Most of us are familiar with something called a safe deposit box. It is a box in which we store certain items that we deem to be so important that we want to put them somewhere special for safe keeping. Some of you may be using a safe deposit box to store insurance policies, financial records, birth certificates, passports and other documents and possessions that are of particular importance to you. For some of you the safe deposit box may be somewhere in your home. We keep our safe deposit box at home. It is a steel, fireproof, locked box in which we store many of the items I named earlier. However, some people go an extra mile for safety and security and they rent a safe deposit box at a bank where they believe their valuables will be even more securely protected against theft, fire or loss. Most of us are familiar with the idea of putting our valuables in a solid and secure safe deposit box.
With that in mind, it is interesting to discover that God does not use that same principle when it comes to the most precious and irreplaceable possession that you or I will ever possess, which is our life and health. The apostle Paul says that God gives us the gift of physical life and the blessing of spiritual life as well, and then he says that we have to house those valuables in “earthen vessels.” Not a steel-reinforced safe deposit box, but an earthen vessel. Not a fireproof box that can resist the attacks of this world, but an earthen vessel.
This image of an earthen vessel refers to the clay and mud pots, and bowls and jars that were used by people in ancient tymes. Even today we are aware of the art of pottery where a lump of clay is shaped and molded and then baked into a finished form. But no matter how beautiful that clay vessel might be, it is still an earthen vessel that can easily be chipped or broken or shattered. It does not matter if you are dealing with a $3.50 pot from Wal-Mart or a $35,000 Ming vase imported from China. They are both fragile and delicate. Unlike that safe deposit box made of fireproof steel, it does not take much to destroy an earthen vessel.
Paul draws an analogy between the common earthen vessels of his day and our physical body in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. We are not as strong as we think we are, and we are not as invincible as we wish we were. These bodies in which we live every day are nothing more that earthen vessels that can be chipped, or broken or shattered and destroyed. Paul tells us that God enriches our lives with wonderful things, both physical and spiritual, but then God houses them inside of our physical bodies that are prone to pain, sickness and even death. God places precious things in earthen vessels.
You and I have wonderful talents and abilities that were initially given to us by God and that we have cultivated and developed over the intervening years. But all of those talents are housed in this earthen vessel. We are surrounded by family and friends, we have material possessions that enrich our lives, and we have events and activities that are both business and pleasure that are scheduled for the rest of this year and even into the year(s) to come. But we cannot take any of that for granted, and we cannot assume that all of those things will remain untouched or unaltered, because we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
Our human nature is like Peter on the Mt. of Transfiguration who reached a wonderful moment in his life in the presence of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, and who cried out “Lord, it is good to be here.” Peter wanted to stop tyme at that point. He was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do, in the company of the people he most wanted to be with. He wanted to build three booths on that mountaintop and stay right there forever. But Jesus did not heed that request from his disciple, because Jesus knows better than anybody that you cannot stop tyme at moments that are comfortable and convenient. You cannot put your life in a safe deposit box and try to keep things protected against change or loss. Everything we hold most precious in life does not and cannot fit securely in a safe deposit box. Paul is right when he says that we hold this treasure in earthen vessels.
In understanding Your Thorn (vs. 7-8) we must remember that a thorn is an enduring source of pain allowed by God for our good. Most trials are just for a season and then it goes away, but not all. God could prevent the effects of sin (and sometymes intervenes) but normally allows broken creation to happen and inserts himself post-trial and uses it for our good. Your thorn may impact people you never meet. The thorn is there to keep you from getting too elated or cocky.
It is going to hurt A LOT, but you will be changed by it.
Satan’s goal is to harass & torment us. God’s goal is if he didn’t plan to use it for your good, he wouldn’t have allowed it. God guides the events for his purposes (vs. 8).
It may give me bumps & bruises, and it will be painful, but not fatal. Everything I say I believe is on the line right now. I’ve got to keep going.
I got to thinking about all of this… and how am I going to let my thorn affect me? Am I going to let my thorn take me over and daily frustrate and annoy me? Or am I going to let God use this in my life? I know that it won’t be easy and that I won’t feel like it every minute of every single day, but I do want to overall.
MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU. In the Greek it was more like: SUFFICIENT FOR YOU IS THE GRACE OF ME.
How awesome is that?!?!
Your thorn will crush you and make you bitter without the GRACE. Grace is the package all blessings come in. Grace is the capacity to do anything spiritually profitable. Grace is exactly what I need for what God wants me to do.
Your thorn is for a deeper understanding of total dependence on God.
Tough tyme is NOT quitting tyme. Wow… I so want and need that grace each new day. I can only get through this by completely and utterly depending on God. I admit that I don’t have it. I just don’t have it. I do not possess the power or strength to overcome this trial or to carry myself through it.
Boast in your thorn to experience Christ’s power. Yes, really… brag about it… for the power of Christ, in these ways:
1) Count your blessings
2) Elevate your prayer life
3) Lengthen & deepen your tyme in God’s Word
4) Tell your story
5) Focus on the prize
Hey all, I’m bragging here! God has already done some amazing things in and through me!! I can’t wait to see what’s next. My biggest struggle still so far is #3. I want to lengthen and deepen my tyme in God’s Word, and it’s about tyme I stopped making excuses like I’m too busy! I should never be too busy for God!!!!
We should be content in your thorn to experience Christ’s purpose. It’s not that you need to like it or enjoy it, but that you accept it and embrace it. I am strong only for the sake of Christ. He’s the purpose of my existence.
Oh man, I have got to remember this all the tyme. Christ is why I’m alive and free today. He is my everything, I want nothing more than to want him more!!! I choose to trust him. I choose to let go and let him work in and through me. I choose to stop being so negative and down-in-the-dumps. I know this road isn’t going to be easy, and I know I cannot do it in my own power or strength, but in Christ’s. I place myself daily at the foot of the cross, remembering that my suffering is nothing in light of the cross and all that Christ went through.
I CHOOSE TO TRUST GOD WITH MY LIFE.