Broken To Use“When I invited Jesus into my life, I thought He was going to put up some wallpaper and hang a few pictures. But He started knocking out walls and adding on rooms. I said, ‘I was expecting a nice cottage.’ But He said, ‘I'm making a palace in which to live.’” — C.S. Lewis “It is doubtful whether God can greatly use a man until He has deeply hurt him.” — A.W. Tozer
After years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah at last had their own son, Isaac. They were both very old. God’s promise and their dreams had at last reached fulfillment. They were delighted. Then one day God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to … Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:2 NIV). The Lord wanted to break and purify Abraham’s affections. Do your affections need to be tested and purified? Do you have a dream or a hope that needs breaking?
Hannah also deeply longed for a child, but she was barren “because the LORD had closed her womb” (1 Sam. 1:5-6). During those painful years of hoping, praying and weeping, the Lord broke something in her heart, and she prayed: “O LORD God Almighty, if you will … not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD.” And “in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son … Samuel” (1 Sam. 1:11,20). What mother would be prepared to give her little boy to a life of service in the temple? The temple was not a safe place. The ark could be very dangerous (1 Sam. 6:19), and the sons of Eli the priest were there and they were “wicked men” (1 Sam. 2:12,22). Because the Lord had broken something inside her, she was happy to hand over her only son. She said to Eli: “I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he shall be given over to the LORD” (1 Sam. 1:28). And she did not change her mind. To remain happy, she had to remain broken.
As a young man, Moses received the best education in Egypt. He was trained by Pharaoh’s staff in political science, conflict management, negotiations, warfare, goal setting and implementation. But before he could be used, the Lord arranged for him to spend 40 years in the desert caring for sheep. Can you imagine what this did to this ambitious, well-educated young leader? It broke him. He had one more lesson to learn. We later read: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). To be useful, he had to remain humble – and broken.
From his youth Paul was a theological high flyer. He knew the Scriptures, he was trained by prestigious rabbis, he had good contacts among the religious elite in Jerusalem, he was disciplined, he was an action man and he sincerely wanted to please God. God loved him and desired to use him – but he had to be broken.
God started by publicly knocking him to the ground, blinding him and forcing him to wait for Ananias, a lowly disciple, to give him the Lord’s instructions (Acts 9:3-19). Then the Lord had him spend a few years in Arabia, away from any public ministry and service, away from the opinions, expectations and congratulations of others (Gal. 1:15-2:1). During those painful years of loneliness something broke. Later he wrote: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
Status no longer had a hold on him. Paul’s life of service for the Lord was riddled with breaking experiences. Sometimes he felt he could no longer continue and pleaded with the Lord to take the problem away, as he did three times with his “thorn in the flesh.” The Lord did not do what Paul prayed for. Instead He answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” On reflection Paul concluded: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). To remain strong, Paul had to remain broken.
Broken To Purify
“I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts … We must be emptied before we can be filled.” — D. L. Moody
“In all areas of our life the Lord wants us to be broken. He will wrestle with us as He wrestled with Jacob at Peniel. He will try to break us of pride, of self-will, of an unforgiving spirit, of stubbornness, of gossip, of backbiting, of worldliness, of impurity, of temper, of every work of the flesh … He will wrestle with us till the breaking of the day and put our thigh out of joint. Then we will go through the rest of our life with the limp of a broken man whom God can use.” — William MacDonald
There are various reasons why God allows things to be broken. Sometimes breaking is to protect His people, at other times it is a sign of judgment and punishment. Consider these three Old Testament examples.
Breaking Bad Things – Altars And Idols
As the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Lord was concerned that their hearts should not turn from following Him to serve other gods. His command was clear and radical: “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession” (Dt. 7:4-6).
We also, as holy people, are called to destroy that which is bad and wicked. We are called to be radical in our treatment of what is sin and what is evil. In explaining how we should deal with sin, Jesus used a radical example: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Mt. 5:29-30). Are you playing with sin? Break it! Throw it away! Be radical!
Breaking Misused Things – The Bronze Snake
Venomous snakes were destroying the people of God. In response to their repentance and Moses’ intercessory prayer, the Lord said, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Num. 21:6-9). Moses obeyed, and those who believed and looked on the bronze snake were saved. The bronze snake was a God-given solution. Many of the Israelites looked at the bronze snake and were healed. They were thankful for the Lord’s provision.
But in appreciating and respecting God’s chosen symbolic instrument, they went too far. They gave the bronze snake a name, and attributed special powers to it. Their eyes and hearts became attached to the bronze snake instead of God. Years later, King Hezekiah did what was right in the Lord’s eyes: “He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it” (2 Ki. 18:3-4).
We can misuse God-given good things. In His kindness, the Lord can provide us with employment to provide for our needs. But in time it may become the source of our self-worth and security. We may be blessed with a loving spouse and wonderful children. But in time we can become more concerned about pleasing them than the Lord who gave them. We may enjoy an invigorating sport or an interesting hobby. But in time they can begin to master us. Even God-given things like our ministry, our favorite hymn book, a helpful Bible teacher or even our own knowledge of Scripture can come between us and the One who gave them to us. Unless we repent and put these gifts back in their proper place, the Lord will work at breaking those misused good things.
Breaking Contaminated Things – Clay Cooking Pots
Like all peoples, the Israelites had their own favorite foods. To prepare them, kitchen utensils were necessary. To protect the health of the nation, the Lord gave them instructions on what they could and could not eat. If any part of a dead unclean animal, like a rat or a chameleon, touched a clay pot in their kitchen, the pot had to be destroyed. He said, “Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean” (Lev. 11:35). Similarly, if a sick person entered their kitchen: “A clay pot that the man touches must be broken” (Lev. 15:11-12). These are part of a set of simple yet effective hygiene practices that would stop the spread of a possible disease. Can we draw some lessons for today?
Moral infection advances quietly, like cancer among body cells. Romantic love is good and God-given, but if we direct it towards an unbeliever or towards someone other than our marriage partner, it becomes contaminated love and dangerous to our marriage, family and community. This “clay pot” must be recognized as sin and it must be broken (Col. 3:5). God made us social beings who need friends. But some friendships are not good for us, because they infect and downgrade our passion for Christ (1 Cor. 15:33). A healthy view of self can be perverted by pride, envy or self-pity (Rom. 12:3). Our thought patterns, our values, our tastes, our sense of right and wrong can become corrupted. We can become overly religious. We can become worldly.
We must identify the things that have become defiled in our lives and smash them. Our contaminated clay pots are broken when we submit to Christ, reject what we know is wrong and choose to believe, obey and live according to the principles in God’s Word. Is there an area in your life that has become defiled? Is there a contaminated “clay pot” in your kitchen that should be broken?
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org