And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
When this year 2020 began, no one knew what to expect. Many of us had plans, hopes, dreams that we were hoping to see realized. And then the corona virus made an “appearance” that seemed to bring everything to a stop. All of a sudden, the hopes, dreams and visions seemed to be in danger of not materializing. Some of us may have started to wonder and ask, “God what next?” “What should I do now?” “Does it even make any sense to still hope and dream?” The thing is, it wasn’t just one person or a few people being affected but everyone.
But as time went along we realized that life was still going on. Life had not stopped progressing day after day … it just maybe wasn’t progressing in the way we had expected or hoped, but it went on … for the most part.
During all of this uncertainty, blessings, opportunities, open doors were still presenting themselves and all people had to do was trust God and walk into them. I am reminded of a few testimonies one of which concerns a student of mine who chose to participate in a school-based competition geared towards encouraging students to find ways of improving their school and community in some way. Now, keep in mind, we were on a lock down because of the corona pandemic and schools were closed. Yet, she and other students from various schools chose to take part. When she began I’m pretty sure she did not anticipate the pitfalls and challenges she would face during this journey. It was at times discouraging for her, but she kept pressing on. When one door that she really thought she needed was unexpectedly shut in her face, she felt that she could not go on, she just wanted to give up. But God used her mother to encourage her to get back up and think of another way of completing her project. She heeded her mother’s encouragement and tried again, and found, I think, a better and even more creative way of presenting her project.
Yes, she won that competition. She did not win it her way with her original plan, but I believe she won it God’s way, because God could see what she could not. He saw that her final presentation was much more effective and pertinent to this corona pandemic season than her original idea would have been. God had been ordering her steps – even the failures – all along but she just had to trust Him and choose not to give up. To go a bit further, He had to, it would seem, "throw out" her ideas, her plans, her way of doing this project, to bring her to the point of doing it the way He knew was best.
And sometimes that is what God does. He derails us, He sets up obstacles in our way, so that we can finally do it His way not our own. It doesn’t always mean that we won’t get what we want, but we just may not get it the way we expected. In the end, we won’t get the glory, we won’t be able to pat ourselves on the back and say, “I did it.” Instead, all of the honour and glory will go to our God, who is still able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Corinthians 11:30) Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b)
Here was Paul, the apostle, being grateful for the negative things in his life. It was actually through verses like these that I learned to be thankful, not just in spite of a negative situation but because of it. Somewhere along the line I learned that the negative was actually a good thing because of the valuable lessons I learned during that season.
Here we come to the final part of the potter / clay process. The vessel has spent some time on the shelf drying. It is now dry and ready for use and I’m sure the vessel can’t wait. But there is one final step, and this is the one that may seem the most challenging, the most painful of all … the firing. Just before the vessel can be used it is placed in a kiln to undergo the firing process. The kiln is heated to approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius). As the vessel is exposed to this intense heat, it undergoes changes in its molecular structure to make it useful and watertight. Without this heating, the vessel would dissolve if water is placed in it. It is changed from a soft, easily-marred vessel to something that is hard and durable, able to hold water for years.
How many of us would love to become this useful vessel without the firing process! I’m sure many of us would, especially when we don’t get to choose the fire that we go through!!! Throughout my life, as I said earlier, I have learned to be thankful for “infirmities”, why? Because, I more and more began to see the value in the fire. My fiery trials were just that … fiery! But those same trials developed much needed backbone in me. I was no longer soft and useless, I was more and more becoming a useful vessel. You see, I could not write all these nuggets if it weren’t for fiery trials. Those trials have given me messages to preach, testimonies to share, and songs to write and sing. Yes, I needed those trials and still do. As Paul aptly said: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Here’s the reality, fire is a necessary part of the Christian walk. We would never be the useful vessels God wants us to be if we never faced challenges and distresses. We would never know how to comfort someone unless we too have gone through situations where we needed comfort. We would never have sermons to preach, or songs to sing or testimonies to share. In fact, trials are what qualifies us to be able to minister effectively. Who wants to listen to someone who can’t relate to pain and suffering? We all need people who have gone through and come out successfully, who can encourage us with the reality that if they went through and survived, we too can go through and survive. Yes, there is always a reason for the mess, the trial, the hurt, the pain, the suffering. We like to ask: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” After going through the fiery process of the vessel, I think we can answer that. Think about it, “good” could be the vessel drying on the shelf, but that doesn’t make it useful until the fire comes. “Good” can be the piece of clay after all the impurities have been removed from it, but it is still not a “useful” vessel. “Useful”, on the other hand, many times comes after the fire – that strength of character that is so much needed for effective ministry.
So, the next time the temptation comes to fuss and complain – and believe me, it would be TOTALLY understandable, be encouraged with these words that have at times encouraged me: “I have to go through and make it so that I can encourage someone else going through, that they too can and will make it.”
I’m choosing to continue with the potter and the clay process because I think there are such key lessons to be learned from it. Last week I spoke about shaping the clay into a vessel and the reality that we need to let go of our desires, our wills and let God’s perfect will be done in our lives. This week I’m looking at drying the container. I never thought that there were so many steps to this process before, but it can all be paralleled to our lives.
After the vessel has been shaped and separated from the wheel it is time for it to dry. At this stage there is no more action taking place, it’s just sitting there waiting to dry. This reminds me of a testimony I heard many years ago from a popular singer at the time. God had just delivered her out of a life of drugs and I believe prostitution. She had rededicated her life to God and she was rearing to go to start serving God again. She wanted to sing for His honour and glory – not a bad desire, right? But God told her to wait. It was tough because there was nothing wrong with her voice, but God wasn’t interested in her talent, He was interested in her soul. She had to go through her process of cleansing, of getting back into that intimate relationship with God. It would be about just her and God for a while, the service for Him could wait.
Sometimes we can be so eager to do things for God. We want to serve Him, give our best to Him, but He may be saying wait. It doesn’t mean that your gift, talent or ability isn’t good enough, it may just mean that you need to spend some time “drying,” developing your relationship with God so that no matter what comes your way during your service for Him, you can stand and not fall.
I, too, have my own testimony. In mid-1992, after spending a few years in a backslidden condition, I rededicated my life to Christ. Over the next few months, it was just me and God working on our relationship together. It was a beautiful time for me. I could hear God’s voice and sense His leading. He was building His relationship with me. I finally got filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and that was the most glorious experience I had ever been through. Even now, nothing has been able to compare to it. From the start of the following year 1993, it was as if I had taken off. I became heavily involved in church activities, it was amazing that I even had time for myself sometimes. Yes, I was ready for God’s use and boy did He use me and continues to use me in an amazing way. I needed that time to heal, to be cleansed, to be prepared for all the things God had in store for me. And believe me, I never would have dreamed that I would be doing all those things then and now.
Yes, it’s tough being on the shelf sometimes but it’s a necessary part of the entire process. The potter’s vessel, if filled with water before it is properly dried and fired will collapse. The same thing will happen to us when we are not ready … we too will collapse - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - if we are not ready to not just serve but to face all the challenges that come with serving.
I don’t know who this is for. Maybe you are active and busily doing the things that God has given you to do. But just know, that even at these times, a time of rest is oh so important. Because if you burn out physically, emotionally, spiritually, you once more become a vessel that is not fit for use. God knows you and when He says rest, rest. When He says work, work. Don’t ever believe that your season of inactivity means that you are obsolete or useless, not good enough or washed up. You just need a season of rest so that you can once again become a vessel fit for the Master’s use.
I am reminded of a book I read several years ago entitled: “Not my will” by Francena J. Arnold. It’s the story of a very strong-willed young woman who through a series of self-motivated decisions in her life faced various challenges and tragedies one of them being the death of her husband whom she loved dearly. After a series of divine interventions, she finally came to the place of total surrender to the God who had been trying to get her attention for many years. And, with that surrender, she reaped a joy and a peace that she thought would never be hers.
This brings me to the next step in the potter / clay process – shaping the clay. At this stage, the now clean piece of clay is ready for the potter’s wheel where it will be shaped into a worthwhile vessel. After reading the description of this part of the process I realize that it is not as easy as it seems. The potter has to make sure his hands are moistened just right or else the clay will refuse to be formed just the way he wants it. It seems to me at this stage that there is a lot of resistance taking place on the part of the clay as well and it reminds me of our relationship with God. God is doing His best to mold us and shape us into a useful vessel, but we keep resisting and trying to force our will, our desires into the process. I think sometimes that the Potter’s vision of what He wants us to be and our vision of what we want to be clash and because God is not one to force Himself on us, many times we get our way … but are we really happy with the end result?
Many years ago, I insisted on having my own way. I was happy, or so I thought, but I couldn’t shake that nagging depression that kept coming my way. When I finally realized and acknowledged that I had moved away from God and that that was responsible for my depression, it was not an easy road getting back to Him. But, like a true master Potter He found a way to get me back on that wheel. He took the broken, marred piece of clay that I was and began re-shaping me into something beautiful. Has the process been easy? NO! But the more I have surrendered to His will, the more I am becoming exactly the vessel He wants me to be. And that’s the wonderful thing about the potter, He takes the same piece of broken clay and shapes it into a beautiful vessel. Nothing is wasted by God. Nothing is too marred, too ugly, too broken that He can’t use. He has done it and is still doing it for me. Will you give Him a chance to do it for you too?
“But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our Potter; and we all are the work of Thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8 KJV)
The story of the potter and the clay has really caught my attention and so I feel the need to not just do one post on this topic but to spend the next few weeks examining this interesting process of turning clay into something useful and beautiful.
Last week I looked at the fact that the clay chosen by the potter is not clean. Actually, the process of choosing the clay is a messy one. But, we can be encouraged that we too are not chosen by God because of how good or clean or perfect we are. We are chosen by Him because of the purpose He has pre-ordained for our lives. After all, the Bible says that we are chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
When the potter in our story finally finds a piece of clay he wants, he kneads and molds the clay, looking for and removing any twigs, stones or impurities. Sometimes, he uses rods and beats the clay until it is smooth, and all impurities removed. This does not sound like a very pleasant process. It actually sounds painful and unpleasant. And that’s how we feel when we’re going through challenges and testings. The pain feels so unbearable and we just want it to be over, we want the whole painful ordeal to come to an end. But, guess what? If our trial ends before time, our cleansing process would be incomplete, and we would not become what God wants us to be.
At various times in my own life I have gone through trials and testings that I wished would end as speedily as possible because the pain seemed more than I could bear. Of course, whether I liked it or not I had to go through to learn what God wanted me to learn. I remember once feeling that I had gone through hell and a flood. The trial seemed so dire that I felt I had gone through not just one but both! But then, I found myself reaching to the point where I was able to honestly and sincerely thank God for the hell and the flood because I realized that the hell fire had burned up some really negative stuff in me and the flood had served to wash away the whole mess. The devil had meant my ordeal for evil – he sent it my way to destroy me, to humiliate me, in short to kill, steal and destroy my life (John 10:10). But what the enemy meant for evil God turned around for my good and for the good of others (Genesis 50:20). How great it is that God can take what the devil means to destroy us and use it to save us.
My encouragement to you is that you would trust God for His grace to go through your cleansing process. No, it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s so painful you can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel. You want it to end, you may even want to give up but … DON’T! You have to complete your process, you have to survive your trial … and you will because God has a plan and it’s not to harm or destroy you. That’s the devil’s plan. You have to endure the kneading and molding and the beating with rods as God removes the impurities in your life. If you want to be a beautiful and useful vessel, you have to go through in order to get to where He’s taking you.
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.