The Empty Pot
by Derek Taylor
Step with me for a moment into a strange and
surrealistic world of the imagination.
You walk into the kitchen one morning. You make
yourself a pot of coffee. You reach for an empty cup. You turn to
grasp your coffee pot. But when you turn back with it in your hand,
you find an amazing thing has happened.
The empty cup you put on the table has filled itself
with tea! This is a strange occurrence. Not only that, it's very
annoying. After all, you really wanted coffee, not tea. You don't even
like tea in the morning.
You decide to forget the coffee and make yourself a
bowl of porridge for breakfast. Just the thing on a cold morning! It
looks good in the pan. You get an empty dish. You're just about to put
your porridge in the dish when you notice something decidedly odd.
The empty dish has filled itself with cold soup!
Now you're really angry. It's all very well having to
take tea instead of coffee, but you're decidedly not going to take
cold soup in place of your porridge!
What's happening, anyway? Why won't these vessels
remain empty as is normal, instead of filling themselves up? And why
do they insist on filling themselves with things you don't even want?
MY! That certainly would be a strange world to step
into one Morning.
Actually though, it's not such a strange world at all. It's really
just a simple analogy of the way in which many of us have thought we
should run our spiritual lives.
What do I mean?
Well, consider first Jesus our Lord. He it was who said, "I can of My
own self do nothing." Jesus the carpenter knew something we all know
- carpenters ordinarily can't raise the dead, heal the sick, or change
water into wine. Indeed carpenters cannot do any spiritual activity
at all. Neither can bus drivers, housewives, businessmen or any flesh
and blood human self.
Yet Jesus the Christ, hearing the Father in Him, was instrumental in
seeing the dead raised, the sick healed, and the water changed into
"It is the Father dwelling in Me who is doing His work," said this
same Jesus. It had to be the Father, because Jesus the carpenter was
the emptiest vessel to appear on the earth, having "emptied Himself,
taking the form of a servant." But Jesus the empty carpenter "being
found in human form" was filled with the Father and became the full
expression of all that the Father wanted to do through Him, even
"obedient unto death".
But what about us?
Many of us have been trying a different approach to spiritual
manifestation. We have said to Jesus, "Lord, forgive me for being
unfruitful. Forgive me for being weak. Forgive me because the spirit
is willing but the flesh is weak. But I promise I'll try harder from
now on. I'll go to church more. I'll fast. I'll pray. I'll be more
loving. I'll be more active in witnessing."
Thus speaks an empty vessel which is trying to fill itself! Someone
once said, "If you measure Me eternally -by the limitations of John
Smith, you can get nothing into manifestation - until you come to the
recognition that Jesus had -'I can of Myself do nothing' - and stop
trying to make this body do something."
This body can do nothing other than create a
false image of doing something. All it can do is put up a show which
impresses those who judge by appearance. It cannot produce the fruit
of the Spirit. It can come up with merely a sham of righteousness.
So what is the Spirit saying to you if you find yourself in a period
of unfruitfulness and failure?
Simply this: you are an empty vessel. Just look at yourself; you can
do nothing! Be still then - don't be tempted into trying to fill
yourself. Be still in your emptiness and know that "I am God." Let
Jesus' words speak to you: "Without Me you can do nothing."
It's not that God has left you or gone away
from you. No! He hasn't deserted you. That can never be. But He is
making clear to you your true emptiness. He is setting you on the
table as an empty cup. He has a pot of coffee waiting to fill you at
His pleasure and good will. Don't you dare to try to fill yourself
And thus can the Christ in you do the works.
I spoke recently with a lady who was wondering why the Lord was not
healing her. She didn't want to be healed for selfish reasons, but in
order that she could work more for the Lord. She felt that the
sickness was holding her back.
So I suggested that perhaps the Father was
saying to her, "Don't think that you can do something for me. You are
saying, `If only I had my health. Lord, think what I could do for you'
-but what makes you think that My fruits are dependent on your health?
My works can be done with or without your good health, as I choose."
My comment seemed to speak to her and put
her a little more at rest with herself. She could see that she had
been trying to dictate the terms of fruitfulness to the Father.
I have a very bad memory myself. I have
often felt that God could not use me much because of my bad memory. If
only I had a better memory, how fruitful I could be. What foolishness!
How did it take me so long to realize that this and other weaknesses
point out to me that I am an empty vessel who can do nothing. And that
my nothingness is to be filled by the works of the Father, not the
works built on a better memory or a better anything in the flesh.
When you see your weakness or
unfruitfulness, how tempting it is to try to sort it out for yourself.
Especially if you attend a church which is under a legalistic
I lived under such a ministry for a number of years. I worked out
recently that I had listened to more than 1,000 sermons in that period
of time - well over 1,000 hours of legalistic preaching and teaching,
most of it aimed at getting me to be a better Christian, to be more
loving, more serving, etc. - and at the end
of all that what I have finally come to know is that I am nothing!
The law has shown me that this flesh of mine is empty,
devoid of the things of the Spirit. All of the trying and failing, all
of the repentance, discouragement and despair has led me to a simple
truth: "the flesh can do nothing."
And now it has dawned - I am empty that I might be
filled. Not improved. No, no, a thousand times no! But filled. So that
as I hear from the Father within, that I can do, because it is He
doing it and not me.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be filled." Perhaps like me you have at
some point in your spiritual life taken these words literally and
fasted. If so, then you'll know how painful it is after eighteen hours
without food or water. You feel terrible. Your breath smells, your
mouth tastes awful, your stomach feels knotted up, and you feel
generally weak and pathetic. Humanly speaking, you wish you had never
But you stick it out. You have set this special time
aside for prayer, study and meditation, seeking God through this
discipline. You physically empty yourself as a way of humbling
yourself before God. You feel it would be very wrong to take food or
drink before the time you have appointed to finish your fast.
Now consider the spiritual counterpart to this. Would
it not be just as wrong to fill yourself with spiritual gifts or
fruits before God's appointed time to fill you?
"They shall be filled." At the end of a fast you fill
your empty self with food (and are very glad to do so). But there is a
"fasting" at the end of which comes the promised filling from God.
That period of "fasting" may also be painful. You may seem to be
spiritually fruitless and empty. Because as a human vessel you are
spiritually empty. And when you see it and know it and accept it, then
shall you see the time of filling come. A filling not of yourself, but
the fulfilling with the living bread and water of the Christ within.
This filling from within is the "pure white linen"
righteousness of faith which replaces the "filthy rags" of human
righteousness, with which we are prone to cover ourselves.
So many of us have seen the gifts and fruits of the
Spirit which are described in the Bible as noble qualities to be
reproduced in our lives by the effort of self-discipline - with God's
help, of course. Some of us have even experienced a degree of success
as far as outward appearances go. We have been able to improve the way
we act toward others.
But finally most of us come to the point where we
realize that despite all our efforts, we are at a dead end in our
spiritual progress. We hit a low point of self-dissatisfaction and
feel utterly defeated. And that's marvellous!
When we come to awareness of our emptiness, our
nothingness, God shows us that He intends us to have victory right in
the midst of this apparent spiritual low. But His way is not to change
us into instant spiritual supermen with great powers. No, He has
something else in mind.
First we must see our self-defeat as a revelation of
our emptiness. But when this realization dawns, don't try to change
yourself. For behind your acceptance of yourself as "nothing" is the
still small voice of the inner Christ showing you that you already
have the victory. This victory is recognition of your emptiness - a
victory that is against all appearance.
"They shall be filled." Then nothing can shake them. "I
am He that fills you. You live, yet not you -I live. I live in you, I
live as you." Recognition of Him as our life, of Him as the one who
fills us, brings victory in defeat. It means an end to striving and
struggling to be filled. An end of trying to create a "Christian"
image. Rejoice and be glad, you empty vessel. Be glad that God
refuses to honor your self-effort. Be glad of this time of
affliction, this time of frustration, this time of fruitlessness -
this time of hunger and thirst of your soul. For when you accept
yourself as you are -as the "nothing" of an empty vessel - without
condemning yourself any longer, the promise is that you "shall be
filled!" Indeed, you already are - and in His time the manifestation
will come forth.