| C H A R A C T E R F O R M A T I O N |
A few weeks ago at my church we started a new sermon series on “Spiritual Growth”, and I must admit that it didn’t excite me at first because how many times have we heard that we need to continue to grow spiritually? I’ve heard that in some variation for a number of years, but how do you actually grow spiritually? There’s no specific rule or formula like A + B = SPIRITUAL GROWTH because then we’d all be in the same place spiritually. But one aspect that my pastor spoke on was about our character, specifically how it is formed and who forms it.
At a prayer meeting this week, we were praying about going through the process of allowing God to shape our character, and God showed me a vision of a potter with a mound of clay, who was in the process of shaping it and smoothing out the rough surface. Of course my mind immediately went to Jeremiah 18:
So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.Jeremiah 18: 3-4 ESV
But then I was reminded of my own experience sitting at a wheel, overlooking a mound of clay, with a specific vision of what it would become. But I had to prepare the clay in order to work with it and have success. I had to start out with the basics – adding water so it was easier to work with and wouldn’t dry out, getting comfortable with the speed of the wheel turning, and finding the appropriate pressure to use on the clay. Before I could think about making a bowl, I had to start with the basics and prepare the clay I was working with.
Before God can use us in the way that he intends to, he first has to start with the basics, and one of the basics is our character.
Character formation is a process, a process that cannot be rushed or overlooked. A potter cannot skip the step of preparing the clay because when it goes into the kiln the cracks within the clay will be exposed, and the cracks that are deep and below the surface will cause the clay to explode once it goes into the kiln. Permanently ruining the intended shape formed by the potter. When we try to rush the process of God building our character and we go through the fire, the cracks that weren’t dealt with become exposed causing unintended harm to us.
A few years ago I went through the process of God preparing myself as a mound of clay, so he could begin to mold me into his intended image. It wasn’t easy by any means of the imagination, because when I thought it was over and I was refined, and I said “God, use me!” A crack would be exposed; and the hand of God would again go through the process of filing that crack and pouring water over me so I wouldn’t be tough and dry. It was a process that would repeat, but the repetition produced a vessel that has been able to sustain the heat of the kiln.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5: 3-5 ESV