Earthen Vessels

earthen-vesselThis fall I have the opportunity to teach, for the third time, a class at our church called “Foundations:  Christian Living.”  I’ve known and walked with the Lord for over three decades.  I should have this Christian Life thing down by now, shouldn’t I?

Well, turns out I don’t.

It’s easy to become discouraged when the gap between Who-I-am and Who-I-am-called-to-be appears to widen instead of narrow.  Being confronted with one’s weaknesses and failures at this stage in the game can certainly intensify feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy.  The enemy of my soul knows and loves to exploit this.

Who are YOU to teach a class on the Christian life?  Look at you!  All this time, and you still don’t have it together.  What kind of example are you to these young believers?

These defeating thoughts kept running through my mind last week as the start date of the class approached.  I decided to go for a walk in an effort to clear my head and pray.  So I headed down the hill that leads away from our house, pouring out my heart, confessing my sin, and acknowledging my fears and feelings of inadequacy to the Lord.  As I turned onto a side street, the following phrase entered my mind, clear and succinct, the way I’ve come to recognize God’s voice when He speaks:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

I caught my breath.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  I repeated this verse, which is from 2 Corinthians 4:7, over and over as I continued down the dirt road, meditating on the meaning of His words.

We have this treasure…  Jesus… the Pearl of Great Price… the One Thing that Matters… I have Him!

…in earthen vessels…  that’s me all right… weak… flawed… inadequate… unworthy.

See?  Just look at you!  That ‘other’ voice taunted again.  Only now I knew how to respond.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, The Message)

(That last part makes me laugh.)

What if our weaknesses actually create a better backdrop to highlight His power?  The apostle Paul certainly came to accept this as true in his life and ministry:

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NAS)

Rather than disqualify us for ministry, what if our flaws even help to enhance our effectiveness?  After all, they keep us humble, honest, and dependent on Him.  Isn’t that the best and safest place to be?

We are earthen vessels, ordinary and imperfect.  God’s only condition for service is that a vessel be clean.  Then He delights to fill and use it to accomplish His purposes.*

He is the Treasure, extraordinary and perfect.  May our weaknesses draw attention to HIS greatness, and our imperfections serve to showcase HIS glory.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NAS)

*See 2 Timothy 2:21.

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