I knew a lady who had entered into this life of faith with a great outpouring of the Spirit and a wonderful flood of light and joy. She supposed, of course, this was a preparation for some great service and expected to be put forth immediately into the Lord’s harvest field. Instead of this, almost at once her husband lost all his money, and she was shut up in her own house to attend to all sorts of domestic duties, with no time or strength left for any gospel work at all. She accepted the discipline and yielded herself up as heartily to sweep, dust, bake, and sew as she would have done to preach, pray, or write for the Lord. And the result was that through this very training He made her into a vessel “meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Another lady, who had entered this life of faith under similar circumstances of wondrous blessing, and who also expected to be sent out to do some great work, was shut up with two obstinate invalid nieces to nurse, humor, and amuse all day long. Unlike the first lady, this one did not accept the training, but instead chafed and fretted and finally rebelled, lost all her blessing, and went back into a state of sad coldness and misery. She had understood her part of trusting to begin with, but not understanding the divine process of accomplishing what she had trusted for, she took herself out of the hands of the heavenly Potter, and the vessel was marred on the wheel.
I believe that many a vessel has been similarly marred by a lack of understanding in these things. The maturity of Christian experience cannot be reached in a moment; rather it is the result of the work of God’s Holy Spirit, who, by His energizing and transforming power, causes us to grow up into Christ in all things. We cannot hope to reach this maturity in any other way than by yielding ourselves up utterly and willingly to His mighty working. But the sanctification that the Scriptures urge upon all believers does not consist of maturity of growth, but rather of purity of heart, and this may be equally complete in both the babe in Christ and the veteran believer.
From the moment it comes under the transforming hand of the potter, the lump of clay is, during each day and each hour of the process, just what the potter wants it to be at that hour or on that day, and therefore it pleases him. But it is very far from being matured into the vessel he intends to make it in the future.
The little babe may be all that a babe could be, or ought to be, and may therefore perfectly please its mother. And yet it is very far from being what that mother would wish it to be after some years have passed.
The apple in June is a perfect apple for June. It is the best apple that June can produce. But it is very different from the apple in October, which is a perfected apple.
God’s works are perfect in every stage of their growth. Man’s works are never perfect until they are in every respect complete.
All that we claim then in this life of sanctification is that, by a step of faith, we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord for Him to work in us all the good pleasure of His will and that by a continuous exercise of faith we keep ourselves there. This is our part in the matter. And when we do it, and while we do it, we are, in the Scripture sense, truly pleasing to God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature us into vessels that are in all respects to His honor and fitted to every good work.
Our part is to trust; it is His to accomplish the results. When we do our part, He never fails to do His, for no one ever trusted in the Lord and was confounded. Do not be afraid, then, that if you trust, or tell others to trust, the matter will end there. Trust is only the beginning and the continual foundation; when we trust, the Lord works, and His work is the important part of the whole matter.
This explains the apparent paradox that puzzles so many. They say, “In one breath you tell us to do nothing but trust, and in the next you tell us to do impossible things. How can you reconcile such contradictory statements?” They are to be reconciled just as we reconcile the statements concerning a saw in a carpenter’s shop when we say at one moment that the saw has sawn asunder a log and the next moment declare that the carpenter has done it. The saw is the instrument used, the power that uses it is the carpenter’s.
So we, yielding ourselves unto God, and presenting our limbs as instruments of righteousness unto Him, find that He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure; and we can say with Paul, “I labored … yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). For we are to be His workmanship, not our own. (See Ephesians 2:10.) And in fact, only God, who created us at first, can re-create us, for He alone understands the work of His hands. All efforts of self-creation result in the marring of the vessel, and no soul can ever reach its highest fulfillment except through the working of Him who “works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).
Hannah Whitall Smith