Life Lessons from the Potter’s Wheel #5:
You are a unique creation, designed for a purpose that calls you towards a life of joy and meaning. What greater meaning can there be than serving the creator of all things with a life and character shaped by him, just as he planned it to be before the creation of the world.
Having created a clay cylinder by “pulling” the walls (see Life Lesson #4, “Raising Up — How to Develop Your Potential”), now comes the rewarding stage of shaping this cylinder into the vessel that you want it to be. The possibilities are endless in their form and size and texture.
So you have a design in mind. You can see it in your mind’s eye, or you have drawn it out on a piece of paper. With the wheel turning you start to form the shape you desire by pushing outward with your left-hand that is on the inside of the cylinder. By choosing where to push and how much to push, the shape starts to appear. But you must move slowly and gently, sometimes going over the same area a number of times, if it requires a large change in shape, because the clay’s elasticity resists you and tries to spring back to where it was. At all times, the outer hand pushes gently inwards against the inner hand, to keep the clay wall in compression, enabling it to stretch without tearing or cracking.
With skill and patience, the shape you desire, appears before your eyes. You stop the wheel, lean back and admire your creation. Of course, there is still more to do to finish your work: there’s the drying; trimming; glazing; and firing processes, all indispensable in their own way, but when you have completed the shaping, the purpose and function of your creation is clear.
Just as He Determines
As with the clay, so it is with us — it is “The Potter” who determines our purpose and calling, and hence our shape:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
We are God’s handiwork, the result of his design and craftmanship. I love that. You have been shaped, and are being shaped, with a distinct purpose in mind. There is a job that God has designed you to do, that only you can do, because you are unique. Such is the wonder of God’s purpose and love for you, that he has not only shaped you for the things he has for you to do, he has also prepared the tasks themselves (the good works) so that you are a perfect match. That does not mean that fulfilling our purpose won’t be costly, requiring perseverance and sacrifice, but it does mean that living out our purpose will bring fulfilment and joy.
To Each One
It can be tempting to think that being shaped for, and living out, purpose like this, is reserved for the chosen few: the apostles, pastors, evangelists, prophets, etc., but as important as they are, these roles within the Church are only the tip of the iceberg. Just as it is the vast majority of the unseen iceberg that does the work of keeping the whole iceberg afloat, so it is God’s intent that the vast majority of the good work done by the body of Christ is done by its members, each and every one. That is why Ephesians 4:11,12 says:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service… (NIV)
God shapes people like these for a purpose, yes, but that purpose is to equip us, the vast majority of Christians, to serve God, bringing works of love and grace and truth to the world around us. But God’s equipping of us goes even further, he is also shaping us by giving at least one spiritual gift to each one of us:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7,11 NIV)
Twice in these verses the apostle Paul says “to each one”. No one is left out from the Holy Spirit’s distribution of gifts. His gifts are many and varied, and you have been given at least one, “just as he determines”. You have not earned this gift, and you have not been given it to primarily benefit you. The Spirit has given you a gift “for the common good”, to benefit others. Good works always result in the benefit of others.
You and I can use our God given shape and gifts to benefit others: in the office, in the school, in the hospital, in the shop, in the factory; with our time, attention, skills, talents, money and love; through our listening, our praying, our speaking and our doing. As we do these things, God will be glorified, we will fulfil our purpose and Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith.
According to the Grace Given
As members of the body of Christ we are all different, we have different functions to perform, and yet we are one. Our differences are a great strength and God’s design:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4–8 NIV)
We are called to exercise our calling and gifting according to the grace given to us. This grace is God’s power, given so that we might achieve what we could not achieve on our own. The message here is clear, “Get on with it!”
If God, by his grace, has given you the ability to prophesy, then get on with it and prophesy; if God has given you the desire to serve others, then get on and serve them; if you are good at encouraging people, then make the most of every opportunity to encourage them.
You might be feeling rather inadequate to the calling that you have received. If you do, then you are in good company. Gideon felt the same when God called him to save Israel from the Midianites. The Lord would say to you what he said to Gideon:
‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ (Judges 6:14 NIV)
His grace is the strength you have, it is his gift to you, and so again he says:
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
So how do we exercise our gifts according to the grace given to each of us?
First, we need to understand what our gift of grace is. If you don’t know, then ask God to reveal it to you. He will do this as you take every opportunity to serve him. See what helps others the most. See what brings you the most joy. Since your gift and calling is for the benefit of others, ask others what they value most about you and what you are able to do.
Another indicator of your gift is your frustration. If you see something and you feel frustration building inside you, because you can see a better way, then that might well be the Spirit’s prompting for you to get involved. His gift to you gives you eyes to see a better way.
Second, fan the gift into flame:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6,7 NIV)
Fanning your gift into flame means being bold, not timid, it requires discipline too. No athlete, artist or professional, ever became good at what they do without practice, training and discipline. So seek to develop your gift. Spend time with others who have the same gift and calling as you, learn from them. This is how you play your part in shaping yourself, like the hand on the outside of the pot, working in harmony with the Spirit as he shapes you from within.
Third, exercise your gift and calling with love. This is how you can tell if you are really exercising your gift by the grace given to you, or in your own natural strength. If you are exercising your calling by the grace given to you, and for the good of others, then it will not matter if you are unappreciated.
The apostle Paul understood the importance of love in the context of spiritual gifts, which is why he wrote:
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV)
So, we are the clay and God is the potter. He has created us and shaped us to give us dignity, meaning and purpose. He has given, to each one of us, gifts according to his grace. Does this make you marvel at the love and care he has shown to you? Does it make you want to dedicate this gift of life to honoring and serving him as long as you live?
If we seek to exercise our calling and gifting as good stewards of what God has given to us, then on that day when we stand before him, we will hear the words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
Guest Author | David Knott
Originally published on: Medium