If the Gospel changes people like nothing else can, then its servants have no reason to lose heart in ministering it. No reason at all (v.1). Nor do we have any reason to resort to shady dealings in Gospel service (v.2).
But if the Gospel is so powerful, why does it look so powerless, as our hearers often reject it, and as we go through so much trouble in proclaiming it? Well, says Paul, Satan is hard at work, blinding people to it (vv.3-4). It’s not a clearer sermon people need, ultimately, or a more compelling witness: it’s the work of the Spirit, doing the very work God did in creation, shining light into darkness, this time the darkness of sin-blighted and Satan-blinded hearts, to show them Jesus in His glory (vv.5-6). And He loves to do just that.
So, Satan is at work, but God is stronger. What about us? Every Gospel servant discovers, sooner or later, just how weak she or he is. The Gospel is the treasure, not us. We are like the clay jar – cheap, fragile, and feeling distinctly disposable, knocked about, and pretty worthless (vv.7-9). We’re called to suffer as we serve, just as Jesus did. As we live out His life (and only as we do so), we find the power of the Spirit working in and through us; not crushed, not despairing, not abandoned, not destroyed. God is holding onto us. And we are bruised so that others find life in Jesus. Gospel service is “we die, you live” (v.12).
So, do not lose heart. Eternal glory will come, and will far outweigh our troubles. Dare we believe that our problems, real as they are, are actually “light and momentary” (v.17)? It depends if we’re feeling the pressing weight of heaven. We should, and we must. One day heaven will be here.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, my trials knock me down. Lift me back up. Lord, I lose perspective, and so I lose hope. Please drive the truths of this precious chapter into my heart. Feed me with its truths. Teach me that the reward is almost in sight, and help me to press on in Gospel sacrifice until the Day comes. Amen.