The Incredible Value of Being in God’s Hands
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’” (Revelations 19:6-7)
I was recently honored to have performed the wedding of a young couple I’ve come to know and love. It was a wonderful day. The setting was perfect. The wall behind me was made of glass and the fields had round bales strategically scattered here and there.
Everything was just right.
Luke, the groom stood with me, fighting back his tears, as his groomsmen and her bridesmaids came in and took their places.
Then the doors were closed.
Then the music started with the selected song and the doors opened and everyone from the groom to the youngest person there turned….to look at Hannah, the bride.
She was beautiful. She was perfect. She was flawless.
She had made herself ready for her groom.
Now, Hannah is a normal woman and Luke is a normal man. They looked perfect that day but, the truth is….no one on earth is perfect.
And if you asked them – they would agree with that.
They are not only normal people but they are humble, realistic and honest.
They are……..like us!
This is fitting because, as Christians, we are the Bride of the Lamb…the Bride of Christ. Paul uses the image of an earthly husband and wife (genetic man and woman) to represent this heavenly relationship between Jesus and the Church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
I don’t know for sure why our Father in heaven has chosen to make the preparation of the Church….the Bride of Christ…a gradual process most of the time. I DO have a theory about that, though.
My theory about it is what this teaching is all about. That’s why I named it “The Incredible Value of Being in God’s Hands.”
“Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…’” (Isaiah 29:13)
This is how we all started. We were born spiritually detached from God. Our hearts were removed from Him by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden.
That situation is NEVER good enough for God. He built us to be close to Him. He LOVES us…so He is ALWAYS reaching out to us – desiring something FOR us.
“Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:14)
God NEVER stops trying. Annnnnd He’s done this before, countless times.
“Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, and their works are in the dark; They say, ‘Who sees us?’ and, ‘Who knows us?’” (Isaiah 29:15)
Isaiah speaks to how many….to how even we are sometimes. We hide things in our souls….sometimes we aren’t even aware that impurities are there.
“Surely you have things turned around!” (Isaiah 29:16a)
Isaiah seems so frustrated. He says, “You have everything upside down!” My favorite rendition of this part of verse 16 is in The Message paraphrase version: “You have everything backwards!” – or as a popular saying puts it: “That’s not how this goes! That’s not how any of this goes!”
In other words, Isaiah recognizes that how we instinctively handle the issues of our souls is COMPLETELY opposite God’s intentions for us….and against the way He designed us to function as humans.
Next, the prophet begins to use an interesting image to make his point.
“Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16b)
Isaiah uses the idea of a potter (an artist who makes pots and plates, etc out of clay) and the clay. He speaks of how the potter works the clay to make something useful to illustrate what God is doing in our lives…..in our souls.
When he says, “Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay” he is asking, “Is the potter equal to the clay?” In other words, is God our equal? Or is God superior to us…all of whom are equally less than God?
There is GOD - above us in every way.
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Then there is us….people. As I prepared this teaching I was led to search for the term “we all” and I found a number of times in the Bible where we are reminded that all people are on the same plane.
There is God….and then there is us.
So, is God equal to us? No. He is not. He is greater than are we and He wishes to lift us up to a place closer to Him. In the words of David, speaking prophetically of us
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” (Psalm 40:1-2)
This has happened for all Christians…and God wants to do more of it in our lives.
In fact, this is exactly how it all started for Mankind:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
The word “dust” means “powdered clay.” God literally lifted us from the clay!
So, in Isaiah 29:16, the prophet introduced an idea: God as the potter and people as his clay.
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
In that verse, Isaiah proclaims the truth about all this. God DOES have the right to work us….the clay.
These days someone prepares the clay and sells it. The potter just goes and buys some clay and then can start but originally potters got clay wherever they could. Most found places on the earth with the best clay and used that source.
Before there was a system for purchasing prepared clay the potter would start by picking through the clay and removing small pebbles, lumps or twigs. The clay needed to be pure.
Then he would begin to knead the clay. This would remove another kind of impurity: air bubbles. If air bubbles remained in the clay the vessel would break while in a later part of the process.
We were born into a spiritual battlefield. The war is between God and the devil – between God’s angels and satan’s demons and the object is to get control of human souls.
Satan wages this war by inserting impurities into the souls of people, beginning when we were children – spiritually helpless and vulnerable. Satan is a dirty fighter. He has mercy on no one.
Once we are born again God begins the process of purifying His Bride. That’s why He made this promise to us as Paul speaks of..
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1:6)
God is purifying our souls. Sometimes He describes this as sifting.
“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for
you, that he may sift you as wheat.’” (Luke 22:31)
Sometimes He describes it as “winnowing”.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12)
At any rate, both describe basically the same thing. They speak of the removal of aspects of our lives that we think are essential parts of us but are really not. When sifting and winnowing are done, what is left is useful and good. Then it can be made into whatever it is God always intended for us.
These are important things that God does in our lives to bring us to His destiny for us.
They never feel good but they ARE good.
Now, it IS true that the enemy will attack us, attempting to destroy us, but “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Also, we can take hope from Joseph who said in Genesis 50:20 that “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day….” and that no matter what, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Some of the trials that come into our lives are allowed to come because God knows He will use them to remove the pebbles and twigs from the “clay” of our hearts.
Some of them is the kneading of God, the potter, to make us flexible and to remove anything that will cause us to fail as He forms us into something wonderful for His use.
So, if you are in a trial right now why not spend some time asking the Lord to reveal His intentions for allowing it and whether or not He reveals it, praise Him for these trials.
I would like to share a true story about a wonderful Christian man named Lew Schaffer. He’s the reason we live in North Texas as he listened when the Lord told him to give us a place to live at the ministry he and another man had started many years ago.
Lew was the main teaching minister for a group called Sonshine Ministries for many years. His son David runs the ministry now but Lew used to be the main speaker for the various conferences the ministry presents all over the USA and in Europe.
One day they were presenting a conference in Alabama and after a lunch break he stepped out of his car and fell to the ground. He was having a massive stroke.
The stroke left him paralyzed, unable to speak or move at all. In seconds he went from the main speaker for his ministry to an invalid lying in a hospital bed and wearing a diaper. It was bewildering and scary for him.
Lew Shaffer is a Christian man of great faith. As he lay there he decided he would ask the Lord about the stroke. “What shall I think about my stroke?”
Jesus replied, “First of all, Lew, thank you for asking.” Then He said something that was hard for Lew to comprehend: “Praise Me for your stroke.”
The worst thing that Lew could imagine had happened to him and Jesus was telling him to give praise for that.
Lew is a man of great faith – so, he obeyed Jesus. Or, at least, he tried to do that.
He couldn’t speak and he knew the Lord knew that, so he tried to say it in his mind. He says that even in his thoughts when he tried to praise Jesus for his stroke be stuttered in his thoughts. “I p-p-p-p. I p-p-p-p. I p-p-p-raise You for my stroke.”
At that moment he was able to move his left hand and left leg and foot. He still has trouble speaking out of the right side of his mouth and cannot use his left side at all very well. This man has written many books and bookets and continued to teach for many years with his wife Sandy by his side helping to interpret his slurred speech for their conference attendees. To this day, when Lew Shaffer hugs you it’s like Jesus did it. He communicates the love of God through a simple hug.
Lew Shaffer experienced a terrible trial. It didn’t feel good but God has used this trial that satan sent to Lew to advance the Kingdom of God through Lew. Satan tried to destroy him but failed.
Lew Shaffer was clay in the Potter’s hands.
God spoke about Himself, potters and clay to another prophet, Jeremiah.
“Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” (Jeremiah 18:2)
God will do all sorts of things to get our attention. We might wonder, “Why am I here?” – often it is simply so that we will listen to God. Jeremiah chose well: he obeyed God.
“Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.” (Jeremiah 18:3)
The potter’s wheel spins the clay around so the potter can use his hands to shape each lump of clay into what he wants it to become. I believe that, for each of us, God always has us “on the wheel”. God is up to something!
“And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” (Jeremiah 18:4)
I would imagine that if God is the Potter in this story it isn’t the potter that has messed up the vessel. In this story the clay represents US. We’re not really clay that just sits there. God has given us the right to obey or to misbehave, to allow Him to shape us as He wishes or to resist that.
YET! God is sovereign – He is the Supreme Ruler. What He wants to happen WILL happen.
So, when we resist His will for us…He is so patient with us. He won’t stop us from sinning. Instead He lovingly…..shapes us all over again into what He wants us to be.
Why does He DO THIS?
It’s because He knows what is best.
As the New American Standard Bible puts it: “… ‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
This is why our Father…the perfect potter sticks with us to shape us as, like Jeremiah 18:4b says, “as it seemed good to the potter to make.”
Just in case Jeremiah didn’t get the LORD’s point, he makes it clear:
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the LORD. ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!’ ” (Jeremiah 18:5-6)
What do you think? Are you tired?
I guess it would be good to ask: are we tired of trying to make ourselves into something for God – or even in spite of God?
You know…I’ve found that many of us are dissatisfied with who we are. Some of us have cried out to God, asking Him why…….WHY did you make me like this?
Have you ever done that?
I have. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
The Apostle Paul put it like this:
“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ ” (Romans 9:20)
We DO that…we question God about why we are like we are.
In the next verse Paul, using images he received from Isaiah and Jeremiah, tells us that the Potter has the right to choose to make us someone others will esteem highly….or make us someone that others consider to be common.
The truth is that it is GOD’S right to do as He pleases and when we asked Jesus to be our Lord we acknowledged His right to own us…and do with us as He pleased.
We asked for that.
We cry out to God asking Him why He made us like we are and we do that because we know our faults, our limitations, the things we hate about ourselves, the hurts we carry…
We cry out to God because we BLAME Him - but it was not God who brought harm to us.
John 10:10 has two statements in the verse. The first assigns the blame to the being who hurt us:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a)
It was our enemy, the devil who damaged our souls to the point that we will cry out to God asking Him why He made us like this.
God did NOT make us like this. Jesus disclosed why He came in the second statement in John 10:10:
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
Jesus came to rescue us from what satan has done to us. The Potter is working us… to transform us into something wonderful…vessels of mercy.
That’s why Paul said this to the Jews…but also addressing us Gentiles in Romans 9:22 and following: (read this aloud to yourself - with passion)
“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory…” (Romans 9:22-23)
Then in verse 25 Holy Spirit, through Paul, quotes Hosea 2:23 when
he speaks of us…
“‘I WILL CALL THEM MY PEOPLE, WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, AND HER BELOVED, WHO WAS NOT BELOVED.’” (Romans 9:25)
God is not against us….He is for us.
He LONGS to work us like pliable clay….to remove the imperfections put in us by satan…so that He can re-create us in His image and bring us back to the purity we had as a people in the Garden of Eden…before the tempter had come.
He LONGS to prepare His bride…the body of Christ.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)
The word “faultless” in Jude 1:24 is the Greek word “amomos”. It means “unblemished.”
We started today with a familiar verse in Ephesians 5 in which we were told that “……Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
The Potter is at work. The question is: “Will we allow Him to do His work in us?”
Perhaps this Word has touched you today. If you sense you have been resisting what God wants to do in your life, now is a good time to deal with Him. Why not just pray and ask the Lord to have His way with you. .
Maybe you have blamed God for things satan has done to you directly or through his favorite method: by using people to hurt us.
It might be time to let God off the hook for that and place the blame where it belongs: on the devil. Prayer is a good way to do that.
Or, maybe you would like to express to Father that you intend to cooperate with Him more and more from this day forward. I invite you to jump right up on that potter’s wheel and say, “Father God, do with me as You will!”
I can promise you that it’s a heck of a ride and well worth it!
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© September 26, 2015 (originally presented as a sermon on September 27, 2015)
(For use with permission)