By David Stahl

            Salvation does not exempt us from the everyday problems of life nor does it prepare us for ministry and service unto the LORD.  I remember when the LORD was drawing me in greater ways I would pray why not me Lord.  Well this went on for some time and  I think it was after I got back from spending 55 days (roughing it) at a Joint Task Force Headquarters (as the Deputy Surgeon) in Haiti with the US Army in Port-a-Prince the LORD spoke to me, “you are not ready yet.”  I was shocked! What I am saved come on LORD get your magic wand out and make me ready, well my friend God does not operate  like that. The LORD expects us to ready ourselves in obedience (our choice) as he works in our lives. Those who are fully committed to the LORD often find themselves entangled in on-going difficulties.  Finally a release comes, only to find that another pressure has taken the place of the one that was resolved.  Job had it right when he said, Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  (Job 5:7)  “Sparks fly upward” all the days of our lives, up to where the LORD resides.  And why?  Because we are on the grinding wheel of the LORD to grind and hone off the rough edges of our character and nature. Funny how the Scripture uses the wheel  symbolically to represent our lives.  We all (as Christians) are on the potter’s wheel and as the wheel goes around the LORD crushes, molds, and breaks us as He makes us into a vessel of honor or dishonor.  Paul tells us in Romans,  “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”  (Romans 9:21)  We as the clay have no say in God’s finished product, the LORD and He alone fashions us as He sees fit for the Masters use.  The harder the master squeezes the more He works it the life of the finished product and of course that which comes with the squeezing is the difficulties the clay experiences, but  there is a reason for these difficulties.  Therefore we should view them as servants placed in our circumstances to accomplish a higher purpose. Only as we refuse to allow these seemingly unending pressures and difficulties to hinder us and instead rise above or overcome them will we be able to successfully become the vessel The LORD has created us for.  One thing for sure the longer we stay on the wheel (our choice) the more the LORD can work on us. But how can we refuse to allow these unending pressures and difficulties  to hinder us? This is accomplished as we respond appropriately to the circumstances, testings, and disciplines of obedience that we face, and recognize them as the means to prepare us.  Therefore it is important that we respond in heart obedience looking to the LORD for a way through these difficult times.  As we respond correctly we must remember a few things, one is clay never talks back to the potter. 

All clay gets to do is go around and around on the wheel of life as the potter fashioned it.  In life there are few things we are really in control of.  The only thing we are in control  of is our attitude and how we act in troubles and difficulties  will determine how long we get worked over by the LORD. Victor Frankl (a holocaust survivor)  said,  “Everything can be taken from us but one thing the last of the human freedoms to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.” I can think of no person in the Bible other than Joseph who experienced Frankl’s words in depth.  Did you know Joseph’s life can be explained in five “P” words?  The first word is “Plenty.”  Joseph was raised in a world of plenty, loved and favored by his father.  He had a coat of many colors his father gave him. God even spoke to him in dreams what a wonderful life, but at the tender age of 17 Joseph’s brothers threw him into the second word, the “Pit.” God loved Joseph so much and the word He spoke to him in his dreams He put Joseph in a pit for safe keeping.  But the LORD did not leave Joesph there oh no because the LORD loved Joseph He had his brothers sell him into slavery.  I think Joseph learned something while he was in the pit because, “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  (Genesis 39:2) Now you have to get this image in your mind to really appreciate the LORD’s way of seeing things.  Here is a young boy standing naked on a slave block waiting to be sold and the LORD said of him, “he was a prosperous man.”  God does not see things the way we see things. We would think Joseph is poor and naked, but the LORD sees him rich and prosperous.  The next “P” word is “Potiphar” the Captain of the guard and to whose home Joseph was sold.  But while he was a slave in Potiphar’s house the LORD was with him.  Did you know it does not matter where you are or what you are doing if the LORD is with you?  Moses tells us,  “And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made  all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.”  (Genesis 39:3-4) Joseph learned something.  He learned the only thing we are really in control of us our attitude and because of that God was with him, gave him favor in his master’s sight, and blessed all that Joseph touched.  One would think all is well with Joseph and the world, but because of the LORD’s word to Joseph and the eternal plan the LORD had for him Joseph was take to the next “P” word the “Prison.” Through no fault of his own (all God’s will and plan for his life) and because of the favor of the LORD on his life, his good looks, and a lie from his master’s wife he was cast into prison.  But Joseph knew something.  He learned the lessons of the pit and the house of Potiphar (all progressive lessons) and now he could keep his attitude in check. We read, “And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was therein the prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. 23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORDwas with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”  (Genesis 39:20-23)  Again the LORD was with Joesph not because he was Joseph, but because he learned the lessons the LORD wanted him to learn.  And again God blessed him in the prison. When we are in the right place (spiritually) with the LORD it is easy for Him to bless us.  Lastly the LORD did not leave Joseph in prison he elevated him to the last “P” word the “Palace.” “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I amPharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. 45And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”  (Genesis 41:44-45)  Joseph was raised up to be number two in all of the world (at that time), not because he was Joseph, but because he learned how to keep his mouth shut, endure, and follow the LORD in obedience.  At the ripe age of 30 (13 years later) Joseph was  made (by the LORD’s hand) “Zaphnathpaaneah”  or God our savior.  Many Christians ask “why not me LORD?  Why can I not get involved in ministry?  Well have you learned how to keep your mouth shut, endure, and follow the LORD in obedience?  This is the price we pay to be used of the LORD not abilities, gifts, or talents.  This process will be effective only when we accept the fact that these pressures have been placed in our daily life experience to pressus into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord may permit us to remain without satisfaction for a time, while our problems linger without an apparent solution.  If we were quickly or easily released from these and given an uncluttered pathway we would relax and feel that we had arrived.  There would be little inner change or spiritual progress as we would be resting in the blessings and provision that we received.  Now here is the lesson for us.  In the Psalm we read of Joseph, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:  18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: 19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. 20 The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free.”  (Psalm 105:17-20) Did you get that, “ Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.”  What time and what word came forth?  The time is the manifestation of what the LORD has spoken to us.  What has God spoken to you?  But notice until the manifestation of the LORD’s word in our lives the approving and qualifying of our obedience will be tried time and time again.  In Joseph’s life at age 17 the LORD spoke, his father and brothers would bow down (all the LORD’s plan for their livers) before him.  And for 13 years, “the word of the LORD tried him”  not till age 30 did the LORD’s word manifest in his life to fulfill the plan and purpose.  The LORD takes time to do things, no instant Godly leaders and His ways can hurt, but  as we rightly respond to the process of being tested and corrected we grow spiritually and enter into our spiritual identity as a mature son. I am chastened when I do something wrong.  Our being scourged has nothing to do with any wrong doing.  Rather it has to do with the reduction of our independence and is an indication that we are doing everything right.  Scourging reaches into the very depth of our being and crucifies our self-life (our right to our own ways) and removes our propensity towards our self-sufficiency.  Even a spirited horse has to be broken before it can be ridden. This is done not because the horse has done something wrong, but so it can become productive. Likewise, scourging has to do with our becoming a yielded vessel in the hand of the Lord.  John W. Follette once said, “there are few who minister out of a broken spirit.  This is because there are few who are willing to go through the process of being reduced, through scourging.” We may feel that we do not deserve the problems that we find in our pathway and this may be true,  but they are there because the LORD is seeking to make us far more capable and useful to Him in the outworking of His purposes and it all start by our attitude.