In 1979, the woman millions knew as “Mother Teresa” received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to relieve sickness and need among the world’s poorest and most distressed people. After receiving the award reporters asked her if such acclaim and recognition might not go to her head. In reply, she asked them if they remembered the story of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey and the road being strewn with garments and palm branches by the adoring crowd. When they said they did, she asked, “And do you think the donkey thought it was in his honor?” Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun, so I am certain there is much about her belief system I could not and would not accept as Biblically true. But I get the point she made with those reporters, and respect her greatly for it. She was stating the same truth contained in the words of the saying, “There is a God, and I am not Him.”
Have you learned that lesson? The apostle Paul sought to remind Christians of this truth in Romans chapter 9 (and 10, and 11!). In those chapters he sought to explain how the large scale Jewish rejection of Christ and the gospel did not mean God’s word had failed. In the blunt words of Romans 9:6, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect” (or “failed”). In the paragraphs that follow he makes an elaborate argument to prove that. As he anticipates potential questions and objections about God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles, Paul challenges readers with these words in Romans 9:20-21 – ” 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?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” These words were written by Paul as part of a complex passage we simply don’t have space to address. Still, Paul’s three questions stand on their own as a great challenge to us. Paul knew the Old Testament references to God as a potter and His people as clay (cf., Jeremiah 18).
Few today are “potters,” but almost all of us have some knowledge of and experience with clay – even if that experience was with “Play-Doh” as a child or as a grandparent! The value of clay is its property of being malleable, that is, capable of being easily molded or shaped. Potters use clay to make vessels that range from the breathtakingly beautiful and expensive (used only to decorate) to common vessels to be used for average, everyday purposes. So, who decides what the clay is used for – the potter or the clay? Silly to even ask, isn’t it?
Now the take-home-point. Our usefulness to God depends on how willing we are to really allow Him to be God in our lives. In the beautiful words of Adelaide A. Pollard’s song, “Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay! Mold me and make After Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still” (verse 1 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”).
A humorous story sends a sobering challenge about who will be God in our lives. A woman divorced her husband. When a friend asked why, the woman gave this reply – “It was on the grounds of religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn’t.” Have you learned that there is a God, and that you are not Him? Who is the potter in your life, and who is the clay? Think about it.
By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN