LIFE IN EXILE
Our Heavenly Father Is the Potter, We Are the Clay (Isaiah 64:8)
Regrettably, many brothers and sisters fail to see that “we are the clay and You are the potter and we are the works of Your hands” (Jer. 18:1-10; also ref. Eph. 2:10). Many do not understand “it is good that I have been afflicted that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:71). In our walk of life, the Heavenly Father allows us to face all kinds of difficulties such as trials, sickness, as well as financial, family and career problems. Behind all these are His hands that mould and place us on the “spinning wheel” and into the kiln. He causes all things to work together for our benefit. He turns us into vessels with the character of His Son the Lamb, transforming us into His image (Rom. 8:29).
Regrettably, we often use every means we can to free ourselves from the working hands of the potter. As a result, we are still babies in Christ even years after accepting Him. Madame Guyon, the ancient saint, said that, while many Christians tried to break the “teaching rod” of the Heavenly Father, she accepted it with thankfulness and kisses.
Just one year into his imprisonment, an elderly brother gave up his originally held principle that Christ was Head of the Church. In order to gain release from prison, he compromised and indicated his willingness to join the Three Self Church. Another brother used his own means to gain release after a few years of Labor Reform. Yet another gave up his faith after five years of Labor Reform. Regrettably, their spiritual losses were perhaps too great to be made up for. It is our nature to avoid the cross and afflictions. When the intensity and duration of hardship increase, it is only by the Lord’s grace that we do not forget this: in our earthly days, the cross makes us more like Him; in our eternal life, the cross will be our crown!
Thank God, though, that there were saints who were willing to be jailed for life for His sake! One such sister, Grace Zheng, said it well, “Ever since my imprisonment, I’ve never expected to be released.” She had left excellent testimonies in both the prison and Labor Camps. She had demonstrated her fearlessness of suffering and of death, leaving no ground for Satan. Another sister, Sonny Wang, who remained celibate for the Lord (I Cor. 7:8), refused to join the Three-Self Church when she was in her 20’s and was consequently sent to the extremely torturous Labor Camp in the Qinhai highlands. After 20 years of Labor Reform, as a result of certain policy changes, she was allowed to go to England to be with her old father. Yet she did not accept the offer, saying, “Brook Cherith has not dried up” yet (Ref. I Kings 17:3-6). To her, the Lord’s time had not yet come because she had not fulfilled her gospel responsibility! She stayed in the Labor Camp for another 10 years. How touching this spirit of the Lamb is! And how splendid! Thoughts of such saints often make me feel ashamed of my own inadequacy and falling behind.
Allow me to say this with a humble and reverent heart: it is regrettable that, in this so-called Free World, quite a number of brothers and sisters used their own (even wicked) ways to divorce spouses they were not happy with or to solve problems relating to life, church and career without submitting to the hands of the “Potter.” As a consequence, they spoiled the vessel of the Potter and suffered great hindrances in their spiritual growth.
Dear brothers and sisters, do you know the magnitude of such spiritual loss? I am afraid that those brothers and sisters have seriously rejected “the best” that God has lovingly designed for them. Though they may still be zealous Christians or even well-known preachers, they may have lost one thing – that is God’s best, as originally planned and willed by Him. This is like “the vessel that He made with clay”… “marred in the hand of the potter; so He made it again into another vessel” (Jer. 18:4).
In situations arranged by God, we need to depend on His grace as we learn to be submissive, patient, humble, meek and “silent”, pleading the Lord to create and cultivate the spirit of the Lamb within us. Let us not complain or wait passively for a resolution, or even rebel or escape. Brothers and sisters, I say these words as mutual encouragement, for I do not feel worthy to deliver such words of high attainment.
On the first day Paul accepted Christ, the resurrected Lord spoke to him through Ananias, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). This is an experience every follower of the Lamb must go through (Acts 14:22). When Paul was advanced in age, he told Timothy, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). We need not create our own cross. The path of the cross is a path we must take, and take all the way to the end. However, let us not forget the advice of St. Augustine: to attain sanctification, there are three requirements – first, be humble; second, be humble; third, be humble; for God gives grace to the humble. Let us remember that it is on God’s grace that all is based, for it is “by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Cor. 15:10).