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Ordinary Clay Pots

Developing Leadership  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: Review previous lessons
Earning trust
Taking initiative
Using good judgment
Being courageous
Taking charge
A Leader is Devoted to His People
The false teachers at Corinth that launched their attacks against Paul were most likely close acquaintances of Paul. They may have even served with Paul because we know that they knew his personality, mannerisms, his looks, and his preaching style.
We know this because their attacks against Paul included some of the most savage kind of personal attacks. They listed his personal defects and used them to poison the well (ad hominem). Paul even quoted some of these comments in his letter.
2 Corinthians 10:10 NKJV
“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
Apparently, Paul was a physically unimposing person, and Paul knew it. Paul spoke so much of his own unattractiveness that some have proposed that Paul was a short hunchback with weepy eyes. This is probably an exaggeration, but his unattractiveness must have been something that people mentioned often due to his sensitivities.
Galatians 4:14–15 NKJV
And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.
We do not know if Paul was describing a temporary illness or a permanent deformity, but what we do know about Paul is that he suffered many hardships. Because of those hardships Paul also suffered many ailments. So, the false teachers in Corinth added his ugliness to the list of reasons why the people should not trust Paul. Paul cannot lead, they said, because he doesn’t look like a leader. They even claim that this is the reason Paul communicated to them in a letter.
They also made fun of his voice.
2 Corinthians 10:10 NKJV
“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
Paul did say that he purposefully adopted a preaching style that was empty of flashiness.
2 Corinthians 2:1–2 NKJV
But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?
1 Corinthians 2:1–2 NKJV
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul’s desire was that they would know Christ, but the false teachers claimed that Paul was so ugly and that his sermons were so boring that Paul was actually a liability to the gospel.
False teachers will often spread lies. However, these accusations against Paul were not lies. Paul didn’t try to impress anyone with his looks or his skill, and Paul was okay with that because he knew that the power of the message was enough.
The question we have to ask ourselves about these false teachers is this: was what they were saying about Paul valid? In others words, did the fact that Paul was unattractive and possibly boring mean that his message was invalid? Of course not!
This attack on Paul was ugly and nasty and unnecessary, and for the sake of the gospel it was necessary for Paul to respond.
How would Paul defend against this attack? Would he say, “No, don’t listen to them. I really am pretty good looking.” It wouldn’t seem very professional for him to write and say that he had a girlfriend once and she thought he was cute. His physical issues were not news to anyone.
His response can be summarized in
2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Paul acknowledged that these false teachers were right on this matter. As far as looks and charisma goes, Paul wasn’t anything special. However, Paul reminded the Corinthians
2 Corinthians 4:5 NKJV
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
In other words, Paul was saying that he agreed that he was ugly and ordinary, but that doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t the greatest treasure in all the universe.
2 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians

Leaders Recognize Their Purpose

2 Corinthians 2:14–17 NKJV
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
2 Corinthians 2:
Example: The smell of a dead mouse.
There is nothing special about human leaders, there is only something special in the message of Christ.
Our heroes in the Bible were all flawed.
Paul was imperfect too.
Romans 7:24 NKJV
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
However, what he was being attacked for in Corinth was not anything sinful. It was actually something that he had no control over. So, Paul embraced his frailty in this area and used it as further credentials of the legitimacy of his apostleship. I can picture Paul saying, “If people are coming to Christ through someone as ugly as me then you know Christ is behind it.”

Leaders Are Humble

Paul describes himself as having treasure in an earthen vessel.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Treasure is normally contained in elaborate containers. Clay pots would have been too common to store such valuable items. It would be like your mom storing her jewelry in a pizza box.
The treasure Paul was referring to was the treasure of the gospel message. So, why would God choose to place such a great treasure in such an ordinary vessel?
That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Paul was not in the least bit concerned with comparing himself with other men.
2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:17–18 NKJV
But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.
Although men are prone to forget, leaders remember what they are made of.
Psalm 103:14 NKJV
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:4 NKJV
Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Genesis 3:19 NKJV
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
We are all just clay pots. What makes us valuable is not who we are, but the treasure that is contained in our hearts.
2 Timothy 2:20 NKJV
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
Sometimes, we Christians, struggle with this idea. We look around and we recognize that most Christians are just clay pots. We often think, “Wouldn’t it be great if that famous person, or that attractive person, or that great entertainer would become a Christian? Then the world would know that our message is valid.” God does use people like that, but not many. He does this in order that it might be clear to all that the power is not from us but from God.

Leaders Are Sturdy

Although not glamorous, clay pots are sturdy. They were used for all kinds of things from hauling things from place to place to even being exposed to the high temperatures of the oven. Pots were not indestructible, but short of throwing it against the hard ground clay pots would last a long time. Paul was such a leader as well.
2 Corinthians 4:8–9 NKJV
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
While knowing his weaknesses, a leader is steadfast and enduring. Leaders are constantly facing problems because leaders lead people. If you know anything about people, people cause problems. Paul could be both strong and humble because he recognized where his strength came from.
Philippians 4:11–13 NKJV
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Leaders Are Expendable

In addition to the humility of clay pots and the sturdiness of clay pots, clay pots are also expendable. Clay pots cost little to produce and have no value in themselves. Good leaders recognize that and then do everything in their power to give themselves away for the benefit of others.
2 Corinthians 4:10–12 NKJV
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.
Christian leaders know that there are those who will reject their message and that the hatred that others pour out towards them is not because people hate them. Paul knew that the people who opposed his message and directed their anger towards him were actually enemies of the truth who had rejected the message of Christ.
People still hate Jesus today. I want to encourage you guys in something. If you are doing what God has called you to do and faithfully proclaiming the message of his gospel in love and if you are seeking to do your part as a faithful member of the church by challenging others to grow and people oppose you for it, then you know that you are on the right track. When you get negative feedback from people that says, “Wow! You are really expecting me to be involved and holding me accountable to be like Christ!” I want to encourage those of you who are even now thinking of ways to be effective leaders in this youth group. When that happens, you are on the right track, so be encouraged.
Jesus Himself said this
Matthew 10:16 NKJV
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:24–26 NKJV
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
As a clay pot, Paul knew that He was expendable and he was willing to be sacrificed.
2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
Conclusion: When we realize that we are nothing but ordinary clay pots who are sturdy through the power of Christ yet expendable, then we become more effective as leaders and more powerful as witness for the building of God’s kingdom.
Galatians 2:20 NKJV
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
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