Implications of the Word, Pt. 4
(The Treasure Supplies the Power)
Study Guide – July 30, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
Perhaps you noticed some interesting things about the Earth that were in the news this week. One thing was that the longest mountain range is on Earth is not visible to people; meaning, that the longest mountain range is actually under the sea. It’s the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that extends 10,000 miles from the Arctic Ocean to the southern tip of Africa. Another interesting thing about the Earth is that it is the only planet that is not named after a mythological god or goddess. That’s because the God who created the Earth named the Earth before anyone else got a chance. And how about this: The temperature of the core of the Earth is believed to be about the same temperature as the surface of the Sun, at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
By the way, why do we call the temperature “Fahrenheit” anyway? It’s because the inventor of the mercury thermometer was a German born scientist named Daniel Fahrenheit. Also in the early 1700’s another scientist came up with his own temperature scale. And we all know what his name was…Celsius: Anders Celsius, who was from Sweden.
But this next claim was one of the most amazing trivia that I’ve heard about the Earth.
The claim is that if you collected all the gold that exists in the Earth’s core you could cover the entire Earth with it to a depth of one and one-half feet deep. How about that? You know, sometimes people think that the Apostle John’s description of the New Jerusalem having streets of gold is too fanciful to be real. But now we find out that our present Earth has enough gold to cover the whole planet! That’s even more fanciful, but it’s also real.
And yet, even as amazing as that is, there is something at the core of each Christian that is an even a greater treasure than all the gold that’s in the core of the Earth. Notice this: 2 Cor 4:7- “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” NASU This treasure that Paul had been talking about was the gospel of Jesus Christ. And he was framing this ‘gospel of Christ’ as being in connection with the ‘Person of Jesus Christ’, for the gospel is about the life giving Savior. So this treasure is really both the message of new life in Christ and that new life itself, Jesus Christ. And of course, there is nothing in existence that can compare with the value of the living gospel, the living Christ within our lives. Like the Earth that holds incomparable riches of gold at its core, you and I, earthen vessels, hold the incomparable riches of the treasure of the gospel and our Savior, Jesus Christ, within our lives.
And then in addition to that, Paul then said that we now also have access to the power of that treasure for living out our lives; living out our lives in these earthen vessels on our earthen planet. But then Paul went on to say some things that he could very well have also said, like: “…and by the way, about this power that’s from God and not ourselves…well, you’re going to need it Brothers and Sisters!” Yes, we’re going to need it, because here is what he went on to say about it: 2 Cor 4:8-10 – “…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” NASU
Now, there is a wake up call. It’s like Paul saying to us: “You know that whole ‘abundant life’ concept you read about in John’s Gospel? You may have misunderstood that a bit. So let me clarify some things.” Okay, well, Let’s do clarify some things. ‘The abundant life’ is essentially having the life of Christ, this treasure of the living gospel, which is the living Christ. It’s having the very life of Christ in the core of your life and my life now and forevermore! By the grace of God and through our faith in Christ we possess now and will forever possess eternal life. And yet we presently live on a temporal Earth in an earthen vessel. And when you mix being an earthen vessel carrying eternal life while still living in a temporal world, and a hostile world at that, you come up with some striking combinations of what’s possible for you and for me to experience. And actually, these are things that we are to expect as being ‘normal’ for a citizen of Heaven while also still living as a citizen of Earth.
So let’s explore these possible combinations. And by the way, here’s another ‘by the way’. And that is, that much of Paul’s own testimony about life focused on two very clear realities. One was how amazed He was at the indescribable love that God had for him. And the other was how hard it was to live in this world as one whom God loves so much. But the thing is, he never questioned the reality of either one, meaning; he never used the difficulties of his circumstances to measure the love of God for him. And neither should we. We are to never use the circumstances around us to measure the love of God for us. Paul only used one instrument to measure the love of God for him, and that instrument was the Cross of Jesus Christ. In fact, in a few verses later in his letter he said: 2 Cor 5:14-15- “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” NASU
Paul was controlled by the love of Christ; a love that was demonstrated to him on the Cross once and for all. And therefore, no further demonstration would ever be needed, and no dire circumstance would ever be used to question or measure the love that Christ had for him. Christ’s love was a settled issue for Paul. And it has to become a settled issue for us, if we are going to be able to go on and experience the kind of victories that Paul then talks about in the midst of some really hard circumstances.
Let’s go back. Like with Paul, you can be in the love of God, and in the will of God, and in the favor of God, and yet, you may still have to deal with any or all of these four possibilities in life: affliction; confusion; persecution; and various physical and spiritual sufferings. Now, when sharing the gospel with people for the first time, I wouldn’t recommend starting off with those four things…that might be confusing at first… After they commit themselves to the King, then they’ll need to learn about fighting the battles. But the point being, is that Paul was a ‘realist’. He never thought that even though His Lord and Savior was treated badly by this hostile world that he would be treated differently and better by it. No, he expected the same tribulations in this world that Jesus experienced, and that Jesus told His disciples to expect. Remember that? Jesus said: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NASU Actually, Luke repeated the same reality check to the churches when he recorded Paul’s ministry and messages to them: “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22 NASU
Remember that old saying, “Pray for the best; prepare for the worst.” That’s not giving into ‘Fate’; no, that’s living by ‘Faith’. It’s very possible and very likely that even while trying to live godly and striving to live faithfully that we will face afflictions, confusion, persecutions, and sufferings of various sorts. And remember, Paul admitted that there were times when he was hard pressed by troubles. At times he was confused and frustrated. There were times that he was unjustly persecuted and suffered all kinds of misrepresentations and ill treatments, and he was surely stressed and frustrated from it all. Point being: There will be times in your life when things are really bad and things are going wrong. But remember, it’s okay to feel bad without feeling bad that you are feeling bad. You know what we’re saying? Like Paul, just because things are going wrong it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong; with you or with your relationship with God. Like Paul, if you’re trying to honor God and do right by others, then you’re all right with God even if things are going all wrong with others. In fact, we are supposed to expect these things. Tribulations are normal while living in an abnormal world of sin and rebellion against the Creator.
So be assured and be at peace. Remember something about our God: Our God is easy to please; it’s others that are hard to please. And also be encouraged because even in the midst of these trials, Paul assures us that there is triumph in the end, because tribulations never have the last word…God always has the last word in our life and experience. For as we stated, yes, Paul revealed that even for faithful followers of the Lord there are these four possibilities of afflictions, confusion, persecution, and suffering. But there are also four powerful resources for dealing with and having victory over each and every one of them. Let’s read it again, except now lets put our focus on the victories: 2 Cor 4:8-10 – “…we are afflicted in every way, BUT NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, BUT NOT DESPAIRING; persecuted, BUT NOT FORSAKEN; struck down, BUT NOT DESTROYED; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
These are declarations of victory even in the midst of war. You see, The world, the flesh, and the devil may still be fighting against God’s people, but the victory has already been won. Remember Jesus’ words? “…take courage; I have overcome the world!” And if you and I will look at every fight we have to face in the physical and spiritual realms with this understanding, then we will not only be looking at life realistically, but we will also experience life victoriously. Remember, in every battle that you face physically or spiritually add: BUT NOT CRUSHED; BUT NOT DESPAIRING; BUT NOT FORSAKEN; BUT NOT DESTROYED —-THE VICTORY IS ALREADY WON!
Because Jesus conquered death and the devil, and because Jesus has already spiritually transferred us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light, and because He has made us His royal sons and daughters, and has already granted us eternal life in union with Him – the victory over every attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil has already been won, already overcome. All we are doing now for the rest of our time on Earth is fighting the remaining skirmishes from a defeated world until we go Home! But the war has already been won by our Lord Jesus. Through Jesus Christ we have already won over sickness and sorrow and suffering and death. Or do you remember how Paul put that, too? Rom 8:37-39- “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NASU Sometimes guilt ridden Christians read this and the say, “Yeah, but what about from my own self…my own failings?” The answer is, “Well, are you ‘a created thing’?” We are included: “Nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!’ So, Yeah, you’re covered. God’s got this. God’s got you!
These are the truths and the promises from God. Now we just have to rely on the right source for all of this. Hint: it’s outside of ourselves. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” The power of God resides within us, in our earthen vessels; the power to deal with all of these afflictions, confusions, persecutions, and sufferings that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil. So the power is available. The question is: so then how do we make it accessible? Paul gave us the key to that as well. Here it is: “…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” Remember something about ‘power’. ‘Power’ is related to ‘Purpose’. The power of God in us is connected to the purpose of God for us. And the central purpose of God working in our life is to remake us more and more into the image of Christ. So as we commit to showing more and more of Christ through us to the world around us, even as we go through the battles of afflictions, confusions, persecutions, or sufferings of any kind, God works His power in and through us to give us the victory. And in the midst of our victories of showing more of Christ to the world around us, the world around us then sees something more than just us; they see something of Jesus in us. And friends, showing more and more of Jesus to the world through our lives is what the victorious Christian life is all about. And God will give you all the power you need when you commit to doing that! And that’s how we triumph over tribulations!
“…in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”