In the Hands of the Master Potter

If I had to choose my favorite Bible person (apart from Jesus of course) I would choose Paul. He is someone I cannot wait to meet when I get to heaven. Paul was human, not superhuman; he was a normal man and he had strengths and weaknesses like us. He was indwelt by the Spirit like you and I and yet his epistles make is clear that he struggled with sin. I wish God would have put more of Paul’s early responses to his adverse circumstances in the Bible for us to read and learn from. Particularly the ones where he really doubted the wisdom of what he was doing.  He led a very hard life after meeting Jesus Christ. He details some of his struggles and sufferings in the book of Acts, and in his epistles.

When writing to the Corinthian church about himself he said,

[I have been] in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:22-24

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 2 Timothy 4:14

Paul met the challenges, overcame, and adapted to the new “normal”, whatever that was. I desire to be that flexible and loose in the hands of the Master Potter. I wish I would not care at all about the things of this world, but my flesh is still too strong. I wish I could have Paul’s recorded responses to the trials and problems of life, and that in spite of them I would press on unphased.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

Paul came to that place only over time, he must have! He began his Christianity as a prosperous and respected man and wound up hated and abused by the people he once fellowshipped with. This had to be a major adjustment in his thinking. He suffered a terrible human cost, and he considered it all “nothing”

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11

I am not there yet. I am still so conflicted in mind and heart. I think that all the stuff of life does distract me and cause my focus to be everywhere but on Christ. One thing Paul had going for him in all those circumstances is that he had nothing and no One but Christ. I am not sure I am ready for that yet. There is still too much of my flesh that lives. Yet, I have come so very, very far.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 3:13-14

That pressing on toward the goal of being like Christ… Christ, the suffering servant. Christ, the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. Christ, the man who created the whole universe and yet had no home in which to live and no bed to rest His head. Christ, the incomparable and indescribable One- sinless and perfect.

I am fearful to fully and completely offer myself in this way because I know that the suffering would increase as the love of the world is stripped away from my heart. The only way to kill it off is through the sufferings and trials that we dislike so much. Through them we learn how to be content.