Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 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. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul obviously hasn’t read the books on successful church leadership. He seems to be breaking the rules about how to grow a church. No chance of him being a bestselling author letting people into the seven snappy sure-fire steps to sublime sanctification. No wonder the Corinthians were underwhelmed by him. They figured such a great leader should be eloquent, free of trials, full of self-confidence and belief.
They were wrong. Paul embraced the paradox of spiritual power: God’s power is best revealed through human weakness. Paul experienced the power of God not apart from his weakness but in the midst of it. In other words, we might truly have the treasure of the message of Jesus Christ and with it the power to change lives. But the treasure comes via jars of clay, which are useful but not glamorous. A plain clay jar doesn’t draw attention to itself but to its contents.
Paul wasn’t some first-century apostolic glamour boy. He was a clay jar. Always hovering on the brink of failure but always resilient. Always in trouble but always rejoicing. The two seem to go together. As such he rebukes our attempts to measure success by ungodly standards, to measure our own worth by such standards. To those who puff themselves up, Paul says you are mere clay jars. To those who demean themselves, Paul says you contain a treasure.