Jars of Clay

clay doll

The figurine you see pictured here was a gift from a friend in Japan years ago. Packaged with the gift was a note that said: “Be gentle with her. For like us, she is made only of clay.”

Sometimes when I glance in her direction, it seems almost as if she’s sweetly reminding me, “Don’t forget. You’re not really very powerful on your own. Lean on HIS power.”

I was looking again at relevant Scriptures. Like, “The Lord…remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13, 14). And in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is speaking of his ministry. In verse 7 he says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” And from there he outlines all the difficulties he’s been through. We see Paul as having accomplished so much. Yet he’s always mentioning how weak he is.

Just as I was thinking how to best convey what I wanted to, I read about the death of Walter Birney on January 8, 2019. I can’t think of a better illustration. When I first began hosting the Say Yes To Japan exhibit (1999) at the International Conference on Missions, Mr. Birney and his wife, Iva Lou, ran the convention. They astonished me! They just didn’t…well, they didn’t look like your basic image of “executive directors.” They were both small, quiet, calm. Some conferences were more and more using e-mail, slick full-color promotionals, and such, but ICOM materials came by snail mail, in black and white. Mr. and Mrs. Birney carried walkie-talkies during the convention, but those seemed incongruously hi-tech and oversized in their hands.

And ICOM continued to grow. And grow. And have more and more world impact. How do we explain something like that? Isn’t it somehow due to the “all-surpassing power” at work because Mr. and Mrs. Birney managed to remember that they were made only of clay? I think so.

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2 thoughts on “Jars of Clay

  1. So true.
    The Birneys, precious souls in jars of clay. Mr. Birney will be missed, their influence beyond measure, because they served the Lord with all their might.

  2. I loved being in charge of the 70th Anniversary of ICOM because of all the history I was able to read. God has so blessed every humble offering given to the National Missionary Convention/ICOM. Walter and Iva Lou are committed servants of God and we loved just seeing their energy for God and His people. It is amazing to see what GOD has done through their lives and through the life-changing conference. “Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1

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