The Potter’s Touch
by Dr. Sam Sasser
To look up and not down, To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in, and To lend a hand.
Edward Everitt Hale 1982 Rule of the “Harry Wadsworth Club”
from “Ten Times One is Ten,” 1870
Editor’s Note: My husband and I had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Sam Sasser into our home while he ministered in our local church. Little did we know that a year later, Sam would go home to be with the Lord. The following text is taken from conversations around our kitchen table, his preaching, and Dr. Sasser’s memorable book, The Potter’s Touch, Destiny Image Publishers, P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257, USA
Dr. Sasser spent a year researching the art of pottery making and the scriptural meanings of the seven vessels he discusses in his book, The Potter’s Touch
“It’s difficult to understand why people live so unimaginatively. The sense of excellency and the cry for mastery is missing in large segments of our society. The person who recognizes the divine pull on his life and follows that graced desire, yielding his life and future to the hand of the Potter, is in the minority.” “God’s creative genius is endless. He does not become fatigued with the rigors of creativity. He is the designer supreme. No mass-production techniques are found in the Scriptures nor do carbon copies come from God’s heart. Each individual is a lump of clay filled with potential. Put on the Potter’s wheel we become individuals.”
On learning to trust the Potter’s hand, Dr. Sasser gives the following advice “… the choice is not between the absence of pain and the pain of change, but rather between the pain of learning to trust the hand of the Potter and the pain of failing to trust, there is not truly a choice.” Dr. Sasser describes the 7-step process of pottery making in the following abbreviated form:
- Selection of the clay – many grades were available.
- Trodden under foot – to take the air out.
- Washed with water – to soften it.
- Kneading – to remove small rocky pieces until there was a cohesive yielding.
- Sun drying – 30% of the water content is lost.
- Kiln drying – intense heat until it shrinks to 80% of its size. Different temperatures are needed to expose the quality and color of each individual clay.
- Marked – each vessel bore the potter’s trademark. Only the “chosen vessel” received his signature.
“He will soften you and shape and form you according to His good pleasure. He will dry you in the sunshine of His love and ready you for the fires of affliction. But be of good courage for you will come out a durable vessel that is beautiful and serviceable.”
Noted below is special insight from Dr. Sasser’s book, The Potter’s Touch, and the seven vessels.
THE VESSEL OF HONOR
“The most purchased vessel in the potter’s yard, the vessel of honor, fulfilled an important role in every household. Every day it was filled at the well or brook with fresh water to serve the family and any guests coming into the home… the jar was placed on a stand usually just beside the door. It was an earthen jar and its main use was to quench thirst.” “God has placed vessels of honor within every church. They are those who have found their source of fullness, who go daily to the streams of refreshing water for a new supply. They know the way to the wellspring of wholeness and are ready to share that supply with anyone who asks… Jesus saw Himself as a vessel of honor. the life-giving thirst-quenching water He offered was Himself.”
THE VESSEL OF MERCY
“The vessel of mercy looked like and was a vessel of honor in appearance. Though it too was filled with fresh spring water from the wall… [it] was taken into the center of the city to provide water for strangers.” “The significance of the vessel of mercy lies in its easy accessibility. Carry the water of life to your job site. Vessels of mercy are not afraid of action. They meet the challenge and bloom where they are planted. They can turn a garbage can into a victory garden.”
THE CHOSEN VESSEL
“There was no distinctive design given to the chosen vessel. Its strength and beauty were known to the potter alone. The chosen vessel was the best work the potter could produce. It was handled differently — kept out of view. The potter knows the vessel will never bring him shame no matter where it might go. It’s the best his hands can make. Thus, he alone chooses the vessel.” “If God singles you out to be a chosen vessel, He will also provide you with a special grace. For, with the calling to be a chosen vessel comes the need for a stricter discipline and a more intense commitment than is required of other vessels. When God forges character, He cuts deeply. I have found that God’s intention is to take from our hearts everything that we love most. Everything we trust in, everything that might compete with God, must be chiseled away. Essentially they are concerned, loving, God-filled human beings who are available and touchable. Chosen vessels know they are clay.”
THE CLEAN VESSEL
“When turned by the potter, the clean vessel was made to be a vessel of honor. It was designed for the service of pouring out for others. But frequent use marred and soiled the vessel. Its beauty faded beneath the touch of many hands. In essence it became a second-class vessel both in appearance and service.
FOUR-STEP CLEANING PROCESS TO RETURN TO SERVICE
- Emptied – nothing can remain inside – honest, hard self-evaluation. It’s still the truth that sets us free.
- Scraped with strong brushes and files – produces humility. Let us then learn silence. God’s raking does not need explanation, it needs repentance.
- Restoration to fix and re-file the lip – so the vessel can pour correctly. Because much use has widened the vessel’s mouth, the lip must be reshaped.
- Fired again – we are again ready for the fresh supply of life-giving water.
THE VESSEL OF DISHONOR
- “…the Judean garbage can. Though it had been fashioned to be a vessel of honor, it became pock-marked in the fire. Air in the clay, or some other flaw… It wasn’t the lack of skill on the potter’s part, but some gritty substance that refused to yield. Used for two purposes: for leftovers or used water on the bench at the front door, or as a container set apart for the slop.”
- “Vessels of dishonor are self-appointed vessels. A careless tongue, lack of wisdom and openness to the garbage of others separates them to degeneracy.”
THE BROKEN VESSEL
- “It’s clay could not or would not take the heat. Although the fie of the kiln usually produced durability in vessels, in the broken vessel, it produced a crack – usually around the lip.”
- “God wants vessels of strength. We are plagued by angry attitudes, and our obedience in times of stress is woefully lacking. The potter would crush atick-like insect and mix its blood with clay powder. The Cross of Calvary provides a glue that works effectively and uniquely in the lives of broken people.
- “After a vessel that had broken in the fire was remolded with the blood mixture, it was placed right back into the same fire that had cracked it. The potter repeated the procedure again and again, as often as was necessary to save the vessel. Only after the vessel had been re-fired and came from the kiln uncracked was it released for service.”
THE VESSEL OF WRATH
- “When a broken vessel refuses to accept the blood, it becomes a vessel of wrath. There is no honor or joy for the potter in this vessel.”
- “When God puts a man into the fire to be tested, He goes into the fire with him.[Is 32:1,2] God takes us through the fire, not around it. To be with God in the midst of trouble is far better than to avoid trouble, but lack His presence… it entails voluntary suffering.
IN HONOR OF A CHOSEN VESSEL…
Dr. Sam Sasser passed on to be with the Lord several years ago. He served the Lord for forty years. He began his ministry as a teacher in the Marshall Islands. Many say Dr. Sasser was to the Marshall Islands what the Apostle Paul was to the Gentiles. His message and labor of love won many to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Below is my remembrance of his stay in our home. “Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus.”
I sat on the floor and looked up at this servant of God. He seemed so tired as he rested on pillows and underwent self-dialysis. A plate of crackers and a plum lay untasted at his side. He looked down at me as I asked if I might help him with his plastic socks and said, “Dear, I would appreciate it. It would take me twenty minutes a sock. I have no feeling in my fingers.” As I gingerly untied the shoestrings of his only pair of shoes, I heard him say, “Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus.”
It was time to go to services and as I assisted him with my shoulder, we slowly made our way down the hall. Again I heard him quietly say,” Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus.” He carefully slid into the car and settled into the seat and I heard him once again say, “Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus” with a long sigh.
That weekend, Brother Sam ministered in our church for four services and a men’s breakfast. Exhausted, full of cold and enduring much pain and discomfort, he was vibrant and full of life as he spoke of his love for Jesus, for the people of the Marshall Islands, for his mother, father, son, daughter and grandchild. But I don’t think I will ever forget the way he spoke of his wife, Flo. His voice cracked and tears streamed down his cheeks as he shared of his love for her.
Dr. Sasser is gone now. His suffering is over. His body no longer aches. He was a living legend — a modern-day Paul. His life was filled with tragedy and triumph: from a plane wreck, beatings, lonely travels in a one-man canoe in the Marshall Islands — to blessings of revival, miracles, healings and great victories for the kingdom of his Lord. What was his secret? I believe I know. It was, “Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus.” At every turn, with every need, Dr. Sasser called upon his Lord. Jesus was his sustenance in every situation. To me, the Master Potter would surely be pleased with the chosen vessel He had created in Sam Sasser.