Putty In His Hands
Is the Lord doing some rearranging in your life right now? How do you feel about the reshaping work He is doing? Are you struggling to cooperate with the process? Hopefully, this letter will shed some helpful light on what you may be experiencing.
Let me plant one thought in your mind as we begin: It’s not a sign of weakness to be “putty in the Lord’s hands.” In fact, it’s the best way to follow Jesus successfully.
A Lesson from the Potter’s House
The 18th chapter of Jeremiah is a profound section of Scripture, and it begins with the Lord directing Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house, “and there I will give you My message” (18:2, niv). When he arrived, Jeremiah saw the potter working with a lump of clay on his wheel. “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
As I have reflected upon this passage, two very encouraging conclusions have arisen as I have considered our role as clay in the Potter’s hands. First is the recognition that sometimes we become marred; but there is no better place for our flaws to emerge than in the hands of a Potter who can fix us. Second, the Potter doesn’t discard the flawed clay; He keeps working on us, patiently reshaping us into the vessel He desires.
There is, however, one cautionary note. Our cooperation with the reshaping process makes all the difference. A pliable response allows the Potter to use us. But a stubborn response on our part is a deal killer. We must remain pliable in His hands.
The Danger of Hardness
This passage from Jeremiah challenges us individually; but its application is corporate and national as well. We see in verses 5 through 12 that if a nation God has targeted for destruction repents and softens itself, the Lord will relent from His plans to uproot it. By the same token, if a nation marked for blessing and establishment hardens itself against the Lord, that response will prompt Him to change His mind about blessing it. These are sobering words for nations—and for us as well. The far better of the two choices is to be “putty in His hands.”
The Lord warns Jeremiah in advance, however, about the unfortunate response he can expect to receive from the people hearing God’s message. “But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” For some unknown reason, they would be unable to get rid of their stubbornness, refusing to tenderize their hearts toward the Lord and His purposes.
“If You Hear His Voice”
Similar sobering words appear in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. Three times in close proximity, the writer of Hebrews warns his readers (in 3:7–8, 3:15 and 4:7) using the command found in Psalm 95:7–8: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts….”
Here’s an encouraging thought that has come to me about this command. If we, because of our stubbornness, can willfully harden our hearts against the Lord, then the opposite is true as well. We, by way of humility, can intentionally soften our hearts to the Lord and to His plans for us. Our response makes all the difference. But it requires giving up our own plans and our natural tendency toward stubbornness.
We see from Jeremiah 18 that if we actively soften ourselves and tenderize our hearts, the Lord will hold us in His great hands without discarding us. If our hearts become soft, He will continue to work with us, kneading out the flaws and shaping us into the people He has destined us to be. Doesn’t it make sense, then, for “putty in His hands” to become our objective?
That phrase, “putty in His hands,” is usually regarded by society as a negative trait. It conjures up a picture of some weak person who is spineless and easily manipulated. But in a spiritual context, being pliable in the hands of the One who created us is a totally different matter. Making ourselves soft and pliable in His redemptive hands is a good choice. In fact, it’s the best choice.
The Softening Effect
I first met Derek Prince in 1971 when he was 56 years old. In some ways, he seemed fairly rigid at the time. Over the next three decades, however, I watched and listened in amazement as he became progressively more tender toward the Lord. It seemed that the older he grew, the more pliable he became in the Lord’s hands.
Derek’s example is one I am striving to follow. How about you? Do you have that same desire for increasing tenderness and pliability? Maybe the following teaching segment from Derek’s own words will inspire us regarding that objective.
One summer, I was in Israel with a group of people and we went to the potter’s house. They have one in Hebron. We watched him working with the moist clay and fashioning vessels on the wheel. Jeremiah 18 again became very vivid to me. I observed that whatever shape he wanted to produce in the vessel, he did it by pressure. Wherever he wanted the shape changed, he applied the pressure of the wheel.
Then I observed that the Lord said, “This is how I’m dealing with the house of Israel.” And being in Israel at that particular point and knowing the country fairly well, I saw that that is exactly how God has been dealing with Israel since the nation came into being again in 1948. He’s been shaping and molding them by pressure, making them what He wants them to be. The pressure is just like the potter’s wheel spinning around, and he presses the vessel against the wheel where he wants to change the shape of the vessel.
I realized how similar this is to our experience. When God wants to shape us and change us and mold us, what does He use? Pressure. We want to say, “God, I can’t stand the pressure any longer.” But He says, “I’m doing it all to make you, not the way you want to be, but the way I want you to be.”
That, I believe, is something all of us who are in the Lord’s hand will experience in the days that lie ahead. The pressures are going to grow more intense and more unexpected. The wheel is going to spin faster and faster. But as long as we stay in His hand and remain pliable, we’ll come out the kind of vessel that He wants us to be.
Yielding to the Potter
Challenging, isn’t it? Sometimes I’m tempted to echo the response of the people of Judah in Jeremiah 18:12: “It’s no use!” Maybe you feel the same way on occasion. If so, you may want to join me in going to the Lord, voicing a desire to be “putty in His hands.” Will you pray the following prayer with me?
Dear Lord, I will start with a confession. Often, when You have applied Your divine pressure to shape me, I have resisted. Many times, when You have nudged me in a new direction, I have chosen my own plans over Yours, insisting upon my own stubborn way. Please forgive me for all of those times of resistance to You.
In this moment, by faith, trusting in Your ability to help me, I take a step toward You. Here is my heart, Lord, harder and lumpier than I would like it to be. I humbly present it to You, taking a deliberate step to tenderize myself by giving up my own stubborn way.
Lord, I want my heart to be “putty in Your hands.” Oh, Master Potter, please continue to work the clay of my life, forming it as You wish. Mold me, shape me and reconstruct me—making me into the vessel You desire me to be. I yield myself fully to You, thanking You in advance for Your redemptive and creative work in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Even now, you may sense some changes stirring. In response to your prayer, the Potter has already begun the process of reshaping you into the person He desires.
We want to add some confirming teaching to the process you have begun. Won’t you make sure to download the full audio message from which Derek’s excerpt was taken? As you might expect, it’s a comprehensive teaching that covers this topic and more, entitled, “His Body and His Workmanship.” We want you to have it for your very own, free of charge. May it encourage you greatly as you apply its principles.
One of the amazing aspects of the Lord’s shaping of our lives is that He makes us vessels that fit well together. In that regard, it is our privilege to be connected with you in the work of Derek Prince Ministries. The way that you have come alongside us with your prayers and financial support has been a tremendous encouragement to us. Thank you for your strong partnership with us as we join together in serving our Lord Jesus.
Now it’s time for us to move forward with the reshaping process. Together, we have taken a dynamic step, making it our aim to be “putty in His hands.” May that process continue in our lives forever!