But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Throughout history, God’s people have faced great difficulty in obeying the call He has placed on their lives. The early church faced great persecution, and Paul and his companions endured suffering everywhere they went. For the first followers of Jesus, it wasn’t a question of whether or not persecution would take place, but how to live in the midst of it.

Even today, believers in many parts of the world face the threat of persecution daily. But Jesus never leaves us to face this alone. In Matthew 5:12, Jesus promised great eternal reward for those who endure, and Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:7-19 assures us that even on earth, Christ’s presence and power keep us in these times.

We can hold on to the things of this world loosely because we are holding on to the treasures of heaven tightly. The most that persecution can cost you is your life—which, on one hand, seems extreme and difficult to understand and deal with. However, Christians have already lost our lives to follow Jesus. Though people may do physical harm to our bodies because of our faith in Jesus, God has promised to keep our souls completely safe in Christ. We can trust Him.

• Paul described the gospel message as a treasure in a clay jar. Do you typically view the gospel as precious? How does this connect to the amount we are willing to endure for the sake of the gospel?

• What did Paul give as the reasons he was willing to endure persecution in Jesus’ name? How does this challenge and encourage you?

• Pray that you would be strengthened to stand against all that stands against you.