October 2013 – Emptied from Vessel to Vessel

A broken Royal Albert plate set me thinking this month of the fragility and the journey of life.

It was a very expensive plate that was given to us some years ago and had served with much distinction and admiration from those who ate from it’s salubrious contents on numerous occasions over many long years.

It still had its beautiful pattern of Old Country Roses but sadly it will no longer be used to serve others. Which begged the metaphorical question; what do you do when the years of fruitful service as you have known it comes to an end? 

I posed the same question to my friends on the social media network of Facebook and was pleasantly surprised by the many comments that were submitted to the question. I guess Catherine Rumsey epitomised the general thinking when she said “For us, years of fruitful service need never end. They just evolve under God into different types of service.” Simply put – “We Change or allow God to Change us”.

Which reminds me of a scripture in Jeremiah 48:11-12 which gives a metaphor of God’s determination to bring about Change in the lives of the people of Moab.

As I have been thinking about life’s journey, with its ups and downs, I was impressed by the metaphor that  Jeremiah uses in the occupation of Wine making.

You know, when you get to my age, looking back can be a painful but helpful exercise.

It can put into perspective the experiences of life, both good and bad. You begin to see the plan of God in it all. 

It appears to me that even though at the time we didn’t realise it, God was allowing us to tread a journey that ultimately would make us like Christ. 

Its like the process of Wine making. Now I’m not a wine maker nor a connoisseur of fine wine, but they tell me that for wine to be brewed to its best texture and taste, it needs to go through a process of many years and the best wine is often the oldest.

You see as I observe it, life is like that, which gives me the title of this article. “Emptied from Vessel to Vessel”. 

I’m a South Australian by birth and one thing South Australia is famous for, is its wine making industry. I’m not necessarily promoting that, as I am a teetotaller. However for the sake of this article let me share with you what I have discovered about life’s experiences.

In the process of wine making, when the grapes are harvested, traditionally they were placed in a large vat and the festival of the crushing of the grapes began. People were invited to crush the grapes with their bare feet.

Needless to say this motif can illustrate that there are times in life when you have felt down-trodden or walked over. At these times, no doubt you can feel humiliated and offended but dare I say it; your crushing had a purpose! It was to bring about change.

Its often in later life that one can see the neccesity of those experiences. In my case I discovered pride was usually the quintessential problem of what was being crushed and the core ingredient that needed to be eliminated!

The process of wine making is illustrated in the Bible text of Jeremiah: 

“Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed”.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces”.

Isn’t it the case, that in life one can become stuck in his or her ways? We have settled on our ‘dregs’. Our life has not changed. Our lives taste stale or even sour and our life ‘aroma’ is not pleasant anymore. We have been through one process but we need to go through another lest the dregs give off an unsavoury odour. So it is in the process, the wine is poured out into another vessel.

Well, you may ask, what is the process of change? The process of change takes place when we are poured from vessel to vessel.

  • The Wine is our Lives
  • The Vessel our Circumstances

We mustn’t be alarmed at this process. The experiences and circumstances of life are all part of it. We can allow it to happen as we mature or God will make it happen! 

eg 198w, https://www.fredandbettyevans.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/images-150x150.jpeg 150w" sizes="(max-width: 198px) 100vw, 198px" />The Bible says “the days are coming declares the Lord when I will send men who pour from jars, and they will pour her out; they will empty her jars and smash her jugs”.  Jeremiah 48:12

In other words: God will use people or circumstances to bring about purifying change in our lives.

What are these vessels?” you ask.

1. Here is one made of Clay. It is not a transparent vessel and reflects no light. No one can see the wine in it. This is the vessel of Lack of Appreciation. There is no appreciation or recognition of the wine’s texture, sweetness or quality. When you are in this vessel its like nobody appreciates you or the work you are doing. You think nobody cares. But ah! friends when the work of maturing is completed, you will find at the bottom of that vessel the remains of self-centredness, pride and selfish ambition. Those are the dregs that the great Wine Master wishes to purge from our lives.

2. Then there is the Vessel of Public Scrutiny. It is a wide open vessel that reveals all its content to the public. Its what we call a “fish bowl” experience. This is where the wine of our lives is exposed to public criticism & judgement. There is nowhere to hide, no place to run. Public scrutiny gazes down upon it in this transparent environment. Public humiliation and scrutiny focus upon everything that is negative and forces the wine to become quiet & still & silent. Those involved in public life, secular or spiritual understand this kind of exposure. Clinging to the side and bottom of this vessel you will find the dregs of pride and self-preservation that are left behind as ones life is poured out into another vessel.

3. The third Vessel is called “Misunderstanding“. This vessel is made of coloured glass, but it is not wine coloured. As the wine is poured into it, it assumes the colour of the vessel. People judge the colour of the wine by the colour of the glass. What happens of course is people judge us by what they see and not by what is within us. Of course the ‘wine’ becomes self conscious of criticism but must remain absolutely still – long enough for the sediment to settle.

4. The fourth vessel is made of Crystal with trappings of Gold. This is the kind of vessel that Champagne is poured into. It’s elegance and beauty is admired by many.

As you look at the wine inside this vessel it sparkles with the applause of people as they admire and praise its beauty.

It is in this vessel that one may experience the ‘pride of life’. The resulting  ‘heady’ experience of feeling that the world is at your feet; that you are the success story of the year; that everyone recognises you and applauds your gift!

You see, the beautiful crystal and gold vessel attracts the attention of people. It is cut and shaped in such a way to reflect light and let light pass through at different angles.

When the light passes through it throws a different hue on the wine. It may be said, “He’s not what I thought he was”!

This is the vessel of Pride and human Deception. This is also the vessel where lust and high mindedness is brewed. When from it, the ‘champagne’ experiences of life may lead us to compromise our moral and ethical standards.

Oh it feels so good, as deception dulls the senses of our spiritual sensitivity and makes us vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh. It quenches the thirst of our Ego. It feels so good as the money flows and you can do things you have long dreamed of. This is also the vessel that shows up the greed, fraud and self indulgence that lies within. 

This is the one vessel I fear more than any other, for at the bottom of the crystal glass of ‘champagne’ lies the dregs of moral and ethical failure and self gratification and the fraudulent expenditure of public or God’s money.

The sad thing about the experience of this elegant vessel is that the longer you remain in it the greater the possibility of your life being decimated by the flesh. Someday someone will blow the whistle and shatter the glass.

The arrows and hammer blows of what I call “permission givers” will find a weakness and expose the dream and so your ego will lay broken and shattered. This is also the vessel of Dishonour.

5. But thats not the end, because in God’s purposes the process must continue until ‘that which is perfect concerning us’ is brought to pass.

From the glamour of the crystal glass we can be poured into a tiny cup sized vessel. This is the vessel of abuse, this is the vessel of Gethsemane. This is the vessel called “Sacrifice”. Its when you feel you are being used up or you have nothing left to give. “Im not much use to God” you say! Oh how the wine complains about being served up in small potions or being used by others or of the feeling of nothing much is left of me.

How often do we feel used or spread too thin. “Surely I’m of more value than this” says the wine. “Why do I have to function in lesser or mundane roles”. Surely I’m fit for an elegant bottle with a fine label testifying of my maturity and greatness”. 

“No” says the Wine Master. “You need to be poured out in many and small portions”.

You see our lives need to be continually poured out for others from vessel to vessel until we become like Christ. It’s not the quantity that counts but the quality of our attitude and the aroma of our lives.

Let me give you an example. I once knew an old lady who’s life was poured out for others. She lived an un-sung selfless life in her church, reaching out to the youth. Dear old ‘Ma Kelly’ as she was known, had little to offer by way of talent or gifting but she could cook and knew the way to a boys heart! 

Her Christ like attitude in selflessly reaching out to others, left a lasting impression upon me and the aroma of her life left the fragrance of love and blessing. Ma Kelly passed away when I was just starting out on the adventure of life, but here I am over 60 years later telling you about her legacy.

You see in the purposes of God, He wants us to Change so that we not only leave a legacy but more importantly radiate the love of Christ. To bring about that kind of change we need to be poured out from vessel to vessel, so that we can be changed into His likeness.

In this short video below I have personalised my own journey through life. From a small child through to old age, I have experienced many changes.

From the exhilarating days of church planting in Papua New Guinea, getting married to the most beautiful woman in the world, followed by the the euphoric experience of ministering in mega church congregations in Australia.

All this was contrasted by the emptying and grief of the death of our 3rd son John-Paul Evans in 1975, and later the death of three grandchildren.

We also had to drink from the cup of family tragedy, the unexpected betrayal of family members that shattered the family circle and dream. A cup of clinical depression topped it off, leaving me feeling a failure as a father, alone, deserted, rejected, and without hope.

Only those who have been there, will understand the bitterness and pain of the contents of that vessel.

I tell you this not to solicit sympathy, because ‘things’ happen and it will either throw you off course or validate your faith in a loving God. In life bad things can happen to anyone regardless of your finely honed theology!

Yes there are many emptyings from ‘vessel to vessel‘ experiences in life! 

Yet all through life I regularly prayed Lord Make Me Like You. Regularly I remind myself who I want to be like. Is it any wonder that life should be so unpredictable and challenging?

Hopefully it is making me more like Christ as I adjust, repent and renew my life day by day. My prayer on a daily basis continues to be “Lord Make Me Like You”.

Sometimes the journey is painful, but worth it!

Here’s the deal as I see it;

1. Change is a necessary part of life.

2. To change is a matter of choice.

3. If you don’t change you will manifest certain negative conditions.

4. If you don’t change voluntarily, then God will bring about circumstances in your life to make it happen.

In conclusion let me give you hope from 2 Corinthians 3:18 that says .

“All of us have no cloth over our faces. People can see that we have some of the bright and wonderful light that the Lord has. And we are becoming brighter and brighter, more and more like him. It is the Lord, the Spirit, who does this.”

The Bible says in 

Philippians 1:6

God began to do a good work in you. And I am sure that he will keep on doing it until he has finished it. He will keep on until the day Jesus Christ comes again.

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