A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot always arrived half full.
The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:
‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologise to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts.’
The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
Thank God, you do not need to be perfect for God to use you. We all want to be useful. We want our lives to count for something. In the passages for today we see the example of three people whose lives God used in a powerful way: Gideon, David and, of course, supremely Jesus. If we want to be used by God, here are twelve keys:
1. Know that you are lovedPsalm 57:7-11
God uses us because he loves us. David says, ‘For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies’ (v.10). This is where it all starts – knowing that you are loved by God.
God is looking for worshippers. David says, ‘My heart is steadfast, O God ... I will sing and make music ... I will praise you, O Lord’ (57:7–9). Our response to the experience of God’s love is to worship him with every gift that we have – not just privately but also in public (v.9) – not just when we feel like it but ‘steadfastly’ – in difficult times as well.
God honours those who honour him. David writes, ‘Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth’ (v.11). This is David’s ultimate desire. It is the same desire that is expressed in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, ‘hallowed be your name’ (Matthew 6:9).
Rather than initiating our own plans and asking God to bless them, we need to try to see what God’s plans are and join in.
Jesus was God: ‘… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (v.18). Yet Jesus was also the obedient Son of his Father. As the Son he said in response to those who wanted to kill him (v.16), ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’ (v.19).
The people of God got themselves into trouble, as we will see in today’s Old Testament passage, because they did not listen to God (Judges 6:10). Jesus says the key to life is to listen to him and believe: ‘I tell you the truth, those who hear my word and believe him who sent me have eternal life and will not be condemned; they have crossed over from death to life’ (John 5:24).
Even Jesus says, ‘I can’t do a solitary thing on my own: I listen, then I decide’ (v.30, MSG).
We cannot earn our salvation by ‘doing good’. However, the evidence of a life of faith is a life of doing good. Jesus himself, we are told, ‘went around doing good’ (Acts 10.38). Jesus says, ‘For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned’ (John 5:28–29).
I find this one of the hardest things to even begin to put into practice. It seems so natural to seek to please myself. Jesus said, ‘I seek not to please myself but him who sent me’ (v.30). To live a life seeking to please God involves a complete U-turn. It is not only a one-off U-turn but it is something that we have to try to put into practice every day. It is not easy!
The people of God were in trouble once again. They had done ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (6:1). As a result they were oppressed (v.2) and
‘reduced to grinding poverty’ (v.6, MSG).
The turning point came for them, as it so often does for us, when they ‘cried out to the Lord for help’ (v.6).
God raised up Gideon and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior’ (v.12). Gideon said to God, ‘But Lord ... How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family’ (v.15). The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you’ (v.16).
Thankfully, God uses cracked pots! Gideon said, ‘How can I save Israel? My clan is theweakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family’ (Judges 6:15). I often feel that God cannot use me because of my weaknesses. But sometimes God works through our weaknesses better than through our strengths.
Personally, I draw great comfort from the words of the apostle Paul: ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me ... For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
Gideon ‘did as the Lord told him’ (Judges 6:27), even though he risked death (v.30). I find that I am often timid in the face of opposition. However, the opposition we face is nothing compared to what Gideon and, certainly, what Jesus faced. As Joyce Meyer says, ‘When fear knocks on your door, let faith answer!’
The secret of Gideon’s power was that ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon [him]’ (v.34). We are not to be self-confident. We are to be God-confident.
God does not need large numbers. In fact he said to Gideon, ‘you have too many men’ (7:2). He does not want the people to think it was their own strength that saved them. He reduced the numbers from 22,000 to 300 (7:1–7).
We do not need large numbers to see a nation transformed but we do need the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are confident in God, he can work through us as he did through Gideon.