Sunday School Material 8-17-14: Treasure in Clay Jars

Introduction:A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is that God uses limited humans as a part of His master plan to take care of His own. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to let God use us and accept God’s use of others, in carrying out His master plan.

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Read II Corinthians 4:1-6

I. Glory of the Gospel. Paul talks about how he and his team are preaching the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. The only people who don’t understand are those who are blinded by the god of this age and who are perishing.

In our Sunday School material he pictures himself as a servant for Jesus’ sake.

Applications -

- Servants of God. Notice in vs. 1 that Paul talks about his ministry being the product of God’s mercy. In vs. 5, he talks about being a servant for Jesus’ sake. And in the next section, he talks about being like a clay jar (vs. 7).

First, as believers, we are called to be used by God. Ministers are called to minister. Servants are called to serve. Jars are called to be containers.

In like manner, we are called to be of some good use to the Lord. This ought to move each of us to ask, “What good work am I doing in obedience to the Lord”?

Second, whatever we do for the Lord, it is more about the Lord than about us. We don’t have to pretend that we are something that we are not.

We are not called to make ourselves look good. It is all about lifting the name of Jesus and bringing glory to the Lord. Let’s work on knowing and staying in our place, as servants of God.

- Focusing on the simply word of God. Notice in vs. 2 of our Sunday School material that the simple presentation of God’s word is enough.

First, when the message of God is so sophisticated in language that people need dictionaries to know what is being said, there is a problem.  

Advance education should be used to help people understand, not impress and overwhelm them with the degree holder’s educational attainment.

Second, when ministry is based on a charismatic human personality, instead of simply faith in God, there is a problem. All humans are subject to let you down.

Let’s focus on sharing the word of God in such a simple way that children can understand. And let’s make sure that our faith is in God, not simply the fancy messenger.

- Some are blinded to the word. Notice in vss. 3-4 that no matter how simple the gospel is shared, there will be some who miss it. Those who miss it are those who are perishing because the god of this age has blinded them.

As stated above, we should make the word of God simple and understandable for those we are talking to. However, we should also understand that the devil is working real hard to help people say “I don’t know.” Let’s prayerfully do our best and trust God with the rest.

Read II Corinthians 4:7-12

II. Humility of the Messenger. In this section of our Sunday School material Paul talks about how he is simply a clay jar. The power of God is made manifested, as people see how feeble Paul really is.

He talks about experiencing hardships, but he is still standing in the Lord’s strength. He sees his suffering as a part of the blessing experienced by his readers.

Applications -

- Suffering and surviving. Notice in vss. 8-9 that Paul and his team were both suffering and surviving. First, being a believer doesn’t exclude us from suffering.

Just as Paul suffered (e.g., beatings and relational drama) and Jesus suffered (e.g., crucifixion), we should not be surprised when suffering comes our way.

Second, we should be thankful that God gives us surviving power. God doesn’t always keep us from suffering. But He gives us power to survive the suffering.

We ought to find some joy in seeing that we are still standing. Let’s work on trusting God to help us survive the suffering that we must face.

- Crucifixion and resurrection. Notice in vss. 10-12 of the Sunday School material that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are always at work in the lives of His disciples.

At any given moment, we find ourselves suffering and yet looking towards victory because of our relationship with Jesus.

For example, our striving to make family life work can be complicated by non-believers (i.e., negativity). But we trust God to see us through (i.e., positive hope). Furthermore, our suffering influences the success of others.

As people see us endure our pain with faith in God, they are inspired to trust God even more. This is further supported by vs. 15 in the next section. Let’s work on going through our troubled times with confidence that God can use our suffering for the good of others and our own.

Read II Corinthians 4:13-15

III. Persistence of Faith. In this section of our Sunday School material Paul talks about his faith in God. He is trusting God to raise him up, as He did and will do with Jesus. He talks again about how what is happening to him is benefiting his readers.

Applications -

- Faith development. Notice in vss. 13-14 that faith can get us through some rough spots. Think about how a lion tamer deals with a lion being three feet away from him/her.

And then think about how you would deal with a lion being three feet away from you, with nothing holding the lion back.

What is the difference? The difference to a great extent is what the lion tamer and you believe. He/she believes that things are under control. You believe that you are about to be attacked by the lion.

In like manner, it is not circumstances that traumatizes us, as much as our belief system. We can face our valleys with faith in our Shepherd. Or we can face them, as if we are in it all by ourselves.

Let’s work on developing the faith to live in this world of ours. Prayerful study of God’s word with a mind to obey it and with the support of other disciples can help us develop the faith needed for times like these.

Conclusion: Let’s work on letting God use us and accepting God’s use of others, in carrying out His master plan.  God has much for those who obey His will.

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