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Broken vessels

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Archives / 2008 / March

 

 

Broken vessels

Gilbert Vega
Gilbert Vega, PhD, is senior pastor of the Loma Linda Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church, Loma Linda, California, United States.

 

While in conference administration, I received many résumés from individuals seeking positions. Most were average; some were eye-catchers. They seemed to have the perfect résumé—a combination of good grades and extracurricular activities.

But while good grades and other achievements are noteworthy—for God expects us to put forth our best efforts in all we attempt—God is not necessarily impressed by such stellar achievements. God does not always look for the best résumé. Quite to the contrary, I glean from the pages of Scripture that He often seeks the underachiever; the laughingstock of the “in crowd,” the person voted “least likely to succeed.” A few examples will reinforce my point: Moses, chosen by God even though a killer and an outlaw; David, used mightily by God even though an adulterer and conniving liar; Peter, self-obsessed and foulmouthed; and Paul, a cruel and fanatic zealot.

You get the picture—not your typical models of spiritual living. Nevertheless, we should not be surprised—God is like that. In fact, He said that He did not come to seek the stellar righteous but those who had really made a mess of their lives— full-blown disasters. Jesus said that He had not come to seek those who were not ill, but those who were. One can read about these individuals in His words: outcasts, underachievers, pariahs, untouchables, and rejects.

Jars of clay

Because God has traditionally sought out such individuals, the church at Corinth had a fair share of them.

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (1 Cor. 1: 26, 27; 2 Cor. 4:7, NIV).

Paul was exceedingly pleased at how God was willing to use underachievers to usher in and enhance His kingdom. He had done it in Corinth by the use of humble individuals, whom He likened to “jars of clay.” Clay vessels are easily broken and shattered into many pieces; a very fitting picture of our sensitive egos and human nature. But, it is precisely those who have been broken up that He uses to mend others.

Some may look at their lives and see a lot of brokenness. Going to sleep at night is not easy because of sobbing and weeping. Many a night sleep hardly comes at all. There are visible bruises and sore spots that attest to repeated falls and spills. Life has become so broken up that hopelessness is all that’s left. Life has turned out to be totally chaotic. Dreams have vanished. Wounds are deep. Grief is intense. A sense of failure pervades all around. Inner voices seem to confirm the conclusion that something that shattered cannot be mended—it should only be discarded.

Hold it! Not yet! Someone fixes broken vessels! Anyone in despair needs to go to Him before making radical decisions. “So I went to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him” (Jer. 18:3, 4, NIV).

Yes, the Lord can fix any broken vessel. He does it by re-creating them. There is no need to cast that shattered vessel aside; all that needs to be done is to take it to the Master Potter. He will turn it into a new vessel. Let’s look at one such case in history.

Moses

Moses was despondent in the desert, demoralized and wasting away. He could not see any purpose for his elite education and how it was compatible with his role as a lonely shepherd. Erudite learning—wasted on sheep; military training—of no value in the parched hills of Midian. At the age of 80, he held a shepherd’s rod—when he could have held the scepter of Egypt.

Yes, Moses perceives death approaching— along with his last breath; it would also be the demise of his dreams. However, one day the God of the brokenhearted appeared to Moses. Since the failures of individuals are God’s opportunities, God had in Moses a fine specimen. Though he had been cast aside by society in its continual search for new heroes, he had not been overlooked by the God of the down-and-out. Even though his résumé included such condemning terms as “criminal” and “outlaw,” God was interested in Moses. God sends him on a crucial first assignment. Moses cannot believe it—he is too old, out of touch and irrelevant, yet Yahweh still believes in him. Reluctantly, he takes on his new challenge. Unbeknownst to him at that time, his greatest feats were still in the future.

His achievements are incredibly awesome and unique. None of them can be replicated. Four events denote his unique role in history:

• He was God’s human instrument to change the mind-set of the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh.

• He was God’s human instrument to turn a group of slaves into a nation.

• He spoke face to face with Yahweh and received from Him the Ten Commandments.

• He was God’s chosen penman to record the foundational books of the Bible—the Pentateuch.

Not bad for one who had spent the best years of his life on the hills of Midian tending sheep.

Conclusion

When someone has experienced defeat and dejection, ridicule and rejection, brokenness and bareness, that person becomes more sensitive to the voice of God. They can relate to others in a way that would have been impossible had that individual not gone into such depths of anxiety. Thus, the more brokenness one experiences, the more useful one can become in the hands of the Lord.

It reminds me of a story that took place in an ancient land. A man had the daily chore of bringing water to the palace of a nobleman. He did this by filling two large jars of water that he hand-carried from the well to the home. However, one of the jars had a small crack and would not hold all of the intended water—part of it would drip on the side of the road. Thus the other perfect jar assumed an air of superiority, whereas the broken one felt ashamed of its imperfection. One day it spoke to the workingman and apologetically stated how much of a failure she felt at not being able to fulfill her expected role of holding water. The water carrier proceeded to point out to the broken jar the beautiful flowers that lined the side of the path where her drips of water had been falling. Furthermore, he added, “Because I knew of your condition, I planted flower seeds along the path, and they have grown abundantly and beautifully. I have even taken some to the palace of our lord. That was only possible because I knew that everyday you would water my flowers.”

Do not worry about your résumé. Find the God of the brokenhearted. He will change you, and, consequently, your résumé.

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