It is so important to develop your character so that you can fulfill your potential and live life as the masterpiece God created you to be. There is a great illustration in the Old Testament to help us in this area of developing your character and releasing your potential: “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 as much as they did in Jeremiah’s day. The potter’s wheel has been modernized by technology but the concept of creating a piece of pottery is still the same today and there are three things we can learn about character development from the creative visual God gave Jeremiah.
1. Be Pliable
If you’ve ever watched a potter working clay on a wheel, you’ve seen the importance of pliable clay. In order for the potter to compose the clay into the masterpiece he has in mind, the clay needs to remain supple and able to bend without breaking. The more pliable the clay, the more it responds to every move of the potter’s 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. It’s that the potter as the artist has a masterpiece in mind and is working to shape the clay into that masterpiece, but it has hardened and he’s no longer able to work with it. 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’ll take me 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 within you. Remember, character development is not about God being mean or 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
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 clay would never become the far greater masterpiece it was intended to be.
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 reading His Word, the Bible.
3. Be Grateful
You will 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. How much more, though, will God work with us as His masterpiece when we respond to Him with grateful 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 your limit. You didn’t like it and it may have even 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 develop you so He can continue creating a masterpiece. Paul said you can rejoice when you run into troubles and trials because God is working toward an end result. You choose whether or not to rejoice and be grateful for all God is doing. An ungrateful heart may cause you to miss all that He is doing to develop your character. That would be unfortunate.
Consider the 3 keys from the potter’s lesson, which of these 3 do you need to focus on developing the most in your character today? Prayerfully ask God to guide you and help you to navigate this growth and development.
Resources: This blog post was adapted from my book Life Palette. In this book, I show you how to develop your Life Palette to allow God to paint your life as His masterpiece every day and live your full potential.