“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach 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 knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show 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 be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1-18
At the end of each VBS day we hand out these snacks to the kids. They really aren’t anything at all, just fifty calories of junk food that couldn’t do much except whet their appetite. But as soon as you bring out those snacks, it is absolute chaos. You could see them shoving each other to the ground and stealing from the little children all to the end of getting just one more bag of these tiny treats.
Yesterday the action of distributing snacks brought some to tears and everyone to the brink of complete emotional ground zero. We felt weary, dirty, and dead in the water. Tomorrow shadowed a bleak future and no one was looking forward to the morning. All we could think of was the bitter fact that over twenty of the children we had seen would be dead in a year with more to follow and we felt helpless in such a situation where there appeared to be no hope. Their fragile bodies are constantly wasting away and running on limited time, as we all are.
Then we checked the verses we were supposed to read on that day.
Just the first words were enough to restore breath back into us. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” One of the situations where it is most tempting to lose heart is when you are trying to bring a lost sheep to Christ, whether it is a return journey or the first time they have ever heard his name. It can be discouraging and can leave you balancing precariously on the point of breakdown. But what does God remind us? Through his mercy, we do not lose heart. We do not have to distort the word of God to speak. God will use us as his jars of clay to bring Jesus to his children, and no matter how much you love the people you are trying to reach, God will always love them more. You can trust him because even though it is easy to forget, he has a plan for everyone and everything. There are no loose ends or forgotten details. God’s got you. As long as you stay in the word, there is no use worrying in the effectiveness of your own words or actions because God’s got it.
It is painfully obvious that death is at work in our bodies and in our world. There are wars and diseases and dreadful accidents and murders in back alleys and one could go on. Death saturates humanity. For many, “the end” is when their bones crumble away in a graveyard. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. But we as Christians may know that that is not “the end”. For us, there is no end. There is only life with God in Heaven. And we may be confident that this is not our home, that what we see now is just a short second compared to what we have waiting for us, which is new life in the love and forgiveness of Christ Jesus.
So therefore we do not lose heart. We have renounced our secret and shameful ways. We are the darkness to show God’s light and the jars of clay that may be used as God’s tools. 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 may be wasting away. Our bodies are decaying and our time is short. But we do not lose heart because we fix our eyes on the next life, not on this one, because what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:13-14