[“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:17,18, NKJV)]
Again, it is so natural [to feel handicapped by difficult circumstances] for another to reason: “Sure, after all Brother So and So hasn’t anything to do but preach, sleep and eat. But poor me! I’ve got to work ten hours a day. I have reason to be downcast and frustrated. If I could just move into some different circumstances—like his—I’d be spiritual too.”
But now listen to Paul’s words: “We are troubled on all sides…” He was encompassed in pressure, difficulty, persecution and misunderstanding. But don’t stop! Paul also adds, “We’re never frustrated.” What was his secret? Simply this! Paul had come to realize that you can’t expect anything more from a clay pot than handicaps—so quit stewing—quit worrying!
“But if I just had a pretty pot to put that Treasure in,” another has confided. “If I could just put it out in a nice vase like her—or him. Now that sister over there … she has charm, a magnetic personality that draws. That brother over there has polish, training, influence, contacts. But me, plain Joe—what can I do? How can I ever serve God? You see, my very commonness haunts me. This is why I’m frustrated and about to faint.”
Now, Paul surely knew he was nothing more than a clay pot, so he testifies for all generations to come: “I don’t expect anything more than handicaps, so this doesn’t overwhelm me. I’m not frustrated. I can never expect to be any different than a clay pot, but I’ve discovered that the only thing of any value is not the clay pot; it is the Treasure within. That Treasure is lovely—beautiful—worthwhile.”
You see, if you are only occupied with the clay pot, you’re always going to be under a cloud. If you only gaze at your handicaps you will always live in the shadows of gloom and despair. This doesn’t mean that you deny you have any. You admit you have them, but manifest to others that you are not overwhelmed because your preoccupation is with the Treasure within.
Paul continues: “We’re puzzled, but never in despair”[v.8] Have you ever been utterly puzzled? You groaned. Oh, if there weren’t so many things impossible to understand. I could surely walk with God.
And others around you are filled with the same bewilderment. One testifies: “I was walking along all right with the Lord, and bang! It happened! I could only cry out, “Where is God? What’s going on?”
One of the interesting things about the Christian life is this constant pathway of paradoxes and seeming contradictions. First there is clear revelation of the Lord, and then there follows shadows and darkness. The Lord is so clear on one point, and (seemingly) so vague on another.
A few years back I thought that the epitome of the Christian life, the highest peak that you could reach, was to have all your puzzles solved. I assumed that the flooding in of His light would mean answer for every situation. I would never need to say again. “I don’t know.” But I have never in all my life been forced to admit, I don’t know, so often as in the last few months since the Lord has been so very real and precious. Things may change down the road, and I’ll see much more clearly. But I’m at rest. In this pathway I don’t get all my puzzles solved, but that no longer throws me into despair.
Perhaps you have, at times, sighed, “How–dear Lord–can You ever do anything in me? My clay is so set, so unmoldable, so brittle and unresponsive.” Well, remember that is the Lord’s choice and His business. When the Lord began to deal with me, He knew what He was getting–just a clay pot.
My problem was that I thought He was getting something much better. I thought He was getting a polished fellow—you know, one who knew music, knew people, could speak well and influence others; well, that’s what I thought. Yet, all these years the Lord has been concentrating on one thing: breaking me down to help me realize He didn’t get anything but a clay pot. He’s never been deceived; I’ve been deceived. Now the truth comes out; things are crystal clear, and there’s no anxiety connected with my future.
But let us go on as Paul continues: “We’re persecuted, but we never have to stand alone.” It is the loneliness that makes a person feel dark when his friends and family turn against him. You feel that people just don’t understand how much you’re trying to walk with God. If they did they wouldn’t persecute or seek to destroy you. Yet, once again, this only helps you realize that you’re not standing alone—He is standing in you.
When I first went to Argentina, I suffered several knock-downs. I argued, “Well, what’s the use! I might as well throw in the towel; just as well quit.” But something in me whispered, “You can quit.” I read Paul’s words: “We may be knocked down, but we are never knocked out.” But so far as you’re concerned—you have been knocked out —knocked way out of the ring. You have completely exhausted all strength; there is no fight left. Yes, in spite of all that has been written—and all you’ve known and stood for, this is the hour. You’re down—down for good. Brother, Sister, until you get to this place in your ministry, you can’t really serve God. You’ll never see anything last because it has always been your own energy, your own strength and promotion—but really nothing of Him.
And then something so very strange seems to happen. You can’t explain it, but somehow you seem to be rising up. The Lord is raising you up out of death. Suddenly, all things become new; a whole new world dawns around you! Once you wanted God to come over and walk with you. Now you’ve discovered you are walking, but He is walking in you.
So every day the little clay pot is experiencing something of death working through its being, but that is simply to allow the power of His Life to be released. Paul insists: “We who are living are always—(daily)—being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake!” [2 Cor. 4:11]. Oh, that is so hard to take. We want a once-for-all blow of death, but not a thousand deaths—every day along the way. We are always wanting to get around where there is some joy, some peace and blessing.
How often we have announced: “Oh, if I could just get over there! If I could just go to that Bible conference; if I could just get into that Bible school. Surely, I’d have victory over there! Then I’d be able to experience the joy, the glory and the victory of walking with God unhindered.”
God insists. You must stay put in that kitchen. You just keep changing those diapers. You keep on driving that old car. You stay right there in that shop.
“But Lord! I just die a thousand deaths” And He answers that it is all a necessary part of your training. There are no shortcuts; it is a continuous exposure to death. It is only out of such circumstances that you really discover what HIS LIFE really is. This is His way—the way He has chosen to work in you. If everything were sweet and wonderful all the time, you’d never know what overcoming is. Even as the Lord Jesus overcame—so you must overcome. It is the only means by which you can know more and more of His life flowing through you.
Beloved, I want to alert you to something: Whenever you see a channel that God is using to bring life to others, you mark it down, that channel is experiencing death after death! Death works in you—but life in others [2 Cor. 4:11].
Now apply this to yourself! You’ve been wanting your sons, your daughters, your friends, your relatives and your contacts to know this life. Yet, continually you’ve been dodging this way of helping them into Life. You’ve been dodging these difficult things everytime they confronted you. The pattern is almost set—your dodging, escaping, running. And you wonder why they aren’t touched. The Lord is not getting to you. If the Lord ever really gets to you. He’ll get to them—through you.
Part 4 of 5.