‘As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.’ Jeremiah 18:6 NKJV
The prophet Jeremiah writes: ‘I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: …“Can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.”’ (Jeremiah 18:3–6 NKJV)
There are three important lessons in this story for you:
(1) As long as you stay pliable and responsive to God, He will never throw you away. Instead, He will mold you into something He can use.
(2) When others put you down, God will lift you up. A potter doesn’t press down on the clay, he continuously lifts it up and shapes it as it spins on the wheel. And God will do that for you too. David said, ‘He… brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.’ (Psalm 40:2 NKJV)
(3) Notice whose foot is on the wheel. If he could, Satan would have thrown you off the wheel a long time ago, but he can’t. Look under the table and see whose foot is on the wheel: the Potter’s! Nothing can separate you from God’s love (see Romans 8:39).
The word for you today is: ‘As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.’
‘Put off…your former conduct…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.’ Ephesians 4:22–23 NKJV
Mindsets are patterns whereby your mind automatically operates a certain way. That means you can set yourself up for misery by reacting to the same people and circumstances in the same way, yet expecting different results. Maybe you are saying: ‘After all these years I thought he’d change… No matter how hard I try, my family doesn’t appreciate me… How come I’m the only one who makes an effort to stay in touch?’
It’s easy to blame your problems on others: ‘Look what he’s doing. Look how long I’ve waited. Why doesn’t she call?’ We think the answer lies in getting the other person to do what we want, but that kind of thinking is self-defeating; it gives control to others. Your happiness isn’t determined by other people, even though you’ve convinced yourself it is.
An experienced counselor writes: ‘If you don’t like the same results… try pushing a different button. Look at your relationships. Is there a situation that’s going downhill despite your best efforts? Are you waiting for something to change, instead of doing something different? Stop pushing the same button, and ask God for clarity to see the situation honestly and to act with wisdom and responsibility.’ You’re not a victim of circumstances; you don’t have to stay stuck or keep going round in circles. Paul says, ‘Put off…your former conduct …and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.’ The word for you today is: you can change!
‘Don’t lie to each other.’ Colossians 3:9 NLT
Deception in a relationship destroys trust and respect. One lie or one act of betrayal can cause a wound that takes years to heal and, in some cases, is never healed at all. The person who hides something is basically selfish, protecting their own interests. They care little about the feelings of the other person. There’s nothing shallower than empty words and lying clichés that have no real meaning.
There are some people who coerce others into a sexual relationship by claiming they love them. Deception at this level is emotional rape! It’s a terrible feeling to be used by someone. The deceiver may continually promise that they will leave their spouse, and the victim holds on to hope. But it never seems to come true. The deceiver makes every kind of excuse possible for taking advantage. When victims are vulnerable, they follow blindly along until the relationship has gone so far that they are trapped. As a sinner, you may have been excused for acting this way, but not as a redeemed child of God. ‘Don’t lie to each other.’ When someone has given you their trust, they’ve given you a priceless gift; don’t abuse it. And if your trust has been betrayed, confront it head-on.
Though you may love the person, back off until they show clear signs of repentance and a willingness to make amends. And don’t give up hope. Sometimes good people make bad choices. If you work at it, and seek God’s help, it’s possible to restore the trust you’ve lost and maybe even end up with a better relationship.
‘Do good to those who hate you.’ Luke 6:27 NKJV
When General Robert E. Lee was asked by Confederate US President Jefferson Davis to give his opinion about a certain officer, he gave a glowing report. One of the officers in attendance was amazed at his words and said to Lee, ‘General, do you know that the man of whom you speak so highly to the president is one of your bitterest enemies, and never misses an opportunity to criticize you?’ Lee said, ‘Yes, but the president asked my opinion of him. He didn’t ask for his opinion of me.’
It takes character, compassion and courage to speak well of a critic. But when you do, three good things happen:
(1) You increase your own value. You show you’re able to rise above criticism by bestowing praise on another.
(2) You defuse your enemy’s criticism of you. When people hear your praise of a critic and their disdain for you, their respect for you rises and they see you in a different light.
(3) People see you as fair-minded and generous. It takes very little effort to respond in kind to a critic, but it takes Christ-like character to turn the other cheek and bless them.
Jesus said: ‘Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also… And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.’ (Luke 6:27–31 NKJV) You say, ‘That’s a high standard.’ It’s the one Jesus set, practiced throughout His life, and is calling you to live by today.
‘Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.’ Hebrews 10:35 NKJV
How long should you keep praying and believing God for the answer? Until He tells you differently. In other words, go by the book! ‘Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.’ (Hebrews 10:35–36 NKJV) Many of God’s promises have timelines, and you need long-distance faith to receive them. The word endurance pictures a runner determined to reach the finish line. You say, ‘But I’m not sure what God’s will is.’ His will is revealed in His Word, and that’s what you must believe and speak over your situation. To say otherwise is to contradict God.
Abraham stood on God’s promise that he’d be the father of many nations when there wasn’t a shred of evidence to prove it. For twenty years he looked up into the night sky believing, ‘Lord, You said my children would be as numerous as the stars. I don’t know how You’re going to do it for I’m a hundred years old and my wife, Sarah, is ninety. But I’m going to believe You anyway.’ When you pray that way, you risk looking foolish in the eyes of others.
But receiving the miraculous often involves looking ridiculous, like Jesus telling the disciples to fill wine pots with water or rubbing clay in a blind man’s eyes. But the guests at the wedding in Cana drank the finest wine, and the blind man went home seeing. Why? Because they obeyed the word Jesus gave them. So the word for you today is: go by the Book.
‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.’ Joel 2:25 NIV
Kristine Steakley writes: ‘Loss can make us feel forsaken and utterly destroyed… For many, divorce meant leaving the house we grew up in, our neighborhood, our friends, our school… even our church because we were ashamed and heard condemnation from those who should have been concerned for our souls. To use Joel’s metaphor, locusts ate our family; more locusts ate our friendships… and still more ate our church… But God promised, “Never again will My people be shamed” (Joel 2:26).
I can’t tell you what restoration will look like… or when it’ll happen. Some of us will see relationships with parents and siblings mended… others will build great marriages and loving families… and some may have to wait for Heaven where all wrongs will be righted, all wounds healed, all tears wiped away.’
Kristin Armstrong says: ‘Resist the temptation to despair or delve into disappointment. You may feel like you’ve forfeited years, opportunities, finances, and a significant return on investment of self. But hear the fantastic promise of redemption: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” No one on earth can make anything up to you. No one can pay. No one can set things right or make things fair. Pressure and manipulation won’t bring justice. So let it go and let God fill your life with new blessings. If you’re full of resentment and wrath He can’t find space for His gifts. God will make it up to you if you keep an expectant attitude of faith, and thank Him that His promises are yours.’
‘Nor will I flatter any man.’ Job 32:21 NIV
When Stephen Spielberg was a skinny teenager, he became the target of a bully. Fed up with the constant harassment which he later described as ‘hell on earth’, he decided to flatter the bully by telling him he looked like John Wayne and should consider playing the hero in an eight-millimetre movie about World War ll he was thinking of making. Once Spielberg outfitted him and cast him as a heroic squad leader, the bully became putty in his hands. However, unlike Spielberg’s bully, emotionally healthy people only appreciate sincere praise they have earned. And they can detect a compliment given with an ulterior motive or to gain their favor.
The paradox is that most people tend to look with disfavor on someone who compliments them, for no apparent reason. Elihu—the patriarch Job’s friend—said, ‘I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away.’ (Job 32:21–22 NIV) And the psalmist tells us, ‘The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.’ (Psalm 12:3 KJV) So here’s the question: is flattery worth being cut off from the blessing of God?
When you engage in or become susceptible to flattery, it’s clear evidence of your lack of faith in God’s ability to give you favor with other people. Favor is a fringe benefit of being in right standing with Him. ‘Surely… Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.’ (Psalm 5:12 NIV)
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith.’ Ephesians 2:8 NRS
Some of us live as if God has a big performance chart with our name on it and, at the end of each day, He grades us to determine if He will love us more, or less, or at all.
You say, ‘If I were God, some days I wouldn’t love me.’ Then be glad you’re not God, and we’ll all be twice as glad—or we’d all be sunk! God does not save us by grace and then base how He feels about us on our spiritual performance. The Bible says, ‘God… out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.’(Ephesians 2:4–5 NRS) The wonder of grace is that you are chosen, you are wanted, and God desires you for His family. By grace you have been made alive to God. You have strength to endure, power to serve, a reason to hope, and death has no hold over you. God took your indebtedness and guilt and nailed it to the cross. He erased the bill; He destroyed the I.O.U. and set you free. Unburdened. Cleansed.
Today you can live with a heart as light as a feather—no matter what you did yesterday. The truth is that no one in Heaven will ever boast, ‘Look what Jesus and I did.’ No, when Jesus cried from the cross, ‘It is finished’ (see John 19:30), God wrote ‘PAID IN FULL’ over every sin you would commit—all the way from the cradle to the grave. This is the wonder of grace.
‘Those who trust in the Lord are… unmoved by any circumstance.’ Psalm 125:1 TLB
By age twenty-nine, author Carson McCullers had suffered three strokes. Then while she was still crippled and partially paralyzed, her husband committed suicide. Despite her problems she forced herself to write every day, and as a result became a distinguished novelist.
The English poet John Milton was blind. World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman had polio. Former Miss America Heather Whitestone is deaf. Stephen Hawking, physicist and lecturer at Cambridge University, has motor neurone disease. No wonder Thomas Edison said if we did all the things we were capable of doing, we’d astound ourselves!
So, what’s the secret to enduring and enjoying life? It’s this: ‘Those who trust in the Lord are… unmoved by any [did you get that—any] circumstance.’
Despite how you feel today, your problems aren’t insurmountable. The Bible says, ‘God can do what men can’t.’ (Luke 18:27 TLB) And what’s more, He listens to ‘the prayers of the destitute… He is never too busy.’ (Psalm 102:17 TLB) Einstein said, ‘In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.’
The same God who guided Abraham when he didn’t have a clue where he was going, gave Sarah a child in her old age, rolled back the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, is alive and working in your life. So ‘be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.’ (Ephesians 6:10 KJV) Remember, His chariots of deliverance ‘are…thousands and thousands of thousands.’ (Psalm 68:17 NIV) Today take heart! ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT)
‘Anxiety in the heart… causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’ Proverbs 12:25 NKJV
When Enrico took his first voice lesson at ten, the teacher said, ‘You haven’t any voice at all.’ But Enrico’s mother heard greatness in her son’s voice. She believed in his talent. And even though they were very poor she put her arms around him and said, ‘My boy, I’m going to make every sacrifice to pay for your voice lessons.’ Her confidence in him and her constant encouragement paid off, because he became one of the most beloved and widely acclaimed singers of all time. His name? Enrico Caruso.
When the world tries to tear us down, we need people who build us up, people who recognize our talent and help us make the most of it. Consider these ‘commands for parents’, written from a child’s point of view:
(1) My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make a bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.
(2) My legs are short; slow down so that I can keep up with you.
(3) My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; let me explore it safely, and don’t restrict me unnecessarily.
(4) Housework will always be there; I’m only little for a short time. Take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.
(5) My feelings are tender; don’t nag me all day long. Treat me as you would like to be treated.
(6) I am a special gift from God; treasure me as God intended you to—holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner. Today, be an encourager!