffering and talks about his own sufferings and trials that were not small by any comparison. Paul was imprisoned in the worst sort of prison, beat and borderline tortured, and so many other sufferings he endured. He had true empathy with suffering. Even in this letter to the Corinthian church, you can see in the words he wrote, the sadness he felt by being publicly ridiculed by someone in the church. But even with as horrible as Paul’s sufferings were, he knew they were nothing compared to the eternal glory of God that he got to share in.
    He compared the Christian’s experience of suffering and brokenness with the weight of God’s glory like two items placed on a scale. He says that yes, our suffering for the sake of the Gospel, our brokenness and weakness may feel heavy, it may feel at times like it is a burden too heavy to carry, but when you put the weight of God’s glory on the other side of the scale, it makes our suffering and brokenness light. Not only is God’s glory this amazing treasure that we get to hold, but when we are holding it, it makes our brokenness and sufferings beautiful.
    Paul was encouraging the Corinthians with his own suffering as well, reminding them that it was not only for the sake of Christ that he was enduring all the suffering he went through, but it was for their sake as well. Paul’s example through his suffering showed the Corinthian believers, and all believers after that would read Paul’s letter, that suffering, weakness, trials and tribulations can be endured. We can go through anything, endure anything, be broken and beat down, Paul says, we can be crushed, because we know that it is for God’s glory.
    Paul ends with this, “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.” The key to enduring the brokenness of this world, the key to being cracked jars of clay still capable of holding a precious treasure is faith. That’s really what Paul is talking about here. He’s asking believers to look past the temporary, look past the things of this earth, and fix your eyes on what is not seen, on the eternal. See the unseen!
    Hebrews 11:1 confirms this for us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We look for what we cannot see. We fix our eyes on the things we know are eternal. We do not fix our eyes on the things of this earth, even the things that bring us pain and suffering. We fix our eyes on the eternal. We look past our own brokenness, but more importantly, we look past the brokenness of others. We see them not as a weak, frail human, broken and suffering and hurting, but as someone that God loves deeply, someone that God desires to reveal His glory through. This allows us to share with them how they can hold the greatest treasure.
    We look past the chaos of the world and the despair that the world has. We see it too as temporary groaning as the earth longs to return to the Lord. We fix our eyes on the eternal kingdom that we know will come, and the full glory of God that will be revealed. We are called to see the unseen, and to act according to what we have fixed our eyes on.

1. What are some temporary things you have fixed your eyes on? Spend time this week in prayer, asking God to help you readjust your gaze and to fix your eyes on things that are of Him.

2. Read Romans 8, another place where Paul talks about walking in the Spirit and suffering for Christ. What five benefits of suffering does he give in verses 28-32?

3. There are some churches that teach that Christians should not experience trials and suffering if they are truly in Christ. What did Jesus have to say about that in John 16:33?
   

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