You’ve see this before. The years of gravity, storm, and decay have taken their toll. But, there it is . . . still. Still standing – and with amazement we wonder how? This is a small farm on the outskirts of town where I live in Northern Illinois. I took this photo yesterday afternoon (May 29, 2016). For all those who are striving hard in this life to not lose hope in all that Christ is for us, this is how our hearts often feel. The apostle Paul said it this way:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” – 2 Corinthians 3:7-10.
I think of my parents, for example, when I see this barn still standing against the backdrop of a standing tall silo. True, one day the old corn crib will give way to time – but not without displaying to all who see her that there is a humbling beauty in the way that she persevered to the end; that’s not only true of my parents, but all lovers of Jesus Christ who also persevere through various bodily afflictions, against addictions and idolatries of possession and wealth, and other losses of sorts. Mostly everyone endures great hardship in this life, for sure. But enduring hardship while saying “Jesus is worth it” is different. The treasure in this old earthly jar of dust is an affection to know Christ more deeply through suffering than through ease. Then, when others see how you still love Jesus, though you suffer, the “power” that explains your endurance is not from you but from God.
What does it mean then to carry in our bodies “the death of Jesus” so that his life can be seen by others?
It is our willingness to not live for ourselves but for others, sacrificially giving our lives away because Jesus gave his life away for you. And that is his life. The life of Jesus is a sacrificial one, for he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus died so that we would be free from the destructive enslavement of living for self (2 Cor. 5:15). And when the world insults, mocks, and threatens for putting Christ first, our response is with courtesy and good deeds (Titus 3:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9-17).
If you are tempted to give in because you feel that you don’t have the power to go on, then that is why you are tempted. It wasn’t in your power at all that brought you this far. Don’t believe for a second that it has been your will-power of self-determination that has been sustaining you. Look again to Christ – and see again that his grace has been sufficient and will be so for as long as he chooses to keep you standing, even if it is nearly touching the ground!