Treasures Hid in Earthen Vessels

In Christian living, there comes a time when an individual feels broken – that is, if all goes well. If this time never comes, the potential of that individual to accomplish work for God is limited greatly. Not only can God use what has been broken, but we need to be broken before He can really use us.

The Bible is full of encouragement to failing believers who run hot and cold throughout their experience. In the pages of Scripture we find men and women who are so like us, yet were used by God to do extraordinary things. Think first about the principle of brokenness in God’s people as a people.

If you move through your Bible, reviewing the times of greatest restoration and revival in the experience of God’s people, you will realize that these always came at a time of national brokenness. Such was the time of Nehemiah. This was a time when there was a burden about the state of things in the nation of Israel. The revival came when the people turned from themselves to the work of God and the Word of God. Things that had been torn down needed to be rebuilt. Things that had been disregarded needed to be reintroduced. It was a time of deep sorrow (“the people wept”) and yet it was a time of renewed joy among God’s people (“weep not…the joy of the Lord is your strength”). It was a time of individual burden as well as national burden. Nehemiah laid aside his vocation to undertake this work, and the families undertook to rebuild the walls in front of their own homes.

The Church of Laodicea in the Revelation mirrors what can become the condition of a local church in the last days. Although the condition described indicates a sense of material abundance, more importantly, there is a spiritual sense of abundance that threatens the well-being of God’s people. “We are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing” describes our homes, but far more threateningly our hearts. God says He looks in on His people from outside – a people who see no need for Him in all of their spiritual abundance. The problem is that we see ourselves as being in good spiritual repair when God needs us to be broken. On one hand we freely confess our need for restoration, yet we staunchly resolve that we will not change our behavior. We see ourselves as self-sufficient in what we have built, when God says there are ruins around us and we need to start building once again. We see ourselves as sufficient in our own teaching, when God says we need to get back to His Word and only His Word for how we live our lives.

There is great encouragement for the failing believer to be found in all of the experiences of God’s people. From the earliest writings of Scripture, God laid upon the heart of His servant Job this principle which is laid out for us in the New Testament: “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). To Sarai and Abram, God gives a son named Isaac (laughter), who will all their life remind them of their weakness in laughing at God, but also of God’s bounty in providing a son as He promised them.

When Moses stuttered and stammered at God’s request to use him, God said, “What is that in thine hand?” (Ex 4:2). He reminded Moses that, in spite of his human failure and hesitance, God would take up the things Moses had and use them in His divine power in spite of that failure and hesitance. When Peter, after his denial of the Lord, went fishing, the Lord turned the departure of His impetuous and bruised servant into perhaps the greatest turning point in Peter’s service and also the greatest catch of his career.

In our self-sufficiency and pride, we have lost much of our usefulness for God in the world around us. In Gideon’s day, the keys to victory against insurmountable odds were that the vessels be broken and the light inside shine out. We have this treasure hidden in earthen vessels, but the vessels need to be broken for the light to come out. Christ says, “Give Me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self but to kill it … I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours” (C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity).

If you are feeling the deep lack of spiritual strength and fruit in your life, take heart! Know that you have been brought to this sense by your Father’s grace and providence. You are at a position where all of the greatest usefulness for God begins. If you stay in this position, your life will stagnate; but if you will lay hold on God and tell Him as Jacob told Him, “I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me” (Gen 32:26), He will bless you in ways you cannot conceive. If we will rely on Him, He will work mightily through us. He wants us to stop looking at ourselves and start looking at Him. Thank God for that!