The potter and the clay is the story of being shaped by the master potter for the future. One of the things I notice when you’re as old as I am is that no one asks me what I want to be when I grow up. When you get on in years, people judge you on what you’ve actually achieved, not on what you want to do in the future.
Kids, on the other hand, are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. A fireman, a doctor, a pastor, the great thing about being young is that there are so many options, so much potential in your life.
If you have a dream of doing something great. Something really significant in your life, you will not achieve this just by thinking about it.
Destiny is often spoken about in hushed tones, and concepts like karma try to tell us that destiny is something that the universe inflicts upon you. But the Bible is quite different. It teaches us that destiny is not something external inflicted upon you, but rather it is the result of a series of choices…
Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong’s)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
To every choice we make, there are consequences, either good or bad, and the tricky thing is that sometimes these consequences take a while to manifest themselves. Our nation is about to find this out. On the back of completely biased and one sided media campaigns they made a decision, and I reckon in about 10 years time you will see the fruit of that decision in our children. God says to choose life, and says that you and your seed, your descendants will reap the fruit.
But when you are young, you have an infinite range of choices before you. Many of you have a dream of what you would like to become in your life, and like everyone else, whether your dream comes true is not about the family you’re from, the upbringing you have or the about of money mum and dad make, it’s about your choices.
When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, I don’t know many kids who’s great desire in life is to become a drug addict, or a prostitute, or a homeless person. Yet some do become those things. Why? It’s all down to the choices we make.
THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE?
My granddaughter Kayleigh loves playing with Playdoh, and truth be known, so do I. There is something really cool about taking that slimy, nondescript goo and making something that has purpose and meaning… like a dog, or a bird, or a car.
And in some ways, God looks at us like that, especially when we are young. He can take us as an unformed, slightly gooey mess and make us into a masterpiece! Back in Bible days, they didn’t have playdoh, but they did have something even more descriptive of what God wants from our lives…
Isaiah 64:8 (ESV Strong’s)
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
If we are like clay in the hands of an expert Potter, then He can make us into anything He wants us to be.
GOD SEES THE POTENTIAL
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong’s)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you the way you see you.
When we look at ourselves, or at others for that matter, we see the raw, flawed materials. When we look at each other, or when we stand in front of the mirror, the person looking back seems far from perfect, far from worthy and nowhere near greatness. We are born as sinners, and some of us through our lives have sinned more than others, but all of us are sinners.
But God, when He looks at us, looks through the muck and mire and rubbish and He sees the great things we could become. He looks at a piece of dirt and sees a pot, or a vase or a plate. He has plans for each of our lives. Plans to prosper us, plans to give us a wonderful future, a hope and a destiny.
You are not a mistake, you are not a failure, and when you are a child it is easier to believe that God has a plan and hope for you than when you are an adult. The great advantage of being grown up is that you know how to mess your life up good and proper!
All of us start in the womb, with unlimited potential. Look at what David wrote…
Psalms 139:14-16 (ESV Strong’s)
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Today, even if you feel worthless, overlooked, feel like a mistake or you feel like a failure, God sees the potential in you, and He focuses on His desire to create something beautiful out of your life.
So how are we all like clay pots?
1. GOD USES WHO YOU ARE
What raw materials does God find to create His masterpiece? Well, clay is found in the earth, but it is full of rubbish and needs a lot of work before it can be moulded into something wonderful. Let me describe to you what clay is like when it is found…
Clay as it is found in the ground is not suitable for use to make a pot. It is dug out of the ground and brought to the outside of the pottery and allowed to weather for weeks. The dry material is then dumped into a cement-lined tank or wooden trough and covered with water. When the lumps have softened they are stirred in the water until all have disintegrated and a thin slimy mud or “slip” has been formed. Sea water is more effective for this process, so potteries are often close to the ocean.
The slip is drawn off into settling tanks. All stones and lumps are left behind. When the clay has settled, the water is drawn off and the plastic-like material is worked by treading with the feet. The prepared clay is finally packed away and allowed to stand another six months before being used.
The fact is that all of us have lumps and impurities, because all of us have sinned…
Romans 3:10-12 (ESV Strong’s)
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.”
Every single one of us have dirt and mud and stones and are less than perfect, but God is able to take imperfect people like you and me and do something wonderful in our lives. You might have sin, past failures, a bad upbringing, previous abuse or a physical challenge you face, but God sees through that stuff to what you could be. And like the clay, He may put you through a process that is sometimes difficult and painful, but in the end He transforms your life into the material He can use and make great!
2. GOD USES THE RIGHT INSTRUMENTS
To complete this process, God is all kitted out with the right gear. He knows what He is doing, because reshaping and reforming your life needs a professional, not amateur hour. So what does He use?
A. THE SHOVEL
To extract good clay from your life, God may have to do a bit of digging. He will dig out the rocks and pebbles that must be extracted in order to create material He can use.
When we sin, we usually feel so ashamed that we cover it over, just as Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leaves when they recognised their sin. In our shame we cover our sin, hoping no one finds out, but the problem is that the sin then festers under the surface and productise toxins that poison our lives.
Psalms 38:18 (NIV-WS)
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
We would all recognise that the only way to remove sin and impurities from our lives is to fess up, face the sin and deal with it. Sin causes pain, and unless you deal with it, it will continue to cause pain in increasing amounts.
God loves you so much that His Son died for your sin. Jesus came a took the penalty for your sin, not because you deserve mercy, but because in His love and grace He gives you mercy. He loves you so much, He died for you. But He also loves you so much, He doesn’t leave you that way, He extracts the sin and pain and purifies your life.
We try and cover sin up, but God says to you today, “Don’t cover up your sin, confess it, and let Me cover it over with my grace and forgiveness.”
B. THE MALLET
The next process in refining the clay needs a mallet. Once the clay is dug out, it needs to be pounded. How many of you adults know there are times when life seems to pound you. Things go wrong, your decisions have bad consequences, people let you down and you feel like you are just being pounded on all sides!
Listen to what the apostle Paul thought about the various poundings he got in his life (stonings, shipwrecks, being persecuted and left for dead, etc.)
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV-WS)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I know poundings hurt, I know some of you are hurt and discouraged, but please do yourself a favour and take your eyes off the hurt and pain and set them on Jesus, who loves you and died for you, because then you will begin to see reasons for the pounding in the light of eternity.
C. THE WHEEL
A potter uses a potter’s wheel, and the clay is placed on the wheel and spun. The instrument consists of 2 wheels made of stone, connected by a shaft. The potter spins the lower wheel with his feet, and the upper wheel spins with it, and then he is able to mould and shape the spinning clay.
Sometimes we feel like we are running on a wheel, like a little mouse. The problem with being in the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat! Sometimes we feel like we are spinning around and around, spinning our wheels, using lots of energy and getting nowhere in life.
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong’s)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
As we spin around and around, God uses all things, even the sucky ones, to mould and shape our lives. And if we don’t learn the lesson, we get to go around and around forever. My advice is, learn what God wants you to learn early, nimble it and move on.
3. GOD REMAKES WHAT IS MALFORMED
Kids , when you are young you have your whole life ahead of you, but once you are an adult, you can look back on your life and realise that you have made plenty of mistakes. Wrong decisions, wrong choices, wrong relationships. And how many of you know, the Biblical principles of reaping and sowing apply to bad choices as much as to good.
Adults have generally lived a bit, loved and lost a bit, sinned a lot and have frequently messed up their lives, sometimes royally! Maybe you’ve had the wrong relationships, done the wrong things, upset people who love you or missed countless opportunities you should have taken.
Look, we’ve all blown it at some stage. But here’s the great news… look at what Jeremiah wrote about when he visited the potter’s house…
Jeremiah 18:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)
So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
God is the potter, and we are the clay. If we try and take over our own lives, if we try to live life our way, if we make mistakes, even huge mistakes that seem to completely ruin our future, God can rework us.
It depends not on the clay, bu on he intentions of the potter. In the hands of the Master potter, even if the clay is marred, it is never wasted. No matter how many critical mistakes you have made, no matter how much sin you have indulged in, no matter how big a screw up you have made of your life, you are never beyond the care and reshaping power of the Master potter.
God is in the business of remoulding lives, taking that which has been overlooked and discarded and making something beautiful of it.
Isaiah 61:3 (NIV-WS)
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Some of you here are mourning. For some of you, your life is just a pile of ashes. Some of you are even in despair. But God see the beauty in you, even if the person you look at in the mirror is flawed. No matter how old you are, no matter how marred you are, God looks at the clay and mess of your life and can make something beautiful out of it.
YOU NEED TO TRUST THE MASTER POTTER
The final step in the creation of a pot is to place it in the fire. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of the fires of adversity making me complete does not fill me with joy. But God uses the tough times in life to bake our pots and make us harder, stronger, more beautiful.
But, in all of this process, you have to trust Him. You cannot dictate terms to God. Frankly, I am sick of people telling God what He needs to do for them, instead of trusting Him and letting the Master shape your life.
Romans 9:20-21 (ESV Strong’s)
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
God is not your performing dog. He is not here to make your life happy, pleasant and comfortable. What he wants is to make your life amazing, powerful and world changing, even if it takes some pain along the way. He longs to make your life valuable, make your life influential. He can mould and shape you into anything. Maybe humble and unseen, maybe into a person who will change nations.
The question is not can God make you into somebody special, it is, “Are you ready to trust Him?”
I mean, if you’ve been living your life your way, stop right now and have a look at how things are working out for you. Are you happy with every aspect of your life? Do you think that, if you give your heart completely to God right now, that He could do a better job, that He could create more with your life than you’ve managed to?
Kids, are you ready to trust the Lord for your entire future. Are you ready to ask Him in and let Him lead and guide you into what He has for you?
PLACE YOURSELF IN THE MASTER’S HANDS
Let me finish with a beautiful illustration from missionary Amy Carmichael, who was serving in India for many years in the early part of last century. If you want your future to be everything it possibly can be, let me assure you kids, you cannot do it yourself. Plenty of us adults have tried, but it is the height of foolishness to take your pot from the Master thinking you can do better. Listen to this…
This is the story of one who, watching a potter, thought that he could make a pot on the wheel, and tried, but failed:
Then the potter said, “sit down, you can make a pot.” “That I cannot do, as you see by what I have already done,” I replied.
“Sit down,” he insisted. I did so. Then, sitting behind me, he put his arms over my arms, his hands over mine, his fingers over my fingers.
The wheel began to spin. “Do not allow your fingers to resist mine,” he advised, and I obeyed. There under my fingers, to my astonishment, grew a beautiful vessel.
The wheel stopped and my friend said, “Behold your pot.” “Not mine,” I said.
But the potter said, “Look on your hands; there is clay on your fingers, so they touched the clay, and there is nothing on my hand. Whose hand touches the vessel, that hand makes the pot,” the potter said and smiled.
May the God of peace…
Hebrews 13:21 (ESV Strong’s)
equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The first step towards letting God create an amazing life for you is asking Him into your life as Lord and Saviour. He knows you’ve sinned, and while we were still sinners, He died for us, so if you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, let’s do that right now.
The Bible says,
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV Strong’s)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
No matter what you’ve done in your life, today is the day of salvation. He will never throw you away, but when you ask Him into your life, the old life, with all its sin, guilt, disappointments and worries, passes away.
If you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, today is the day you can become a new creation. Let’s pray!
But the second step is this, place yourself in His hands. With no restrictions, no agendas and no resistance. Just trust Him with every aspect of your life and future.
Many of you believers, you say you love God, and you do love Him, but you find it hard to trust Him with your future. I want you to pray this after me and place your hands under His, letting Him mould you and shape you, direct you and provide for you.
Don’t fight Him. He places His hands on yours, but you have to relax, stop trying to direct traffic and let Him direct you.