God is absolutely sovereign over every single event that takes place in the world, and more personally, in our lives. How do you respond to God’s providences in your life that are painful and trying?
The pottery collapses on the wheel. And we look at that and we see the Potter. It’s collapsed on the wheel. And you look at Him and He shapes it back up, and you say, wow, what a merciful Potter that is! You know, that clay owes everything to that Potter. Reshaping it, getting the wheel going again, getting it turning. Putting in some water. Trying to get His hand in the groove to make the pottery. He didn’t have to do that, did He? It collapses on the wheel again. And He does it again. Well, there comes a point – and He’s desiring to do that – but there comes a point where He says enough – as we’ve already seen – with the clay, and He removes it from the wheel. It doesn’t rise to the level of a decree saying I’m going to make sure that that clay stays on the wheel. He’s owed the clay nothing to stay on the wheel. He’s been gracious to salvage it in the first place after the first collapse. He’s been salvaging that thing 150 times. Or in your case, how old are you? He’s been salvaging it how many years? And you think you’re owed more years of salvaging from King Jesus? He doesn’t owe you anything. While He desires for you to stay on the wheel and be the pottery you should be, He’s not under any mandate or any “law of pottery” as if He’s in submission to some law outside of Himself of pottery that He has to adhere to to make you stay on the wheel so that you become the pottery of some guy next door who was on the wheel and He made into a vessel of mercy and He puts His mercies inside of him. Now let me tell you something, that view of God is going to cause people some problems. And you can always tell the people that it causes the problems to because like in the talents when he gives this person five talents and he goes and he makes five more, or he gives this person two talents and he goes and makes two more, he’s always going to give somebody one talent and what are they going to do with it? They’re going to go bury it. And you know what their excuse is going to be? It won’t be the talent. It won’t be: well, it was just too big to get to the market. Or: I’ve got a bad back. I couldn’t really carry the thing. That’s not going to be it. It’s the owner of the talent. The servant has a problem with the master. You’ll have a problem with God. I knew you to be a hard and exacting man reaping where you didn’t sow, winnowing where you didn’t plant. And so I went and hid it in the ground. What’s the result? Hiding it in the ground. And so people’s view of God in His sovereignty and in His salvaging operations are going to cause those vessels of mercy to invest, and those vessels of wrath to grumble and complain and pass judgment on God like it says in Romans 9 Paul says you should never do. It’s one thing to be angry and give your anger to God. It’s never right to be angry at God. And in a crowd this size, I’m sure there’s somebody who has in some way, shape, form in the back of their heart, some form of bitterness toward God because God came in and messed up your comfort zone in some way, shape, form. Took something from you that you thought you had a right to, to continue on; maybe took somebody from your life. And now your life is difficult and you define difficulty in terms of: my comfort zone used to be bigger than this and it shrunk. That’s not fair. See, “I know You to be a hard and exacting God.” How come I can’t have a comfort zone like that guy? How come I can’t have health like that guy? How come I got cancer? Why me? And all of a sudden, you’re burying something, not because: well, I’ve got the kids and I can’t come to church because of this, or I’m trying to pray because of that. Those are all excuses of something more to the heart of the matter: I don’t like the way He salvages me. Well, maybe He’s doing one of those decree things, what He doesn’t desire. You throw it back on God and His decrees. Maybe He’s desiring something and not decreeing something that should be in me. It kind of goes back to Him, right? No, it doesn’t. Vessels of mercy are vessels of mercy for a reason. They are containers of the mercies of God. And when you hold and you contain in you as a vessel the mercies of God, you’re humbled. We’re just unprofitable slaves doing what we’re told. When God gets a hold of a man and saves him, or God gets a hold of you and takes something from you, what’s really being tested at that moment is: am I a good God? Or am I hard and exacting? We talked about this at the retreat. When God tests your faith He’s testing your relationship to Him and your attitude toward the providences in your life. Because when He takes something out of your life or He puts something in that you don’t want, what’s really being tried and tested at that point is that. Does He really love me? And that’s why Christian encouragement – true Christian encouragement – is talking about that. When you’re encouraging someone who’s down, you’re encouraging somebody who’s going through a lot of pain, one of the first questions I’ll ask them is just that. I’ll ask them: Let me ask you something. Why did God do that? I’ll go straight to the heart of the sovereignty of God as the sovereign rights of a Potter. Why did God give you cancer? Why do you think? “Well, I don’t know. I don’t want it, but I don’t know.” Yeah, you know. You should know. “Well, it must be sin in my life.” Well, it could be, but you know from the sovereign rights of the Potter why anything happens to your life. And you have to be prepared with that question and that answer: He’s a loving, kind Heavenly Father. He never makes a mistake. I can tell you, because in , we got flooded. And if you don’t have the preparation with that question now to know that He has the sovereign right to do that, and that on the contingency plan as a Salvager, He salvages me with my responses, He is looking and He’s waiting conditionally for that response. Well, does that mean it originates with my ability to do it? No. It just means though He’s not going to move forward until you do. And yeah, He put that in your life. He sovereignly gave you that. And the response you give to that is going to show whether you’re the real deal. See, you’ve been praying for assurance of salvation and here it comes. You want assurance of salvation? Here come the trial. Here comes the testing of the faith. And the righteous are going to rise up and shine like the stars. That’s what you want, right? Okay. I’ve got you on the assurance plan. Got him down. Check the boxes. Assurance plan. He goes through the trials. Well, I didn’t ask for trials. I asked for assurance. Well, this is how it works. Proven character produces hope. Romans 5. But it’s perseverance that produces proven character – perseverance. And tribulation produces the perseverance. So He’s going to put you on the wheels. We have a little saying sometimes in our church. How’s it going? I’ve been on the wheel. God’s been putting me on the wheel. And He’s using little sculpturing tools. All the clay’s going off and things of that sort. But think about it. When you’re on the wheel, He’s got His hands on you the closest. And that’s encouraging. Because what’s He doing? He’s salvaging you. And the response you’re going to give is going to show that He’s not a hard and exacting God. He’s what? He’s a loving, kind Heavenly Father Who knows that if I don’t change and I don’t become more like Christ, I’m none of His. And it’s going to come through trials. That’s how He salvages His own. This excerpt is from the sermon: The Salvaging Response and Sovereign Rights of God.