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Moldable

October 15th, 2018

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16)

We live in the day of instant success, technological advancement, and stellar marketing. And, I fear, the whole world seems to be in danger of developing very shallow souls – not just lostness, which is an eternal tragedy, but also shallowness that leads to social tragedies.

Our response should be to simply put ourselves in God’s hands and let Him develop us, to not be in such a rush for attention or “success” but instead to let the Lord develop in us the passions He desires we should have, and then move on to the things we are to do with these passions.

Passion, projects, and the positions is the order which is the healthiest and the best for long term fulfillment, and, thereby, more meaningful success. But instead, now we have reversed these things to seek positions and recognition first, and then look around for projects we can achieve, and only afterwards consider the true passions of our souls. No wonder there is such burnout in lives today. Burnout thrives in society – Christian or secular – when the human heart is left out of the developmental process.

I believe this is what God is seeking to do in our lives – to develop our hearts first. He is the Potter and we are the clay, and we need to be molded and re-made by Him. There is a reality to being clay, that we need to put ourselves continually into His hands to let Him shape our hearts.

Clay doesn’t have a will. Clay doesn’t expect, presume, or worry. Clay doesn’t resist or fight. Clay doesn’t have an agenda or a script. Clay has two simple jobs – sit still and stay soft. (Cary Schmidt, Off Script)

In our rush to find success – the kind of instant success we imagine comes with the modern talent shows – we find that often true talent is by-passed, and along with it experience and a deepening of skills and desires, as well as a tragic disrespect for the abilities of others.

Much better a singer who has learned to sing in a choir, to hit the right notes, to blend the right way, to listen to the other voices, and then become someone who can feel the music and love it – much better, in other words, a true musician, than someone who on the basis of a few auditions or a few recordings, backed up by “auto-tune” devices, suddenly experiences stardom – who learns only to love fame and fortune.

So, how do we experience the molding hand of God? We, as Cary Schmidt said, need to sit still before the Lord and stay soft in His hands. We need to spend time in His Word and in speaking with Him and in listening to Him. We need to let God mold our hearts, our thoughts, our values, our habits. We then should serve God in humble ways, until there develops in us a passion for something that is bigger than our egos. We need to listen to others who have served Him longer, and take their advice seriously. We can then let God lead us into the lives and the needs around us, putting all that we have to work for God.

And then we continually repeat the process – seeking to remain still and soft before the Master Potter. One of the ways we can check, and others can also, on whether we are soft and still is how quickly we get jealous over someone else’s seeming success. Do we respect the abilities of others? Can we recognize the hand of God upon another life, without being overwhelmed by jealousy and envy? The Master Potter has more than one vessel He is shaping upon His wheel. What He does in another life or through another life does not threaten what He is doing or will do through us.

Quick success can be a blessing – that is true – but more often than not it tends to be a curse. So thank God that He has kept you on His potter’s wheel. Stay still and soft before Him and let Him do His work.

 

 

Daily Devotions, Encouragement

Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here – not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip – I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles – a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time – knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Burnout, Dealing with Difficulties, Encouragement , , ,