March 14, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
Today we begin a new Life for Leaders series called “Treasure in Clay Jars.” We’ll be focusing on 2 Corinthians 4-5, chapters that are perfect for the season of Lent. We’ll be reminded of our mortality. And we’ll be reassured of the hope of God’s glorious future. We are like clay jars, fragile, earthly, impermanent. But God’s treasure – glorious and eternal – lives within us.
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
Today we begin a new Life for Leaders devotional series I’m calling “Treasure in Clay Jars.” In the next three weeks, I’ll be focusing on two chapters from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Why these chapters? I have chosen them mainly because they explore themes that are perfect for the season of Lent. We are about halfway through that season now as we prepare for a deeper and richer celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. During Lent, we reflect on our mortality, weakness, humanity, and need for a savior. 2 Corinthians 4-5 will help us go deeper in this kind of Lenten reflection. But these chapters do not wallow in our sinfulness and mortality. Rather, they give us hope focused on God’s faithfulness and future. Thus, 2 Corinthians 4-5 will help our hearts to be ready for the wonderful news of Easter.
We’ll be looking at two chapters that come toward the middle of Paul’s letter we call 2 Corinthians. I’d like to offer a little historical background for this letter. Through his preaching of the gospel, Paul planted a church in Corinth. As was typical for Paul, he didn’t stay for a long time in that city. Rather, he moved on to preach the gospel and plant churches elsewhere. In his absence, things in the church of Corinth got messy.
In the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, Paul tried to sort out problems related to the Corinthian Christians’ prideful perception of their spiritual prowess. But even if he was somewhat successful, that wasn’t the end of the messiness. After Paul had left Corinth, a new brand of Christian missionaries came to town. Unlike Paul, they were flashy and charismatic, full of knowledge and confidence. They criticized Paul for being far too human and humble. Many of the Corinthian Christians were swayed by these new “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). So Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in part to defend his ministry but also to help the Corinthian believers understand more correctly what it means to live and serve as a faithful Christian.
In particular, Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the Christian life isn’t just a matter of power and glory. It also has to do with weakness, affliction, and suffering. When we put our trust in God and the gospel of grace, we are not immediately transported to the heavenly age to come. Though we begin to experience God’s power and glory in this age, we also struggle with the realities of our mortality. Faithful Christian living recognizes and experiences the tension between the present and the future, the already and not yet. We’ll see this theme writ large in 2 Corinthians 4-5.
The wisdom found in these chapters of Paul’s letter speaks incisively to us today. Those of us who know God’s love in Christ have begun to sense the reality of God’s new creation. We have experienced God’s grace, power, healing, and hope. Yet, at the same time, we also struggle with the difficult and painful realities of this present age. Our bodies get sick. They weaken as we get older. Sometimes our relationships are wonderful. But at other times they’re filled with strife and sadness. We look out upon the world that is broken by injustice and violence. We wonder sometimes if we’re going to make it and if God is really there for us.
These are the concerns that fill 2 Corinthians 4-5. Though Paul was writing in a very different time, his inspired insights speak directly to us. They help us live in the eschatological tension of the already and not yet. They teach us to see ourselves as people saved by God. They help us catch a glimpse of God’s glory in us. Yet, at the same time, these chapters teach us that God’s treasure lives within clay jars. We are those clay jars, still of this earth, but containing God’s grace, light, and truth.
So, as we begin this new Life for Leaders series based on 2 Corinthians 4-5, let me encourage you to join me in these Lenten reflections. You may want to set aside some time today to read through those two chapters of 2 Corinthians. As you do, I expect certain verses will strike you as amazingly wonderful. Others might seem obscure or hard to understand. In the next three weeks, I pray that we will discover together what God is saying to us through 2 Corinthians 4-5. May we understand the implications of the truth that we are clay jars in which God’s treasure lives.
How do you respond to the notion that you are a clay pot?
How do you respond to the notion that God’s treasure lives within you?
Set aside 10-15 minutes to read and reflect upon 2 Corinthians 4-5.
Gracious God, thank you for the letter we call 2 Corinthians. Thank you for the truth it contains and how that truth speaks to us today. Thank you for the opportunity to read, reflect, and pray in response to chapters 4-5 of this letter.
Help me, Lord, to be open to whatever you want to say to me. Show me who I am as a clay pot in which your treasure lives.
As I reflect on 2 Corinthians 4-5, may my mind and heart be prepared for a truer and deeper experience of Holy Week and Easter. May I grow in my relationship with you through this devotional study. Amen.
Banner image by Aditya Joshi- on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Leading and Serving (2 Corinthians 4).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.