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A Marred Vessel

Lisa Barry: I wonder how many of us have written down the helpful quotes and anecdotes that we've heard on Gateway To Joy over the years? And how many books have you read, how many sermons have you heard where a word spoken gave you the message you were seeking from God. And yet, those inspirations are so often forgotten, unless they're written down. Yes, this is a pitch for journal writing. Because, as we'll hear from Elisabeth Elliot today, the quotes and readings that have helped her most have been maintained so they can help you and me too.

The Potter has been shaping Elisabeth's life for many years now, and today we'll hear firsthand the tools He's used. Let's get started with this Tuesday edition of Gateway To Joy coming up next.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, talking again today about the work of a potter and the clay. Many of you know that lovely little hymn, "Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still."

The second verse says, "Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Search me and try me, Master, today! Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now, as in Thy presence humbly I bow."

I was talking about a visit to a potter. I've had several occasions when I was able to watch that fascinating work that they do with the hands, which just seem to be made for molding clay. I think of the hands of the Lord, the heavenly Potter, who makes no two human beings the same. But He bestows on each of us His undivided attention.

It has been objected, and not without justification, that the analogy we're drawing is hardly correct. For the factor of self-determination and self-will does not enter into the relation of potter and clay as it does into that of God and man. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan points out that there is in reality a greater gulf between the potter and the clay than there is between God and man.

For the clay is not in the image of the potter, but man is in the image of God. On the part of the clay, all that is necessary for the achievement of the potter's pattern is negative acquiescence. The clay doesn't have to do anything. On the part of the man however, the Divine Potter requires much more. Positive cooperation is what God wants with you and me. If we deny Him this and the vessel is marred, we must be responsive to His slightest touch.

While Jeremiah was watching the vessel grow almost to completion under the magic touch of the potter, he saw the vessel being marred. In Jeremiah 18:4 it says, "The vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter." When it was almost completed, the flaw appeared. The vessel bulged and collapsed a shapeless mass in the potter's hand. Some foreign substance has crept in and thwarted the potter's purpose.

To Jeremiah's surprise, instead of casting the now marred vessel on the scrap heap at his side and taking a new lump of clay which will not thwart his will, the potter takes the broken pieces, removes the offending substance and out of the old clay makes a new vessel. The marring was not the potter's doing--for potter will never mar his own handiwork.

Am I speaking to some of whom this verse is true? Marred in the making, but with wondrous patience He takes the clay into His hands and fashions slowly in His own way. Just what I was the world can only see, He looks beyond and sees what I can be. Maybe there's someone who's so thankful that God can see what you can be. Have you been a failure in the battle of life? Has the potter's ideal for your life failed a realization? Some try to persuade God to patch up the old marred vessel. But He won't do it, and He will not attempt to build up a new pattern on top of the old one. It has to be another vessel.

The Potter's design for a life may be frustrated and the vessel marred in many ways. One of the ways is the secret cherishing of sin. A marred vessel may appear flawless on the exterior and yet on the inside, hidden from the eye of all but the potter himself who fashioned it, is a flaw which makes it unfit to use. It may be a sympathy with sin, which has been undefined even to yourself. It's not necessary to fall into open sin. Sin cherished in the heart or in the imagination--the harboring of a secret passion--will mar the vessel.

Are you one who is unwilling to break with sin? Who is saying "no" to God and "yes" to temptation? Are you willing to make restitution of stolen property? To confess your sin to a person that you have wronged? To forgive somebody against whom you cherish a grudge? Are you willing to abandon any habit or indulgence or doubtful practice? Are you going to quit robbing God and give Him His portion of our substance?

Any or all of these things are enough to ruin the design of the potter. I don't know who is listening to me today. But there may be someone who is resisting the known will of God. In most lives there's some one point around which a terrific battle is raging. Is it yours today? With some it's in the realm of the affections. With others it's personal ambition. Some, whose life plans are already laid, resent the intrusion of a God who demands absolute and unconditional surrender. You want to do your own thing and you don't want God barging in telling you what to do.

The consistency of the clay is so stiff that it fails to respond to the potter's touch. If we're ever to become vessels unto honor, the arms of our rebellion must be laid down at His feet. Any eccentricity, using the word in its literal sense, is a getting off the center of the wheel. Any eccentricity is a getting off the center of the wheel.

If the vessel is to be symmetrically shaped it has to be placed and remain on the center of the wheel, otherwise it will become ill-shapen. It's possible for us to be geographically out of the will of God, for us to have shifted from the center of His blessed will. If we find ourselves in the wrong place, let us at once correct our eccentricity.

It's a beautiful thing to be able to watch. And I hope that many of you who have never gone to a potter to watch how he does it will observe it closely. Think of this holy Potter, who wants to make of us--who are nothing but clay--a beautiful vessel. "Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay."

When in 1958 I lived with the Auca Indians, the people who had killed my husband, I had the opportunity to see very closely the way that those women could mold pots without even having a wheel. They didn't have a potter's wheel. They just took the clay out of the little stream on which we lived. It was the same kind of clay that everybody had. Nobody's clay was any different from anybody else's, it all looked the same. The same color. But they had just one type of vessel. Every vessel was exactly the same design, but they were different sizes.

As I watched the women, they would roll snakes the way we used to do in kindergarten. They would give us clay and we would roll snakes of clay and then we would make things out of the snakes. And I can remember doing a bird's nest and trying to do a pot. And, of course, doing a rather poor job of it.

But these woman, when they had rolled the clay into these snakes, then they would simply move it around, round and round and round, until they had a full pot. Of course, there would be a neck to the pot and there would be bulges just exactly where they wanted them to be. And then they would hand it to me and tell me to have a go at it.

Well, nothing could have been more hilarious. I could not do one single thing. I could roll those snakes but I couldn't do anything at all to make my pot look completely symmetrical. It was just a total disaster. And laugh! I thought they would die laughing. They use to call me Gikari. And they would say, "Hah a com Gikari. Winna winna kyeh a com." Which means, everybody come and look at this mess that this woman has made. She doesn't know beans about making a pot. That's pretty much what they were saying. And they would die laughing.

But it gave me an insight into the ways in which God, from the beginning of time, I guess, taught people to make things. Surely whoever was the first person to make a pot must have had a hard time. But these Indian women, and even little children, could make pots of such beauty and of such perfect symmetry that it just amazed me.

And it reminded me that my Lord is the Potter and I am the clay. And He wants to mold and make me to perfection in order that I might become like the image of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to be the clay and let the Potter do what He wants to do with you? I pray so. God bless you.

Lisa Barry: I think we all imagine we're carrying more than we can bear. Sometimes at Gateway To Joy the responsibilities that face us seem overwhelming too. And there are times that the needs of the world seem so great and equally so our limitations. But then God reminds us that those limitations are only from an earthly mindset. He continually reminds us that we are on a mission that is His.

When we are tempted to feel overwhelmed, then He prompts someone like you to write a letter and offer your support telling us what a blessing Gateway To Joy has been to you. It's impossible for us to express how much your encouragement and financial support mean to us. So thanks for all that you do to keep Gateway To Joy on the air doing God's work. Here's our address:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE, 68501. Or call toll-free 1-800-759-4JOY. This one-week series is also available. It's called "The Potter and the Clay." Ask about it when you call 1-800-759-4569. And if you're on the Internet, be sure and check out our Web site. You'll find our on-line products catalog, weekly program topics, transcripts and more. That address is gatwaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Tomorrow, Elisabeth talks about how the potter molds the clay. So join us then for the next Gateway To Joy.

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