Editor’s note: Today’s devotion is slightly adapted from Shaped to Serve, a devotion book for Christian teachers, volunteers, youth workers, and anybody else who serves the Lord through his or her earthly vocation. As you start thinking about winter retreats, consider using the FREE retreat outline in the same theme. It’s jam-packed with activities and Bible studies that will encourage deeper, more joyful service among the people serving in your ministry!
Not all pottery is baked in a kiln. Some clay dries on a shelf or table. But pottery made from air-dried clay is seldom as strong, as durable, or as beautiful as pottery that has been fired.
That’s why master potters often follow an elaborate, four-step process like this one:
- First, they mix the clay with water to create a more pliable medium. Then they shape and reshape the moist clay on a potter’s wheel.
- Second, they let the clay harden in the air until it is thoroughly dry—“leather dry.”
- Third, they place this “greenware” inside a kiln for its first firing. As that process ends, the greenware is now “bisque ware” and ready for glazing.
- Finally, the potter bakes the glazed bisques again, this time in an even hotter kiln. Hours and hours later, the final firing process ends. The potter removes the finished works of art from the cooled kiln.
Just for a moment, imagine all this from the clay’s point of view. The spinning. The prodding and pushing, poking and jabbing.
Finally, the clay rests. But just then, the kiln ignites. It’s hard to imagine clay looking forward to the kiln!
But the potter knows what the clay does not: Heat burns away debris. It vaporizes organic particles embedded in the clay. Tepid temperatures will not do. The potter must turn up the heat.
In a similar way, our divine Potter knows what we, as clay, do not: the sin in us—our pettiness, our upside-down priorities, our neglect of prayer, our impatience and our short tempers—all these and more mar the beauty of Christlikeness our Designer intends to display in us.
That’s why our Potter “turns up the heat.” He addresses our faults as we hear this week’s sermon. He points out our need for repentance as we study the Bible on our own. He speaks words of correction through a brother or sister in Christ.
When this happens, it’s tempting to look for an escape hatch. How quickly we jump out of the kiln, as it were. How easily we turn the page, ignore the truth. How slickly we change the subject or convince ourselves that the Holy Spirit is speaking to other people, not to us.
The kiln is not a comfortable place. But our Potter knows this kind of heat is necessary. He will not let it overwhelm us. When the heat of the Law has done its work, instantly the breezes of forgiveness and love straight from heaven refresh and reassure us in the cross of our Savior.
Our Potter’s goal is not to crush, to melt, to break what he is making. Instead, he wants us to emerge from the kiln as beautiful, as useful, and as strong as we can possibly be.
The heat, you see, will not last forever. Sooner than you think, the process will end—in joy unimaginable:
He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold (Job 23:10 ESV).
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