Since character is so important for our Life Palette, what are some choices we can make to help God develop His character in us? In the Old Testament, God gave Jeremiah a great illustration from the art world so Israel could learn about character development, one we can still learn from today. “The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, ‘Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.’ So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the LORD gave me this message: ‘O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.’” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
Artists today still throw clay on a wheel much as they did in Jeremiah’s day. The potter’s wheel has been modernized by technology; I would choose today’s motorized wheel any day over one I would have to kick to turn. But the concept of creating a piece of pottery is still the same. There are three things we can learn about character development from this creative visual God gave Jeremiah.
1. Be pliable with your character
If you’ve ever watched a potter working clay on a wheel, you understand the importance of pliable clay. In order for the potter to make and mold, or compose, the clay into the masterpiece he has in mind the clay must remain supple-able to bend without breaking. The more pliable the clay, the more it responds to every move of the potters hand, to every touch of his fingers as he creates and designs. As the clay hardens and becomes less pliable, the potter has to work with greater force and effort.
The picture of the potter crushing the clay to start over is significant. It’s not that the potter is angry or venting his frustrations on the clay. Rather, the potter has a masterpiece in mind and is working to shape the clay into that masterpiece, but the hardened clay no longer responds to the potter. The more pliable we remain, the more God can shape our character.
We can so easily get set in our ways, especially as we grow older and become more accustomed to the routine of daily life. Yet when you see what God is doing in the lives of your friends or someone at church, ask yourself how you would respond if God wanted to work in your life that same way. If you respond, “No way!” or “That’s way out of my comfort zone,” you may need to ask Him to help you be pliable. There may be a lot He wants to develop in your character, but you are hardening your heart to His work in you. Remember, character development is not about God being mean, cruelly wanting to see how much you can endure. In truth, He already knows how much you can endure. It’s all about Him needing you to see what you are made of.
2. Be receptive with your character
The potter starts over because the molding of the clay did not turn out right the first time. Imagine the clay then saying, “Uh-uh. I may not be the masterpiece you created me to be, but I’m good enough as is. Just leave me alone.” The disaster is the clay was designed to be something far greater than it would ever become.
Most of us live our lives far beneath the privilege God has for us because we are not receptive to how He is working to develop our character. We live as forgeries, cheap imitations, and often whine and complain to Him about it. To remain receptive, we must tune into what God is doing in our lives each day, and stay in constant communication with Him through prayer and the reading of His Word, the Bible.
3. Be grateful with your character
You will also never hear a piece of pottery verbally speak to the artist after it has been completed and say “thank you.” The pottery has no choice but to reflect the handiwork of the artist and therefore reflect it, so to speak, with gratefulness. We have a choice. We can live our entire lives with ingratitude to the artist of our lives. But how much more God can work with us as His masterpiece when we respond to Him with thankful hearts.
Gratefulness is a trust issue. Do you really believe God is working on your character to create a masterpiece? If you’ve ever played sports, you’ve probably had the experience of a coach pushing you beyond what you considered to be your limit. You didn’t like it and it may even have made you mad. Yet as your skill reached new heights, you were appreciative for the coach seeing something in you that you couldn’t see in yourself.
God sees more in you than you could possibly see in yourself—and He is working to perfect you so He can continue developing a masterpiece. Implement these three keys today and allow God to develop your character as a part of the composition of your life.
(Adapted from my book Life Palette, Chapter 5, Good, Bad And Ugly)