The Potter and the Clay :: By Sean Gooding

Romans 9: 14-21

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?'”

This has been a troubling week for the whole world. We have the introduction of mandatory vaccines for many Government employees. We had the Premier of Ontario, the equivalent of a Governor in the US, fire one of the elected Ministers because he and his wife decided not to take the vaccine for personal reasons. The Premier had spoken of personal freedoms just a week or so ago, but it obviously did not apply to this dear man. He still has his job, just not the political part, and he will not be allowed to rejoin the party without a vaccine.

The city of Toronto has mandated that all employees must be vaccinated by October 31st this year. There is great division among us about these vaccines. One side is totally about safety – we must do all we can to be safe. The other is about freedom, and we have seen through the history of mankind that when one trades freedom for safety, you lose both. I saw today that some restaurants in NY will require proof of at least one vaccine shot to be able to eat there or at least eat inside. The irony of this is that one can cross into the US from Mexico without any proof of vaccination even with COVID and still be allowed to stay.

But no event of this past week has had more impact on me like the events in Afghanistan. Why, you ask? I have been following the plight of the many Christians that live there now. They got to experience freedom for a short time, to live out their faith in Jesus, and the churches there grew. In July of this year, many Christians came out from the darkness and stood for Jesus publicly; they registered themselves with the Government as Christians. One man that I read said he did not want his children and grandchildren to live in fear and in the shadows. So, under the freedoms that they had under the US military and government, they stood up for our Lord and declared publicly that they were Christians. Little did they know the betrayal that was coming.

As we now know, the Biden administration abandoned the people in Afghanistan. They have left or are leaving, and the Christians there now find themselves in a dire situation. Some have already been killed; others know that death is imminent still; others are more concerned for their children, especially virgin young girls who will be taken to be Taliban’ wives.’ What a horrible situation! I cannot imagine what I would do if I knew someone was coming for my almost 9-year-old daughter to take her to be a sex slave. It is harrowing.

And, so I have a confession to make. I made this confession to our church folks on Tuesday evening during our Bible study. I began to have some soul-searching questions, the kind that makes you wonder about your own faith. Maybe you have had some of the same questions, maybe not, and your faith is as solid as a rock. Praise the Lord if it is.

Here are a few questions I had: Why would God allow these brothers to come out and be open since He knew the plight that was coming their way. God knew the US would abandon them and that they and their families would die, yet He allowed them to register publicly. Why would God allow the Christians in Afghanistan to suffer as they are? Why allow Christians to suffer at all? I know many faithful brothers and sisters that suffer from various diseases, from cancer to heart issues, from depression to migraines; why let them suffer? He is God and able in one thought to take it all away.

There are many other questions that came to my mind, and maybe you have had some as well. I had some other questions like: When do the crooks start getting arrested and tried? When do we see the treasonous leaders begin to get arrested? Man, they even seem to live longer the eviler they are; it just shook me!

In a recent video by Martyn Iles, he responded to some of the ‘celebrity’ Christians who had abandoned the faith in the past few years. From authors to musicians and even pastors, many of them had the same questions about suffering, and, of course, many no longer believed that a loving God could create and actually use Hell. And so, they left. They turned their backs on God, and I am sure many of their fans left with them. I love how God made sure that I saw that video as I was asking these questions. I had watched countless videos by Martyn Iles, but I had never seen that one.

And then, as I was preparing for Tuesday night’s Bible study, I came across an interview with an Afghani Christian, one of the pastors. And when asked about the situation, he showed no regrets about going public with his faith. Rather, he understood the Sovereignty of God, and he pointed to our passage today from Romans. God is Sovereign, and He has the right to allow His people to suffer if that is what brings Him the glory and what moves the plan further and further to the end that He has told us is coming. This dear brother understood that God had the right as He is the potter, and we are the clay. God can do with us as He pleases; we are bought with a price. We are the redeemed; we are no longer our own.

I do not know if this man and his family are still alive, but if not, he went to the grave faithfully serving the Lord, and he trusted that God was greater than the circumstances he found himself in. Man, what a convicting interview and a harrowing challenge to me as to how I have conducted myself in the past 18 months! These people never stopped assembling, never stopped openly serving the Lord, and died free rather than live in fear. And they were at times afraid, I am sure. I prayed a lot for our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. I prayed that God would comfort them, that He would not let them suffer in dying, and that He would let their deaths leave an impression like Stephen’s did in Acts 7, an impression that helped change the life of one Saul of Tarsus.

As I thought about this writing, the words of Asaph, one of David’s chief musicians, came to mind. In Psalm 73, he laments the good fortune of the wicked, and as he observed them, it shook him that they had no fear, no wants. They seemed to have the best lives ever, and it almost caused him to turn his back on the faith until he saw their end:

Psalm 73:16-19When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.”

These people who attack our brothers and sisters will one day face our God. These politicians and others that we know are corrupt, who defy the laws and attempt to change the laws of God, and make themselves to be gods will one day face the true God. Unless they repent like Saul of Tarsus, they will go to Hell. They will suffer for eternity, and they will NOT get away with the evils they have done. God knows all; yes, even the God they deny exists.

But what about you and me? How will our/my time go before the judgment? We who are saved will not be going to Hell; we have that security in Jesus. But we will be answering to the Lord as to how we lived, in fear or for Him. I see our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan living out their faith in the midst of real danger, and I see us cowering in the midst of perceived danger. Yes, some are dying with COVID but not as many as they want you to believe. The CDC in the US makes that clear. The vast majority of those that died had other diseases, and many were in hospice care already and dying. But this has been a tool to challenge our freedoms, and we/I have failed.

Listening to the Afghani Christians made me realize how we/I take freedom for granted. I recently read part of an interview from the documentary on the Hungarian Jews from the Hitler era. They were asked how was it that they didn’t do something? They answered, ‘We didn’t run away; we didn’t hide. Well, things didn’t happen at once. Things happened very slowly. So, each time a new law came out or a new restriction, we said, well, just another thing. It will blow over.’ It did not, and soon… well, we know the end.

The questions have been answered. God is in control, and I am not sure what will happen here in Canada. God is Sovereign, and I pray that should we be called upon to die for His name and glory, I will have His comfort to get through it. But what if, instead of dying, we have to suffer; lose my job, my home, and see my family hurt. I pray that God will grant me the grace to suffer without regrets and still lead my family to honor Him no matter what. While I appreciate the technology that allows us to ‘gather’ virtually – and I can see the need for the very ill, maybe the elderly and the shut-ins – too many have used the excuse not to gather. And we have seen the demise of the faith of many, and worse, their children. Lord forgive us.

It is okay to have questions; many great servants of the Lord did and do. But seek the right answers. Do not use human reasoning and knowledge to find the answers. Seek the Word of God; read Psalm 73, read all of Job, read the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, and read the life of Jesus in the Gospels. Suffering is actually a part of the Christian’s walk for the vast part of the history of the New Testament church. When that could not stop us, they used accommodations and comforts. These two are now being taken away, and being a Christian is becoming uncomfortable for many of us. We are asking if it is worth the discomfort. I pray you will seek God’s face and find the answers. But as for me and my house, as God gives me grace and strength, we will serve the Lord. He is the Potter and I/we the clay.

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

P.S. I will be away on vacation next week, and there won’t be any Bible study sent out.

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