The Grace of JESUS CHRIST takes ordinary people (like you and me) and makes them EXTRAORDINARY for the sole purpose of building HIS Kingdom.
Today I want to answer the question, “If we have extraordinary empowerment from God, then why do we face so much pain and difficulty? Shouldn’t we be untouchable?”
Jesus tells us that there will be a day when we are untouchable. That day hasn’t happened you. Until it does, he will empower us to face the pain and difficulty in extraordinary ways!
Living like Jesus might seem like a paradox. He was quite peculiar. Jesus made an impact on the world around him. He made it better. At the same time, he refused to be tempted or sucked up in what the world could offer him: political success, popularity, wealth, safety, comfort. He was at total peace, yet was murdered. His eye was on the eternal kingdom that was present and tangible on earth in spurts and disconnected pockets. Yet, he had a vision and knew that someday the dividing curtain between the eternal kingdom and the earthly realm would someday be dissolved. When in doubt or question, he picked to put the eternal kingdom as a priority over earthly/temporal things.
We are to LIVE LIKE JESUS. Extraordinary! Not just in practice but in principle.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars,
This is one of those phrases in the Bible that really stick out to me. I want to know WHY would Paul use this metaphor of clay jars? Obviously, clay jars were a big part of their culture back then.
He is saying that we store this incredibly valuable truth…the light of God…the glory of God that we see in Jesus in clay jars.
Clay jars were regarded as fragile and as expendable because they were cheap and often unattractive. clay pots that contained everything from wealth to worthless things, from foods to liquids. Because jars, pots, and vessels were made from clay, they were subject to breakage and, therefore, were inexpensive and discarded in short order. He uses an illustration taken from everyday life:
So the paradox Paul is expressing is that although the container is relatively worthless, the contents are priceless. Although the gospel treasure is indescribably valuable, the gospel’s ministers are of little value in comparison.
Jewish rabbis used to say: “It is impossible for wine to be kept in gold or silver vessels but in the most inferior of containers, namely, in earthen vessels. Similarly, the words of the Law are kept only in the person who is most humble.”
An analogy is the valuable Dead Sea Scrolls, which were stored for more than two millennia in ordinary clay jars that were decaying while the scrolls remained intact.
Paul was an example of this as he was beaten up, abandoned, shipwrecked.
2 Corinthians 4:7 …so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.
We hold the gospel as it were in clay jars to exhibit the phenomenal power of God, so that everyone may see that not we but God is its source. The original text reads: “the extraordinary (quality of the) power.”
2 Corinthians 4:8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed;
Physical or Psychological Difficulties
Clay pots that do not break even when placed under great strain. To be hard pressed or “afflicted” is to be troubled by physical or psychological difficulties. While Paul and other ministers of the gospel endured many afflictions as did frail earthenware, they were not crushed. They were not overcome by these afflictions because they had the treasure of the gospel of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:8… we are perplexed but not in despair;
Confusion and Discouragement
Perplexed, but not in despair. To be perplexed is to be in a state of confusion and discouragement because of afflictions and troubles. Despair in this context means “utter lack of all hope.” Even though Paul and his company were deeply troubled at times, they never gave up because they had a great treasure.
2 Corinthians 4:9 we are persecuted but not abandoned…
hunted down or chased by others
Persecuted is to be hunted down or chased about by others. Persecution was widespread against the early church. The persecution of the ministers of the gospel indicated how much they were earthenware jars. Yet, Paul insisted that even in persecution they were not abandoned. God never left them alone. He was with them in all of their persecutions. Paul portrays himself as a fugitive hunted down by his adversaries.
2 Corinthians 4:9 …we are struck down but not destroyed.
Setback, Demoted, Fired
When Paul spoke of being struck down, he was talking about a wrestling term. BodySlam! There is a big difference between a bodyslam and defeat.
The path to victory for your family will have many setbacks, but you will be victorious over your foes.
2 Corinthians 4:10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
Paul said there were many reasons for him to boast about this spiritual prowess. He was firmly established as a man of God. Had so many amazing visions, dreams, miracles.
2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Get a vision of how BIG God really is! Believe that he is big enough for your thorn. Believe he is big enough that even with the thorn, your life could be awesome. How could that be? Jesus’ answer: My Grace is All You Need!
For some reason, God knows that you don’t need complete deliverance at this point. At the same time, he won’t leave you alone. He provides his grace to lead you through it in an EXTRAORINDARY WAY!
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16
In his essay, The Efficacy of Prayer, C.S. Lewis said,
“It would be even worse to think of those who get what they pray for as a group of court favorites, people who have influence with the throne. The refused prayer of Christ in Gethsemane is answer enough to that. And I dare not leave out the hard saying which I once heard from an experienced Christian: “I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning; before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic.
Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When god becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent with far less help, to defend fare more desperate posts in the great battle.”
Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of my good friends who is a pastor in San Francisco sent me a text this week that said, “I feel sorry for the doctors, lawyers, politicians, counselors, news anchors and CEOs who regularly have to give bad reports and bad news to their constituents. We on the other hand get to stand before God’s children and declare every week, wonderful News! We are so blessed for this opportunity.”
All those people get paid more than pastors, but I will gladly make the trade.
We were created by God. He created us in his image.
That means that we WERE extraordinary! We WERE like God!
We looked like God…..we acted like God…..we had his characteristics.
Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
That is extraordinary! Humans were something else. However, when we take a look at ourselves now…wow! A lot has changed from the original plan. Look at your neighbor. Tell them, “you look good……but you don’t look like God.” Not exactly a picture of God, right?
Look at yourself in the mirror. You’re weird. Pretty ordinary. Needs improvement. Oh, I’m not talking about the façade you put on for everyone else. I’m talking about the real you.
What happened? It is explained in the Bible. Romans 5:17 (great source of answers in life)
In this one passage we see the reason for ‘ordinary’, we see the reason for darkness, and we see the person of light. Our Salvation.
Romans 5: 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous… 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In that last verse, there is one word that stands out above all else: GRACE
Instead of sin ruling, wonderful grace rules!
The word used for grace in the Bible originally came from the Greek word Charis. Meaning: the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; benefit, favor, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure.
Basically, what it is saying is that: THE GRACE OF JESUS BRINGS BACK “THE EXTRAORDINARY”. We’re bringing it back!
Actually, He brought it back. Grace Brings Extraordinary Back to Humanity. It was locked in sin and death, but Jesus overcame sin and death to unlock the potential of humanity and bring back our God like qualities.
The Grace of JESUS CHRIST takes ordinary people (like you and me) and makes them EXTRAORDINARY for the sole purpose of building HIS Kingdom.
By the grace of God, I am extraordinary.
He doesn’t make us extraordinary to make all of our wishes come true, or be whatever we set our mind to be, rich, famous, whatever…. He is not santa. He is God.
He empowers us to build his kingdom.
His Grace makes us extraordinary in 3 Key ways:
His GRACE Empowers us to face pain and difficulty in EXTRAORDINARY ways.
If you have faced pain or difficulty lately, I have really good news for you. The GRACE of God can empower you to face that pain and difficulty in an extraordinary way.
A few years back, our family was on vacation. We rented a huge RV and went all the way to North Carolina and back! So fun. It was an extraordinary trip. Love family vacays!
However, there was one day on that trip that stands out from all the rest. We were at some friends’ house on the outskirts of Atlanta. We were swimming, having fun and decided to load up all the family in the RV and leave. We headed to downtown Atlanta to the Georgia Aquarium. About an hour drive through traffic to the aquarium. Trying to find a parking spot in downtown Atlanta for a 32’ Winnabago. Not easy! We finally found a spot on the rougher side of the area. Just before we parked, we started getting ready to go and I said, let’s get Kennady in her chair so that when we park, we can simply hit the door and go to the aquarium. (our daughter is unable to walk so she is in a wheelchair.)
Erica gets up to get Kennady in her chair and she looks around…. “Where did you put the chair?” “I didn’t get the chair, I thought you did.” WE FORGOT KENNADY’S CHAIR at our friends’ house. What do we do? I had the bright idea! Maybe the aquarium has a loner chair. We could go get her chair tomorrow when we head back home. So we park the RV. I pick up Kennady and carry her 4 blocks to the aquarium. When we get to the aquarium, we get the wheelchair and it is the size for a small elephant. Kennady is very thin. So, I sit in the chair and hold her and we tour the place.
We actually had a really good time in the aquarium. We stay until closing time and start our long journey back to the RV. I’m carrying, huffing and puffing. Rocking it! When we get like a block from the RV, I’m starting to fade, I say, “babe, why don’t you get the key from my pocket so you can unlock the door.” I going to drop when we get there. She starts digging in my pockets. “What pocket did you put the keys in? I Can’t find the keys.” We had lost the keys! We looked all over the ground. At the RV. We went back to the aquarium asked them to let us in, we walked all around the aquarium. No Keys.
We went back to the RV and called a locksmith. He picked the lock to get in the outside of the RV. But there is a separate key for the inside with a special chip. Oh no, we aren’t getting this done anytime soon. Got the kids inside. It’s dark outside. Not a very safe place to be. No key. Can’t go anywhere. Locksmith gives up. We have to call another one. It takes 2 hours for him to get there. In the meantime, it’s midnight, we hear: bump bump bump. We look out of the curtains and see a scantily-clad woman dancing on a car in the alley way. There were lights, cameras. They were filming a rap video next to the RV. Finally, at 1:30am and $350 later, we got a key. We drove off to a Walmart parking lot and spent the night. Vacation! Yeah! Extraordinary!
BUT THE extraordinary thing about that story is not that we found a wheelchair or a locksmith finally got us a key. The extraordinary thing about that story is that none of those “bad” things had anything to do with the fact that our 14yr old daughter is not able to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or do anything on her own other than watch TV. Our other two kids are deathly allergic to eggs, wheat, and all nuts.
It is extraordinary that our marriage is healthy. The divorce rate is high in America, but it is even higher for parents of special needs kids. It extraordinary that we love each other. That we love our daughter. That we aren’t bitter or angry or upset. It is extraordinary that people have no clue we have a daughter with such severe special needs until we finally tell them. Then, you can see their face go…….?
I AM NOT BRAGGING ON ME AND ERICA. I am bragging on the GRACE of God.
If it wasn’t for the GRACE of God I would be a wreck.
2 Corinthians 4:7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh.
Jesus’ life revealed in my mortal flesh is extraordinary. I’m speaking to some people who can’t seem to get ahead in life and the news seems to keep getting worse.
HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!
His GRACE Delivers us from the grip of sin addiction, illness, and demonic influence.
I could try to tell you about the Grace of God in Jerry McDonald’s life, but not as good as Jerry. Take a look at what God has done in his Life!
Jerry and his lovely wife Jo were the backbone of PromiseLand’s flood relief last year.
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
If God can set Jerry free, he can set you free. He God can heal Jerry, he can heal you. We have people all across this congregation today that have been healed, saved, delivered from addiction, heartache, depression, divorce, bankruptcy and all kinds of diagnosis.
His GRACE Excels us in our talents, skills, and abilities beyond our experience or education.
In 2006, the devil had Tony on the ropes. Little did he know what the Grace of God could do. Check out his story. (video)
1 Corinthians 2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 John 4: 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
I’m not sure what your story is. You might relate more to Jerry, or Dr Cedrone, or me or you might be totally different from all of us. REGARDLESS, the Grace of God is ready to start redefining your character. The Storyline of God is ready to adopt your storyline.
Have the faith today to start seeing your life in the lens of God’s grace and start praying about how you could complete this sentence:
By the Grace of God, I _________________
By the Grace of God, I will finish school.
By the Grace of God, I will raise good kids.
By the Grace of God, I will support my family.
By the Grace of God, I will overcome this addiction to pain pills
By the Grace of God, I will success at my job.
By the Grace of God, I will be a man or woman of integrity.
Over the next few weeks we are going to continue this sermon series. I want to encourage you to attend next Sunday. Remember that verse I just read, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect..”
PromiseLand is a great place for your life to continue in God and grow stronger in his love.
His Grace is REAL.
His Grace is AVAILABLE to anyone who would surrender and trust in Him.