I have a fond memory of my Grandma, who taught the Word of God well at home. Most of the scriptures that I know today came from Grandma’s family prayer meetings. Grandma, after fighting Cancer for a little over a year, passed away on Monday, August 2009 at 8:05 a.m [Indian Standard Time]. Despite her cancer, she was one of the most faithful supporters of our work in Japan. Even in her cancerous bed, her spirit shone brightly as she continued to send her contributions in Japan. Such was her faithful and joyful dedication towards the cause of Christ. Furthermore, Grandma never wanted to miss Sunday worship. In the midst of cancer, she attended church whenever she could and in so doing became a light to many. Before she departed, Grandma read Psalm 23 and said that the angels were coming to take her home. I believe the reason Grandma had such influence was because, even though her body had been broken, she had a Treasure that surpassed everything else. What does scripture say about this Treasure?
More recently at the Bridge outreach event I gave a talk from Proverbs 18: 14 which reminded me of others who, like Grandma, may be going through difficult times in their brokenness. The verse read: “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” The first word “spirit” in Hebrew is ru.ach, which is the same word used to refer to wind or God’s Spirit.
According to this verse: if you have a weak body, and you’re strong in spirit, your spirit can still sustain your body (though with some difficulty). But if you have a crushed or broken spirit you can never carry your body, no matter how healthy your body is. Why does this matter? The entire society around us is obsessed with the idea that happiness depends on our external circumstances. We think that our happiness is ultimately determined by whether our body is healthy or whether our body looks good. Our happiness also depends on whether we have money, whether people are treating us well, or whether things are going well with our work and family. So the things that makes us happy, or unhappy (as legitimate as they are) are largely based on external circumstances. Nevertheless, even if our lives are all broken; and all things are going wrong, but our spirit is strengthened by God’s Spirit we can face any hardships that life throws at us.
Treasure in Jars of Clay.
The Japanese have an art of fixing broken potteries with mixed powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This is called Kintsukuroi (金繕い). It simply means ‘to repair with gold,‘ with an understanding that the mended piece is more beautiful for having been broken. In the Gospel story our lives weren’t merely broken. We were “dead in our trespasses and sins” until Christ came and made us alive together with Him; and gave us a new identity–a people of God. As followers of Christ, though we may suffer brokenness in all forms here in this life, a day is coming when we will receive our glorified bodies–never to taste corruption again. But how do we cope with all the sufferings in between the already-of-the-Kingdom and Christ’s return? The apostle Paul’s words are most helpful at this point. He says in 2 Corinthians that,
7 “...we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you”
Our bodies are like “jars of clay” and has many scars. It is fragile and can easily be broken. But a day is coming when God will fix it fully. In the meantime, we have “this treasure” (Christ) in our broken bodies. He has come to mend our broken hearts, broken homes, broken cities. And a day is coming when all tears will be wiped away! Even in our brokenness, God still intends to use us to be a life-giving ministry to others in the power of His Spirit. As he says,“death is at work in us, but life in you.” And Paul goes on to say:
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
In the midst of our brokenness he says “we do not lose heart” because “our inner self is being renewed day by day” in Christ. How could Paul possibly call his sufferings, “this light momentary affliction” (in light of all his sufferings in verses 8 to 10)? The answer is that Paul treasured Christ above everything. His sufferings are preparing him “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In light of the coming eternal glory, his present sufferings were not worth comparing. Christ became His greatest treasure and joy. And he saw what was coming. He says, “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen….the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Jesus defeated Satan, Sin and Death!
Do you fear death? The reason we fear death is because most of us are not sure what happens next. We fear because nothing is as scary as fear of the unknown. If someone says: “There’s nothing after death!” That is the most hopeless and depressing worldview you can give to humanity. Many earthly kings and great political rulers have come and gone, promising and accomplishing great things. But no one has defeated man’s greatest enemies–Satan, sin and death. No king has defeated sin. No earthly ruler has defeated Satan. No king has conquered death. But Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death by allowing death to defeat Him momentarily. He rose again by triumphing over hell. Everyone is going to die someday. When that happens none of us will take with us what we have. Our bodies will decay, or be burnt to ashes. We cannot take our money, our wealth or our most valuable possessions with us when we die. The very things you so feared to lose today will leave you eventually one day; including your life–your breath. But if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that He died in your place to save you from your sins, and that God raised Him from the death, you too will live forever.
When Jesus comes back and raises you from the dead, you won’t just get your body back. You’ll get the body you always wanted but never had. You won’t just get your life back; you’ll get the life that you’ve always wanted but never had. You will receive a new body–without pain or sin or sickness or disease or aging–and live forever to enjoy Jesus. It will be indescribably wonderful and joyful to be with Him!