As humans, we have hopes, dreams, and plans—and often wish that Jesus would make them all come true. With our limited, earthly perspective, however, we don’t sense the bigger picture of Jesus’ vision for our lives. When he says no to what we have in mind, it just might be because he has a much greater ambitions in mind.
Every single person who’s ever seriously followed Jesus was never the same afterward. Their lives didn’t always fit our surface definitions of “happiness,” but every one of them would’ve told you it was worth it. The same goes for us. If you follow Jesus, beware: Your life will never be the same!
The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both call God a potter. That makes people—God’s creation, made in his image—the clay. Check out these verses:
And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8
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. Jeremiah 18:1-4
If you’ve never watched a potter at work, look up some YouTube videos, or this one that has a pastor preaching about being formed by the “potter’s hands.” The process is fascinating—as well as time-consuming and probably frustrating at first. Plus, it’s extremely messy. Often, a potter must start over, reshaping and re-forming the artwork so it’s beautiful at the end.
That image contains many parallels for Christians. In the Jeremiah passage, the potter takes the marred clay and reuses it to make a better pot. In the same way, God can remake us. He takes the messes in our lives and uses that stuff to make something beautiful.
In our earthly lives, followers of Jesus will always be a work in progress. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 refers to us as God’s workmanship or masterpiece. The reason he created us, it adds, is to “do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
God’s visions for our lives was in place before we were born, and he promises to work the ugly stuff of our lives into something truly beautiful. Even when we can’t see how the Potter is working or what exactly he’s doing, we can be confident that he’s working the “wheel.”
Before performing his first miracle, at a wedding in Cana (see John 2:1-11), Jesus gives an interesting response to his mother, Mary. When she informs him the wine has run out, Jesus says, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. … My time has not yet come” (verse 4).
Jesus is in a pickle. Clearly he has a specific plan about how he wants to start the most important mission in history. And his mom is asking him to drop it. But here’s the crazy thing: Jesus honors his mom’s wishes! He’s flexible. God can work out his plan for us despite our diversions, agendas, and mistakes.
Also notice that Jesus uses jugs of water, the “raw material” that’s available to him, to work his miracle. (Check out how many “bottles” of wine he provided for the party here). In the same way, he takes what we have—weaknesses and all—and re-purposes it to fit his calling on our lives. And he never holds back; instead, he offers us the very best.
In Luke 5, Jesus takes Simon into deep water and offers some unexpected fishing advice. It’s understandable that Simon doesn’t trust Jesus at first; as far as Peter knew, Jesus was only a rabbi. What Simon didn’t know was that Jesus not only invented fishing, but he invented fish!
There’s nothing we’ll go through in life that Jesus doesn’t know everything about. He invites us to share all our needs with him, because he can help us.
When the boats of Simon and his partners were on the verge of sinking because they were so full of fish, Simon suddenly fell to his knees, decrying his sinfulness. But Jesus reveals that forgiveness, fearlessness, and people-fishing are part of his bigger plan for Simon and the disciples. By following the Savior, they became crucial contributors to God’s plan for his kingdom—and so can we.
In the Old Testament story of Ruth, an outsider becomes part of God’s plan. Ruth was from a pagan nation with a different culture and different religion. During this period of history, Moab was considered an enemy of God’s people (Judges 3:28). Yet this woman from Moab commits her life to God and becomes part of his people.
The “happily ever after” in Ruth’s story isn’t just her marriage; it’s the implication of the lineage. Ruth, an ethnic “outsider,” becomes part of the family tree of David, Israel’s great king. Ruth is also specifically mentioned in the family tree of Jesus himself (see Matthew 1:5).
One essential characteristic of God that we see in Ruth is God’s love for the whole world. God’s plan of salvation is global. It’s not just for the Jews; it’s for all nations and all ethnic groups. Jesus, who had both Jews and non-Jews in his ancestry, came to earth to reveal God’s love and truth to all people.