HOW A CHOSEN VESSEL GETS “FIRED” INTO A WORTHY VESSEL
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 New King James Version (NKJV)
Cast Down but Unconquered
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
(In the following, we are the mudballs – vessels made of earth – and God is the Potter).
- The Potter takes clay and slams it down in the middle of His wheel. He takes some water and mixes a balance of clay and water to make mud ( it is very humbling to be thought of as a mud ball.) This slamming down is a loving act, to put down disobedience. Clay must have the quality of submissiveness. If it has a mind of its own, it is a waste of time for the Potter to work on it. Another problem, besides lack of submissiveness that will cause the clay to collapse, is an air bubble. We see this in ourselves as being full of “hot air” or pride. If a mud ball wants to do its own thing and go into “big circles” (be a “star”) right from the start, it will fly off into space, knocking things – and people – over as it goes, causing destruction. BUT, if the mud ball is just content to sit and become nothing in its own eyes, the Potter can shape it into usefulness.
- Clay is shaped up and then must be “fired” and baked. The pot considers itself a pretty rare and valuable article. Everybody else can see it’s just a shaped-up mud ball, but it says – Lord, use me, send me, I’m ready. When the pot is formed and set up in the kiln (oven) for the first time, the fire is turned up and the heat begins to build. Then the Potter turns the fire up and it gets hotter and hotter. The pot begins to smell so bad the whole neighborhood notices it. All the impurities are burning up in smoke. When the pot gets so hot that it begins to glow bright red itself, it really has a bad time. It thinks – that crazy Potter; He went to all that trouble to make me and now He’s going to shrink me down to nothing and burn me up in the process. But the Potter doesn’t even stop there.
- Now the Potter turns the fire up even higher until, when He peeks through the peephole into the kiln to see how the pot is doing, He sees that the pot has disappeared! It’s invisible because now the pot has taken on the same temperature as the fire itself. By now the pot is convinced it is headed for certain destruction and isn’t even complaining anymore. And then Satan steps in. He starts a whispering campaign that says that God didn’t mean to use the pot anyway. God, Satan says, is just running a test run and He has found out that the pot isn’t fit for anything and now He’s just burning it up to get rid of it. BUT …REMEMBER THAT THE POTTER KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING!
- If the maturing process is properly done, the pot may sit and soak for a week ( and the pot may even feel like the Potter has forgotten about it). Then, when the pot thinks that all this will never end, the Potter turns the fire off. The cooling off process is deliberately slow so that the pot won’t go ZING! After a week or ten days, the Potter opens the kiln and there sits a pot – beautiful and useful…but it’s not over yet.
- The first firing process has produced something of value, but the pot is just “earthenware.” It will hold dried beans, but it won’t hold water (the Living Water of the Holy Spirit). If it wants to be even more useful, it has to go through additional firings. But don’t worry the Potter hasn’t lost a pot yet!
- In fine china, some of the multiple firings are to add decorations. Every firing also refines the surface – it becomes stronger, more resilient ( better able to cope with stresses). You can take a well- seasoned, mature, fine piece of china or porcelain, made by a Master Potter, and drop it on the floor and have it bounce and not break. The Master Potter knows exactly how to condition the piece of china so that it will not fly to pieces under stress.
- The last bit of firing is at a very critical temperature – just below red heat. It is at this stage that the banding of gold is put on. By the time this stage has been reached, the pot has usually learned that it might as well keep its good advice to itself and just say – okay, Lord, do it Your way; turn up the burners or not, just as You see fit.
A worldly master potter doesn’t put his hallmark – his personal signature – on a piece of china until he is assured of its perfection. But God handles it differently: every piece that He makes is destined to be a masterpiece and He puts His mark on us in the “mud” stage. He knows He has never yet rejected the stinkiest mud ball who has come to Jesus and said – I am Your property, a mud ball in Your Hands. I don’t want to try to do anything on my own. I just want to be a vessel worthy to hold the Treasure that You are.
Hebrews 12:6-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
For the next few weeks we will approach the topics of trials and pain from a variety of different perspectives: from miraculous healings to no healings at all. Yet, in all cases, the people involved – both personal and Biblical – gave glory to God. I pray that you all will learn as much from this journey as all of us did.
Addendum: Pastor Ray Stedman, in his article, “The Potter and the Clay,” an exposition of Jeremiah 18:1-23, (Immeasurably More website http://www.raystedman.org) gives a much more extensive overview of God’s work of smashing the imperfections out of us to remake us into a chosen vessel. I highly recommend this article that you will see the masterful, merciful work of the Potter upon His clay.
I found this beautiful account over 30 years ago and searched high and low for the person to whom I could give credit for it. Sadly, I was unsuccessful. That person will be abundantly blessed.
Credits: Image http://www.wordwalk.us/2017/01/20/a-chosen-vessel/