Theology 101

God Still Uses Cracked Pots

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Have you ever had an employee who wasn’t fully competent, had a bad attitude, made big mistakes, and didn’t make much of an effort to communicate with you on a regular basis to ask for help or guidance? I know I have. I had to really trust God in those moments.

My purpose is not to discuss how to work with incompetent people. The people I want to discuss are you and me. We are not fully competent, have negative attitudes, make big mistakes, and don’t make time to pray and read God’s word.

And yet, by his mercy and grace, God chooses to use us as his coworkers. In spite of our fallen nature, God works with, in, and through us to love others and meet the wide spectrum of human needs. This happens continually, wherever he has placed us.

I believe that many Christians do not experience God’s presence at work because they feel unworthy. I invite you to explore with me some timeless truths from God’s word that will help to answer the following questions:

Why does God work with imperfect people?

How does he do it?

Is there anything we can do to help?

We Are God’s Coworkers

Before I answer these questions, allow me to first summarize the idea that we are God’s coworkers, reflect on a key verse, and offer some examples where God used imperfect humans to do great things for his kingdom.

The concept that we were created to be God’s coworkers to rule over and care for creation is found in Genesis 1:28 and 2:15The Theology of Work Bible Commentary (TOWBC) states, “God worked to create us and created us to work. . . God brought into being a flawless creation, an ideal platform, and then created humanity to continue the creation project.” God made us to continue his work to expand and sustain the creation.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, the Apostle Paul lays out a picture of what we have in Christ. He calls it a treasure. In context, it is the precious gift of understanding and being able to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

Paul writes that this valuable knowledge/skill/calling is packaged in what he calls “earthen vessels” (NASB). Other translations refer to this human body of ours as “earthen vessels [of human frailty]” (AMP), “common clay pots” (GNT), “jars of clay” (NIV), and “cracked pots made of earth and clay” (The Voice). I prefer the last one.

Examples of Imperfect Coworkers

Before I explain why, allow me to list several imperfect coworkers whom God used, despite their many human weaknesses.

Moses had doubts about his ability to be used as God’s spokesman. Perhaps it was a speech impediment. Maybe he lacked confidence. He asked God, “Who am I that I should go?” God said, “I will be with you.” His response implied, “It doesn’t matter who you are; all that matters is who I AM” (Ex. 3:10-14).

Peter denied Jesus three times, yet Jesus chose him to lead the early church in Jerusalem. Paul had a thorn in his side to keep him humble and dependent on God. Other less than perfect believers include Abraham (a liar), Sarah (impatient), Jacob (deceiver), Jonah (disobedient), David (adulterer and murderer), and Thomas (doubter). If God used these cracked pots, I know that he will use you and I also.

Why Does God Work with Imperfect People?

The simple answer is that there are no perfect workers. We are all sinners saved by grace. Although Christians are justified (declared righteous) by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are not righteous in practice. This requires sanctification, which is a lifelong process. It is more about direction than perfection.

Regarding our justification, we read in Romans 8:1 that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because our sins are taken out of the way at the moment of salvation, we are loved by God. This love never ends (Rom. 8:38-39). Jesus said that “No one will snatch them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28). As the hymn “Amazing Grace” declares, “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” This new status is irreversible.

Regarding our sanctification, the Apostle Paul wrote that as a result of our personal relationship with Jesus, he begins to perfect us through the Holy Spirit until we die, or he returns. He wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

How Does God Use Imperfect People?

Let’s take a closer look at King David. We know that he was far from perfect. He was not a good man, and yet he was called by the Lord “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). God used him to write much of the Psalms.

After committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, he was confronted by Nathan the prophet. David sincerely confessed his sin (Ps. 51:1-10). He knew that he had sinned against God himself. He wanted a pure heart. Later, in Psalm 103:11-12, David rejoiced in the blessedness of forgiven sin. After David’s fellowship with God was restored, he was able to pursue what God had called him to do.

We read in 2 Timothy 2:21 that those who cleanse themselves from wickedness will be useful to the Master. That is what I want to be. I learned as a young Christian college student through the campus ministry I was involved in to keep short accounts with God.

The concept was called “spiritual breathing.” Once I was made aware of my sin (usually through the conviction of the Holy Spirit), I would exhale, which is the confession part (see 1 Jn. 1:9). Next, I would pray that God would fill me once again with his Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), which was the inhaling part. After decades of practice, I still do this often.

Is There Anything We Can Do?

So, if God uses me to serve others even when I struggle with sin, does that mean I should continue to sin? The Apostle Paul shouts, “May it never be!” (Rom. 6:1-2). Just because God chooses to work through imperfect people by his mercy and grace doesn’t mean that we should do nothing to try to improve the situation.

We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13). When we seek him through Bible study and prayer, we grow in grace. Even though we will never be sinless in this life, over time, we will sin less. Our sanctification is both passive and active. God works in us, and we work it out.

Here are some additional actions we can take to be able to do that:

  • Ephesians 6:10-17– Put on the armor of God to be able to stand against temptation
  • 2 Timothy 2:22– Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness with other Christians
  • Hebrews 12:1-2– Get rid of the sins that can trip us; fix our eyes on Jesus to help us.

Final Thoughts

Let me circle back to 2 Corinthians 4:7, where we discussed our humble status as cracked pots. One of God’s purposes in using us despite our being incompetent is that whenever we see positive results from the work we do, we know it was all from God. We can’t take the credit. He gets all the glory.

Looking at it another way, when we consistently abide in Jesus as the vine and bear the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22-23) wherever we have been planted, God the Father – the gardener – gets the glory as well (Jn. 15:1-5).

A good employer is patient with his incompetent employees, especially when they are making an effort and are an asset, not a liability. I would say that God is more than patient with us when we fail, have bad attitudes, make mistakes, and neglect seeking him in his word and prayer to ask for guidance. However, let us not take his patience and mercy for granted, but strive to work for his glory.

(Note: I encourage you to read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He served as a kitchen worker in a monastery and experienced God’s presence daily. This book inspired me as a young Christian. It set the tone for how I experience God’s presence no matter where I am or what I am doing.)

Editor’s note: This article was republished from the author’s blog with permission.

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