Shaped to Serve
This month's devotion is slightly adapted from the Ministry Message that accompanies CTA's theme for Christian volunteers, teachers, and pastors: Shaped to Serve .
That’s how a master artisan plops the clay onto the potter’s wheel. After all, as the potter reminds us, the clay is hers, the wheel is hers, and the vision is hers. She sees what the lump of clay in her hands can become after she has thrown, fired, glazed, and refired it. She plans to create a work of art. She plans to beautify her own shop or home. And perhaps her work will beautify yours. Or mine.
Several times in Scripture, the Holy Spirit compares God’s work in us to that of a Master Potter. Take, for example, Isaiah 64:8 (ESV). Here the prophet prays:
O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Does this truth comfort you? Or make you squirm? Perhaps both? Me, too. And perhaps we will all squirm a bit more - and find much deeper comfort as well - as together we consider some of the touch points between the potter’s processes and the ways our Lord works in our lives to shape us for more beautiful, more useful service in his Kingdom.
As we consider the ways in which we are “shaped to serve,” we remember that the process of pottery making requires several steps:
Centering - After the potter has placed the clay on the wheel (“with attitude,” mind you!), the first task becomes centering it. Master potters remind us that a vessel is only as true and strong as its center.
In our lives as well, and most certainly in our service for our Lord Jesus, our center means everything! When our Lord centers our lives on the cross of his Son and on the forgiveness Jesus won for us there, we can live and serve in his strength. Our faith and hope stay true. We don’t wobble when stress and pain mark our service. Our lives model the love, courage, and humility of our Savior himself.
Opening - Once the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, the potter begins to open it. This process requires the hands-on, individual attention of the potter. No mass production techniques here! The artist adjusts a palm ever so slightly, sets a finger just so to shape the clay perfectly. What a thrill of excitement the potter experiences as a true work of art begins to form on the wheel!
How about you? Do you see your Creator-God, your Redeemer-God at work in his expert, personal way in your life right now? Might your Lord be opening you to a fresh filling of his truth and power - even today? Does his touch pinch a bit as he forms in you a wider capacity for service, a new openness to serve in ways you have never tried before? Then take heart! You are becoming his work of art! And the beauty he is forming in you excites him!
Keeping the Clay Wet - Throughout the shaping process, the clay must be kept moist, or it will lose its elasticity. In extreme cases, the entire vessel may break apart.
Jesus once compared the Holy Spirit to water. Listen! Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 ESV). Your God shapes you, even as he uses you to help shape his people. As that happens, do you find opportunities every day to let his water of life spill over you, refreshing you and keeping you pliable and responsive to your Savior’s touch?
Firing - Once the vessel has taken the shape the potter intends for it, fire begins to roar in the kiln, reaching temperatures of nearly 2000° F. The potter uses the kiln to remove impurities from the clay. Fire is essential because unfired vessels will return to mud and break apart during the glazing process. Once glazed, the potter’s work of art is returned to the kiln a second time to “mature” the glaze. After the second firing, the clay is no longer porous. The fire makes the vessel even more beautiful and useful than before.
Just hearing about the firing process makes me squirmy! When life’s circumstances “turn up the heat,” I’m tempted to jump out of the kiln, to settle for less than full usefulness in my service, for less than full Christlikeness in my heart, my mind, my character. But the God who accompanied his three servants into Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3), has also promised us his presence in our trials and troubles:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:2 - 3 ESV, emphasis added
Think about the power of those promises. As we spend time in the fire with our Lord beside us, we mature. We grow stronger in faith and more suitable for the service into which he places us. But note, we go “through” the fire. We do not stay there! The Holy One of Israel is our Savior - the One who uses even the fire to shape us for his service!
We pray that this message has reminded you of our love for you and our thankfulness to our Lord for the ways you serve. And we pray that you keep on serving “with attitude” - the attitude of humility, love, and joy Jesus gives!
Editor’s note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month and this month’s devotion is a perfect fit! You can use this message, along with other products and resources from Shaped to Serve, to recognize your church’s pastors, teachers, and Christian workers. Don’t forget to pray continually for these individuals, too! Check out CTA’s FREE prayer guide in the Resource & Idea Center today!
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