Friday, May 31, 2013

Is Jesus revealed in me?

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (NIV)

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
The power is from God, not from us. Replace power with other words — wisdom, peace, courage and so on — and there is no less truth. I don’t expect me or my children to be called to a life like Paul’s, but I would very much like to be able to say the resurrection is visible within and through us, that we live differently because of God’s saving grace.

It’s not easy for me to explain how this concept is actually manifested in my daily life. It’s harder still to predict what it might look like in my boys as they grow into young men. I do know all of them will go through periods where they feel hard pressed, perplexed and struck down. I most certainly have walked those roads and will again, likely more than once. But it’s how we get through those challenges, the way in which we rely on God to keep from being crushed, in despair or destroyed, that reveal a person who has been changed through faith.

As I write, I feel the struggle of communicating in vague terms a sentiment best felt by an individual in a specific situation. So much of this is deeply personal — what feels like persecution to one soul is of little significance to another — and the way in which God provides those tools like wisdom or power is specific to each person. But the larger themes of Paul’s words here, as far as I can tell, are to be broadly inspiring. They are meant to be open to interpretation by one person embroiled in one scenario.

Following that, as it relates to my kids, I hope I’m able to think back on this point as I try to guide and counsel them toward maturity. They’ll have very similar upbringings, sure, but each will have his own unique path. Already I can clearly see how different they are from each other in terms of personality and starting to guess how that might affect the way in which they respond to the world. But God, and faith, ought to be a constant, an unwavering source of strength and inspiration.

It can be difficult to consider myself as a clay jar, to fully accept my human limitations and the reality that no matter how much I want it to be true, I simply won’t be here forever. I’ve lost some very important people in my life and been sad every time. We celebrate life and sing praises for the resurrection. I know where my hope lies, what God has promised, and I believe fully. But there is so much to do here, so many people to love. I know this world pales in comparison to what God offers. If we weren’t mortal, there would be no death for God to conquer. And life, eternal life, is indeed at work in everyone who allows it to be so.

Big thoughts for a guy with little kids. Some day, not any time soon, I hope, we’re going to sit up late and talk about these things, pick each other’s brains and ask challenging questions. But until then, we’ll focus more regularly on the uplifting messages like the one conveyed in this passage. God can give strength, more than we can imagine, and it can take us through any struggle. A good lesson regardless of age or experience.

A prayer for May 31:

Lord, let the life of Jesus be revealed in me. Let people see not just someone who lives in gratitude for your grace, but someone who truly loves as Jesus taught. I don’t want to wrap myself in the blanket of salvation, I want to be out and about, showing people kindness, respect, compassion and love that comes directly from you. I want my children to be known as people who care for others as much as their own well being. I hope that we, working through you, can be agents of true Christian love. Amen.

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