You are only clay in the Potter’s hands, a vessel to contain His glory!

In Romans 9:20-21, we read about Paul's description of the Potter and the clay. How much freedom is there in contemplating the question, “What can the clay do? Can it give itself eternal life? Can it make itself more beautiful? Or help the potter shape and craft it?” This is an absurd notion, I know. But I didn’t choose the example, God did.
What is clay? It is a natural earthy material that is plastic when wet, used for making bricks and pottery. I want you to imagine that YOU are God for a moment. Attribute to yourself, as God, all of the characteristics you think the real God has toward you as a Christian. Now I want you to imagine going outside and “saving” some clay—by scooping up a big handful of clayish dirt. Bring it back into your household and put it in the center of a large plate. Set it out of the way on a shelf somewhere and leave it alone to work out its own sculpting. Certainly, that is the least it should do in gratitude for your gift of salvation. After a week, fetch the plate, with its lump of clay, and look at it closely. Has it progressed in shaping itself? Is it now a beautiful bowl, cup, or vase? No? Maybe just a brick then, surely it could accomplish that much? No, not even that much?
Well then, it is time for you to act—like the real God—as you perceive Him. Is your God distant and aloof? Then turn your back on the clay, go into the next room, and peek around the corner to watch the clay from there. Is your God a hard taskmaster? Then put your unhappy face right up close to the clay and yell at it to do something. Tell it how displeased and disappointed you are for it being a “do-nothing” lump of clay. Tell it how you rescued it from the outside world of inclement weather—and brought it into your household—and you expect some appreciative response, at least a little effort in trying to change. Finally, take your clay to church and set it in the pew next to you. If this doesn’t work, take your fist and pound it again and again until it is a pancake. Throw in an imaginary “lightning switch” and shock it into obedience. That should inspire and teach it to respond and shape itself into something you can be proud of.
Again, I know that this illustration is a ridiculous and absurd notion. Obviously a clump of clay has no ability or capability to do anything for itself. If you left it on that plate for years, it would still be powerless to shape itself. It would dry out, but not shape up. Even if you gently worked the clay until it began to take shape as an elegant bowl, then you stopped—will that clay now have the “hang of it” enough to complete the shaping on its own? Never!
No matter how you look at it, clay is completely powerless to take shape on its own. It cannot even deliver itself to the potter’s wheel where the shaping takes place. At each step along the way, the potter is in absolute and total control of the clay and is the one who determines what is made from that clay. He never seeks the clay’s opinion, or asks the clay for help. There is never a time, not even for one fractional instant, that the clay has power to shape itself or control what it becomes. It begins and finally ends, at the complete mercy of the potter’s will.
The reality of this word picture is glorious. It will make you drop to your knees in your heart with praise to Him when the importance of it sinks in. It sweeps away every complexity of doctrine and theology. God tells us from His inspired word that we have no power to do anything spiritually for ourselves. He, as the Potter, is in complete control and is doing it all. We are only lumps of clay and objects of His mercy. What we become in our lives is dependent on Him. This is truly wonderful.
But, when we start thinking of ourselves as more than clay, the warring of the flesh begins. After all, we love Him and want to serve Him, right? The moment we entertain the thought that we are more than clay, the guilt starts to assail us. The feelings that we are not serving God “enough” begin to torment. This leads to thoughts that we must be a disappointment to God, or that we are letting Him down, or that we need to serve Him more. But can the clay ever let the Potter down? No!
Stop reading for a moment, close your eyes, and meditate on the fact that you are a lump of clay. Form a vivid picture in your mind of the Lord, as the Potter, shaping that clay, and working all things together for good to affect that clay. Tell yourself, “I’m just a lump of clay. Whatever my shape is today is what He has shaped me for today. Whatever shape He purposes me to have tomorrow, He will add that tomorrow. And whatever shape He desires for me to have a year from now, He will add what He wants then. What ability do I have to add any shape to myself? He who has begun a good work in me will continue to shape me.” In my experience, when the warring of my flesh begins to rage, the Lord often brings the thought that I am but a lump of clay. What a wonderful freedom this is!
But you may ask, “Isn’t our surrender and trust an essential part of the equation?” Yes, it certainly is. But know this freedom-truth: God is at work in you, both to will and to work His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). In other words, He is molding us as clay to conform to His good pleasure. This means, in reality, that “our surrender” and “our trust” are also the very things that God is working in us. He is growing more surrender and trust in us day by day! As Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). We can be confident that even our “surrender” is a part of God’s will for us. We have been made His “slaves of righteousness” and He is drawing us (Romans 6:19).
From the book, "A Different Place," The peace and freedom that comes from knowing: God has done it all—He is all we need, pages 276-279.