(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)
Trusting In The Potter
Lesson 21 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the three trees, where each one had a glorious dream for their future. One wanted to be crafted into a beautiful treasure chest, covered with gold and filled with precious jewels. Another wanted to be turned into boards for a mighty sailing ship, carrying kings and queens across the sea. The third didn’t want to be cut down at all, but wanted to grow as tall as possible, pointing people towards God as they looked up into its branches.
A day came, however, when each of the trees were cut down and taken away. The first was turned into a feeding trough, not a treasure chest. The second was too weak to be used for a mighty ship and was was used for a common fishing boat instead. The third was deemed too worthless for much of anything, and was cut into pieces and thrown into the scrap pile.
Rather than seeing their dreams fulfilled, each of the trees felt abandoned and without hope. It’s a tragic story and one that has been repeated many times, in many lives, over the years. It may even be part of your story.
Maybe you’ve had dreams of getting married, raising a family, and serving God with your whole heart, only to see your dreams dashed by divorce, adultery, and kids who have all but lost their faith. Maybe you’ve had dreams of being wildly successful in business, giving generously to the poor and needy, only to find yourself being poor and needy instead. Maybe you’ve stepped out in faith to start a new ministry, or a new job, or a new life in a place where you really felt God had called you to, only to find yourself far from home and wondering why you ever left in the first place.
Rather than seeing your dreams fulfilled, you may feel— like the trees in the story—abandoned and without hope.
If so, I want to encourage you today to keep putting your faith and trust in God. Remember that God is the Potter and you are the clay. Keep trusting that He is molding and shaping you into exactly what He wants you to be. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans chapter 9:
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did You make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21).
Sometimes we bristle at the thought that we don’t fully control our own destiny. None of us wants to be like a puppet on a string, pulled this way or that by some unseen puppet master. Yet when you put your faith in God and let Him take control of your life, you can trust that He will guide you and direct you in ways that are better than even you could have imagined.
I had a friend this week who was wondering if she had been shortchanged when God passed out the BLT’s—the Brains, the Looks and the Talents. She wondered why others seemed to have gotten so much more in some of those areas. But the truth is, she wasn’t shortchanged at all. First of all, she had actually been given huge amounts of each, but couldn’t see it for herself. Secondly, I assured her that God had, in fact, given her everything she needed to fulfill His plan for her life. As Paul said to the Ephesians:
If God has prepared good works in advance for you to do, He will give you everything you need for the walk He’s called you to walk. And He’ll continue to do so, even if it seems like you’re going in a direction you hadn’t planned. The key is to keep putting your faith and trust in the Potter, remembering that He is FOR you and will work all things together for your good. When you put your faith in God, you put a smile on His face. As the writer of Hebrews says:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
God is pleased when you put your faith in Him, and He will reward you when you earnestly seek Him.
This, after all, is what the whole book of Romans is about. Paul is continually telling the Christians in Rome that it is their faith that matters most to God, not their righteous acts or their heritage—whether they were born Jewish or Gentile. In chapter 9, Paul laments the fact that so many Jews have missed the fact that God wants them to come to Him by faith. Paul begins by saying:
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:2-5).
Paul sees the noble heritage that the Jews had been given because of the faith of Abraham. Yet Paul also says that just because someone is a descendant of Abraham doesn’t mean they are actually people of faith.
“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6b-8).
Paul then goes on to describe how God raised up various people for various purposes, whether it was Isaac or Jacob or Moses or Pharaoh. Some were for noble purposes, and some for common use, but all were for His glory.
God wants you to keep putting your faith in Him. And when you do, He’ll reward you!
Remember the story of the three trees? It would have been tragic if their story had ended when all their dreams were dashed to pieces. Thankfully, their story doesn’t end there. Their dreams were eventually fulfilled—but in a way that went beyond all that they could have imagined.
The first tree didn’t get to become a treasure chest that it had hoped, covered with gold and filled with precious stones. It became a feeding trough for animals instead. But one day, it was covered with golden straw and when the most precious treasure of all was laid inside it—the Son of God—the tree realized its dream had been fulfilled.
The second tree didn’t get to become the mighty sailing ship that it had hoped, carrying kings and queens across the sea. Instead, it was used for a common fishing boat. But one day, that boat carried a group of men who were caught in a fierce storm on a lake. One of the men stood up and said to the wind and the waves, “Be still,” and they obeyed Him. As soon as the tree realized what had been done, it realized that it was carrying no ordinary man, but the King of all kings, the One who had created the whole universe.
And the third tree, the one that didn’t want to be cut down at all, but point people to God when they looked up into its branches? Eventually its boards were pulled from the scrap pile and used as the cross on which our Savior was crucified. And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, that tree realized that from then on, whenever anyone thought of the cross, their thoughts would be pointed towards God.
You may feel like your life isn’t working out the way you had dreamed. You may feel like you’re not in the place that you had hoped to be. But don’t give up on God—and don’t give up on your dreams. God has a way of fulfilling them beyond what you could imagine.
I know of families who have weathered the storms of divorce and adultery and have come out on the other side praising God and helping many others along the way. I know of people who have lost their businesses and homes and things of this world who are now giving away more than anyone else around them, because they’ve learned what it means to give everything to God. I know of people who have struggled in faith and sometimes wondered if they were doing the right thing, but eventually discovered that God was in it every step of the way.
Don’t give up on your dreams, and don’t get upset if things aren’t working out the way that you had hoped. Keep trusting in the Potter. Whether He wants to use your life for noble purposes or common use, it’s all for His glory. Your Father really does know best.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for reminding us that You are in control, even when our lives seem out of control. Thank You that You are the potter and we are the clay. Help us to be moldable and shapable by You today. Help us to continue to trust in You, that You will reward us when we believe that You exist and earnestly seek You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. The Tale of Three Trees is a beautiful picture book written by Angela Elwell Hunt. There’s more to the story than what I’ve told you, and if you’d like to get a copy, you can get it from Amazon.com. While you’re there, you might also want to pick up a few of my devotional books for yourself or your friends for Christmas. These are inspiring books that will encourage you that God is continually working on your behalf, when you put your full faith and trust in Him. To read more about these books, take a look at the links below:
The Tale of Three Trees
Eric Elder’s Devotionals
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 9:1-33. How do you feel about letting God be the potter, and trusting Him to mold you and shape you as He sees fit? What might be appealing or unappealing about this idea?
2. What is it that Paul wishes for his Jewish brothers and sisters in this passage?
3. Why does Paul say in verse 6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”? What’s the difference? Consider verses 30-32 in your response as well.
4. Read Hebrews 11:6. What does God seem to want from you more than anything else right now, and what can you expect from Him as a result?
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
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