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Jars of Clay

May 22, 2016

Handmade clay jars and pots, Jordan, Author Mervat Salman (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4: 7-12).

Early on, in our walk of faith, we are on fire for the Lord [1]. The feeling is akin to being in love. Not only is Scripture alive for us, the Lord speaks clearly to us through all sorts of people, places, and things.

We may be tried, during this period. But we bear up, certain that with God we will triumph.

Naively, we assume “triumph” with God to be synonymous with “winning” in material terms. Only much later, do we realize that the struggle is as much with ourselves and our nature, as it is with external forces.


As we go forward on the journey, God’s voice grows fainter for most of us, not stronger. We must seek Him out, are fortunate to hear an occasional whisper. This is not necessarily because we have strayed.

When we first learned to ride a bike, we had training wheels in place. Chances are there was a trusted parent holding the bike from behind. This helped us gain confidence. Eventually though the training wheels were removed, and the parent let go.

That was a necessary step in the process. We were not abandoned.

So it is with faith. God does not abandon us. Gradually, He stretches our faith. We learn to trust in His love and guidance, even when we do not feel His presence.


With time, however, our testing becomes more severe. We no longer triumph, at least not in a worldly sense. We are rejected, misunderstood, even while attempting to do good.

This is the desert (or wilderness) experience. Our spiritual resources run dry. Our very faith seems arid and lifeless. We may feel defeated by our own shortcomings, and despair.

But the desert experience is not a punishment. Christ, too, was tempted in the desert [3]. Temptation strengthens our resolve; reveals where there is room for growth; and teaches us not to rely on our own strength.

Delivered to Death

It is not comfortable being weak and dependent. Some of us will fall away, at this stage, misled by pride [4].

The problem is that we want to ride the bike by ourselves. Satan promised Eve, too, that she would be like God, if she ate of the tree of knowledge (Gen. 3: 5).

Mistaking worldly success for spiritual success, many of us trade one for the other.

We become church deacons or elders, sitting proudly in the front pew…and proudly in judgment of others. Consulted on important issues, we prefer hearing our own voice to hearing God’s. We pursue popularity and wield power, as if that were our purpose on earth.

But God alone is Lord. In the end, we are all delivered to death like the mortals we are.

Jars of Clay

God, in His mercy, allows us to experience a series of tribulations before that – loss, defeat, betrayal, illness, grief, and the many other trials of this life. These serve as reminders that we are but jars of clay.

It is God who sustains us, and His glory that shines through our brokenness. It is by our death to self, that His life in us is revealed.

[1] Each Christian’s walk with the Lord is, of course, unique.

[2] The Parable of the Prodigal Son can be found at Luke 15: 11-32. Briefly, the younger son leaves home and wastes his inheritance, while the elder remains faithful. Yet the father welcomes the younger son home with open arms, when the boy returns. The picture is one of sin and forgiveness.

[3] The Temptation of Christ, an exemplar for us, can be found at Matt. 4: 1-11.

[4] The Parable of the Sower can be found at Matt. 13: 3-8, 18-23. The Lord explained the relevant part of the parable this way: “ ‘The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful’ ”.


From → Christian, Faith, Religion

  1. “It is God who sustains us, and His glory that shines through our brokenness. It is by our death to self, that His life in us is revealed.”

    Thank you Anna,this post and especially the quote above,has really ministered to me this day. I’m sure there are days when many of us need to hear once again that our God sustains us,especially during those desert times when we are so thirsty for Him. May all of us come to the understanding that we are nothing without Him. Indeed,our own righteousness is as filthy rags.
    Till next Sunday…

    • I’m grateful to have struck a chord, Ron. I, too, know the desert experience firsthand. Have a blessed week!

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