LAKEVIEW MISSIONARY CHURCH
Weekly Update for February 8, 2023
MINISTRY THROUGH AND BECAUSE OF AFFLICTION
The late Bible teacher Howard Hendricks once said, “The more I am exposed to the Christian community, the more I am convinced that some of the sloppiest thinking of all time totally infects Christians.” Some of that sloppy thinking affects the view Christians have about the ministry each person should have.
Paul describes the pain of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. The second letter we have in our Bibles written to the believers in the city of Corinth is Paul’s most personal and intimate letter. He starts with a general statement in verse 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” (NASB). God could have revealed himself through angels, visions, dreams, or personally speaking directly to people. But He didn’t do that. He decided to reveal it through fragile, fallen, and frail human beings like Paul, you, and me!
Paul gives the image of clay pots here in verse seven. The New American Standard Bible’s (NASB) translation of “earthen vessels” can also be translated as the New International Version (NIV) does, “jars of clay.” In Corinth you could easily buy cheap fragile clay pots. And the “clay pot” or “jar of clay” is the image of a vessel that Paul’s using here to describe his ministry and our ministry.
The implication of clay pots is that we are made by God for a reason. Psalm 139:13-16 states that God knit us together in the womb of our mother, He knew us before we were born, and He made us the way we are for a reason. This also means we need to be clean, empty, and available for service. A clay jar is only useful for someone if it’s clean and available. Dirty or filled, and there’s no use for it. Additionally we—we as clay pots—serve a purpose in what we hold. The focus is not on the pot, but instead on what it holds and what happens with what it holds. Lastly, this image reminds us that we are weak and easily broken. A clay pot can be easily broken, but it’s when it is broken that what is inside spills out and is shared with others. Pastor Warren Wiersbe, writes, “Suffering reveals not only the weakness of man but also the glory of God. . . The test of true ministry is not stars, but scars.”
Paul continues with a specific explanation. “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. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, NASB). This describes both physical and emotional suffering. It’s the first of four lists of Paul’s suffering He shares in 2 Corinthians (see 6:4b-5, 8-10; 11:23-28; 12:10).
As we read these we can’t help but feel empathy for Paul and the hardships he endured. He’s been knocked down but he’s not been knocked out. If we have lived any length of time as a Christian, we also can relate to those hardships and pain which we too have experienced. Paul’s not just describing his experience; he’s describing our experience in ministry.
But notice after the descriptions of his afflictions in vv. 8-11a he wraps up with this, “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11b). This shows purpose. Those afflictions were how Jesus was made known to others. Our affliction and our troubles are how we make Christ known to others.
Paul then wraps up with a general statement. “So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). This is Paul’s personal sacrifice for others. God demands it and heaven rewards it. The “death works in us” is our ministry. Not physical death; but physical sufferings that felt like death. “Paul’s physical sufferings (death works in us) are the means by which spiritual life comes to the Corinthians.” The “life in you” is salvation.
Paul makes it clear that we work through our afflictions. This is hard! But, it’s not just through our afflictions that we work. I would venture to say that it is because of our afflictions that we work and do ministry. It is in the afflictions of life that we effect others with our lives.
Most of us grew up watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Most people don’t know that Fred Rogers created that show—a place where kids would be loved and accepted for who they are regardless of their looks—was something Fred had an intimate experience with as a kid. Fred Rogers was bullied as a kid in the 1930s. The bullies at his school called him “Fat Freddy.”
It was because of that experience he wanted kids to feel loved, accepted, and that someone cared for them. That became his life mission and 895 episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood later, he had made an impact on kids. It was through his afflictions and pain that he wanted to help other kids not to experience the feelings he had to experience as a kid.
I pray and I hope, that we too do ministry through and because of our afflictions.
Christopher L. Scott
 “What Is Retirement” January 18, 2005. Howard Hendricks at Family Life. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/what-is-retirement/ Accessed December 31, 2022.
 Warren Wiersbe, Be Encouraged, pp. 61-62.
 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 1851.
 Fred Rogers was born March 20, 1928, and Shea Tuttle records his experience being bullied first at 8yrs old, so it was 1936. Shea Tuttle, Exactly As You Are: The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019), 9.
 Shea Tuttle, Exactly As You Are, 18.