When a potter bakes a pot, they check its solidity by pulling it out of the oven and thumping it. If it “sings,” it’s ready. If it “thuds,” it’s placed back in the oven. Max Lucado once shared an analogy where he compared the potter’s test to the testing that Christians undergo daily. He suggested our response to the testing/thumping reveals our spiritual maturity. How we react to our day-to-day circumstances reveals whether we merely listen to the Word or whether we do what it says (James 1:22).
James’ letter to Jewish Christians living outside of Jerusalem offers encouragement while sharing some of the basic principles of the Christian walk. He was well aware of the verbal or even physically abuse they encountered because of their belief in Christ. He wanted to suggest that their circumstance are temporary compared to what lies ahead. He wanted them to remember that “there was a crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12); love that is expressed in their response to being thumped. James was not telling them to sing and dance whenever they faced adversity but recognize that our relationship with God can be strengthened if we trust that God’s plan for us is greater than our daily circumstances.
How do you respond when you are in a traffic jam or when your children are fussing as you try to get them ready for school? What is your reaction when your spouse makes a banking mistake or forgets a day you consider special? What do you say to the clerk who puts sugar in your coffee despite your specially saying no sugar or to the waiter who mixes up your order? Do you say or do things that you know are considered offensive to that person and to God? The testing is about an accidental blurting out of some regretful comment but is linked to consistent inappropriate behaviour when life’s little things trip us up. This testing occurs in environments and situations beyond our control. The thumping may not seem as dramatic as being told you have cancer, but never the less it puts our faith to the test. These trials constantly question whether we love God and His creation unconditionally and in all circumstances. Our response can be as God desires when we pray, study His word, and seek spiritual strength to grow with each thumping.
The potter does not throw the pot out when it does not sing, but puts it back into the oven to allow it to develop as it should. The joy associated with the testing we face is the promise that Jesus will not abandon us when we fail a thumping. The Holy Spirit will convict us, prompt us to repentance, and lead us to forgiveness. We are allowed back into the family and can be strengthen by our trial. God does not expect us to giggle foolishly when we face trials but desires that we not lose hope and trust our thumping will only make us stronger.