Sermon Illustrations

Phillip Keller visited a potter in Pakistan and gained the most understanding ever of the meaning found in "Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven."

The words of the prophet came to mind: "Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words" (Jer. 18:2). He led Keller to a dark, closed shed back of his shop. A repulsive stench of decaying matter engulfed him.

"I add special kinds of grass to the mud. As it rots and decays, its organic content increased the colloidal quality of the clay. Then it stick together better." Keller was reminded of this: "I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay" (Ps. 40:1-2 NKJV).

With meticulous precision the old man placed the lump exactly in the center of his wheel. Even so God exercises very particular care in centering my life in Christ. A fascinating look crept across his face. There was in this crude clay enormous possibilities. He wanted it to become a useful and beautiful article.

God’s Spirit said, "Don’t you see how much anticipation and excitement fills your Father’s heart as he holds you in his hands? A bit of heaven can be produced in your life."

On either side of the potter’s stool stood a basin of water. Not once did he touch the spinning clay without first dipping his hands in the water. Our Father’s will is transmitted to us through the water of his own Word.

Suddenly the potter stopped and removed a small particle of grit from the goblet. The stone stopped again as he removed another tiny grain of sand. Would the clay have other things that would resist his hands and wreck his work?

He pointed sadly to a deep, ragged gouge that cut and scarred the goblet’s side. It was ruined beyond repair. In dismay he crushed it down beneath his hands. Again from Jeremiah: "And the vessel that he made of clay was married in the hand of the potter" (Jer. 18:4).

Why was this masterpiece in the making ruined in the master’s hands? Because he had run into resistance. Similarly, that’s why the heavenly Father’s will is brought to naught again and again -- because of hardness and resistance. Those tender, gentle, skilled hands of the Father are thwarted by our stubborn wills.

At that point the potter, with a sorrowful shrug, said he would just make a crude finger bowl from the same lump. What might have been a gorgeous goblet would become a vessel second best. It was not the craftsman’s first or finest intention. "So [the potter -- our God] made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it" (Jer. 18:4).

Am I going to become a piece of fine china or just a finger bowl? "Father, your will be done in earth [in clay], in me, as sit is down in heaven. Do I really mean this? Do I really want it? Would I really enjoy having it done to me?"

The old potter was not yet done. He took a very find thread from the wall and dipped it in the water. Then he stretched it tight between his hands. With the bowl whirling rapidly on the stone, he drew the thread through the clay and separated it from the clay beneath. That is just like our lives -- separated, set aside unto good works.

The craftsman put the new piece onto a shelf to cure. After that it would be fired in the furnace to put the finishing touches on it. "It all takes time, much time, but it is worth it. My name and reputation as a master potter are at stake."

Do you see the implication clearly? At times God finds putting us onto the shelf to be necessary. We go through the fiery furnace of hardship for beautification and God’s reputation. The key to the success or failure of our being fashioned in the Master’s hands lies in how we respond to his touch.

Devotional writer and college president Bertha Munro said, "I need to stop talking about prayer--and pray."

(Source: A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller. From a sermon by Bobby Scobey, "Essentials #3-When You Pray-Part 1" 2/25/2009)

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