Summary: When we run the race our calling is to be jars of clay. The Christian race is not run to bring attention to ourselves, but to put all the attention onto the treasure which is within us. When we run like this then we are running well.
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We are continuing our series on “Running the Race”.
Today our focus will be on the question of “Running Well”.
As we think about this question I want to bring your mind back to 1983. It was the year an ultra-marathon took place in Australia. A running race from Sydney to Melbourne – 875km.
There were 150 world-class runners at the start, and a toothless 61 year old potato and sheep farmer named Cliff Young.
Heaps of people thought it was joke. Especially because Young was competing in overalls and work boots, without his dentures – because they rattled when he ran. He ran at a slow pace which eventually become known as the “Young shuffle”. By the end of the first day he was far behind the leaders.
But while they slept for six hours he kept running.
He never stopped running.
Five days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes after the start of the race. Cliff Young came shuffling across the finish line in Melbourne. This was almost two days faster than the previous record for any run between Sydney and Melbourne.
The next runner was 9 hours and 56 minutes behind Cliff and only six runners in total finished the race.
This story makes me think of a Scripture passage.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7)
No one expected a 61 year old, wrongly dressed, toothless man to have the capacity to run well. And he did that in his own strength.
Similarly in our Christian walk it is possible for us to think that we won’t run well – we are just jars of clay. It happens when we run with the surpassing power of God.
To see what this race looks like let’s read the context of this verse.
2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (read)
This is not a message that sits well with 2019 Australian culture. Where Instagram and Facebook is cluttered with edited, photo-shopped and doctored photos show your best.
And the perfect photo has been made after 30 attempts.
Where self-esteem is the king of the age. And we can’t make people feel bad about themselves – even when they are on Australian Idol and they can’t sing. And where schools don’t give grades because you don’t want kids to feel bad.
Into that culture God comes along and says, “You know what. Let’s have a realistic assessment here”.
You are all jars of clay.
You don’t have a lot to be boastful about.
Physically that is the case. In verse 16 Paul reminds us that Outwardly we are wasting away the Greek behind this phrase means “to rot, to decay, to ruin, to corrupt”. It’s not a positive picture … but neither is ageing.
• When we are 20 we have energy to burn and the strength to match.
• When we get to 30 we discover a few niggles.
• By the time we are 40 the niggles have turned into chronic pain.
• At 50 our stomach loses its ability to stay in our pants.
• At 60 we start to become thankful if we can go into the day with less then 3 pains.
• By 70 well …
As one old person remarked, "Some days I feel like I'm falling apart, and what scares me is that they don't make parts for me anymore!”. We are just jars of clay. From dust we are made, to dust we will return.
But it isn’t just the physical issues. There are also the spiritual issues. Consider the way your mind works.
The angry words you say which cut other people apart emotionally. Wicked thoughts which cause you to reflect on lust, pride, covetousness, and hate. Think about the greed which makes you desire for the praise of men rather than of God.
At some point in the assessment we must confess our helplessness and weakness as we deal with the temptations of life.
That is us … jars of clay.
We are earthen ware, cracked pots, if you will. By our very nature we are fragile. Under the pressures of life we chip … we crack … we even shatter.
When we are running the race this is who we are. This is our identity.
Now, on the surface, you would think that such a description is not a good description. However the reverse is true.
We are jars of clay.
And we should celebrate.
Because, as jars of clay, we have a very powerful ministry. The ministry of cracked pots.
As we run the race we can run well. Because our effectiveness is not based on our pizzazz, charisma, good speech and eloquent presence. Our effectiveness is based on the fact that these jars of clay are full to the brim with a priceless treasure.