Jay Wicks - Recycling - Port Elizabeth, South Africa Convention - December, 2003

II Timothy 2:20-21, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver but also of wood and of earth and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purges himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour sanctified, and meet for the Master's use and prepared unto every good work." Perhaps we all know what it means to be a vessel of dishonour but be assured that the Lord would like to make each and every one a vessel prepared for the Master's use. 

One time I visited and took a tour through a brewery. I just remember the little bottles on the conveyor belt, all empty, but they have on them labels, all following one another. They knew where they were heading for; they were going to be filled. I don't suppose it would surprise you that some of these bottles would end up at wild parties, taverns, pubs, etc., and then in the end many of them would be empty, broken, and discarded. It is not a very pretty picture. It is a little bit like life. You can see what they are heading for and what they are filled with and what they are filling themselves with. You know where it is going to end up - NOT A PRETTY PICTURE! Broken hearts, shattered, not a pretty picture!  But with these bottles, there is a process in our country and I believe in your country, too.  These bottles are saved from destruction, and it is simply what they call recycling.   Each one of these bottles has a certain value.  People can find them and take them and they enter into a process where they are crushed and molded.  In that process, their identity is changed and they come out different than they were before and they can become an useful vessel. Something that had no power to change. it had no hope of becoming different but now it can actually become something different. That is the story of the gospel - beautiful.   

I would like to explain this evening how it works that lives that have no future and hope, that are empty, often broken, discarded, alone, unhappy, miserable lives, that there is a process whereby they can be saved. They don't have to keep on living like that; there is a process. Their identity is changed; they take on a different form.  There is something added that was never there before. The spirit of Christ makes it altogether different. I have a friend; actually he is one of the workers in our part and he is an interesting fellow. He was raised in the depression, in difficult times. Well, anyway, when we walk, he walks different. We walk but he walks in the ditch, in the gutter. He looks for bottles; he enjoys that. He finds these bottles, a beer bottle, perhaps. He knows about recycling. That is just like us. 

I was thinking of another man. He knew the value of recycling. He walked different than other men do; he knew the value of those lost souls. He walked in the gutters, in the by ways. He was seeking those lost souls. He knew the value of each and every one. He knew them and brought them out. Others said, "Why do you touch me like that?" He realized what would happen in a life that was changed. He brought these souls to Him and He knew the value of each and every one. Each and every soul is precious to the Lord. Broken, shattered. The Lord, because of His plan and His provision, can make something of us and change us from what we were before. These bottles in our parts, and I believe it is true here also, have big bold print on them. This is what it represents, advertising, and that is what they want everyone to see. But on that same bottle (you have to look for it) but on each and every one there is a little sentence that says, "Recycle me." Here, I believe, it just says, "Recycle." I believe that every life that is miserable and sick and tired and has no future, maybe we just see in this bold print, but behind this hardness, there is this desire to be changed. Recycle!  

One time at Convention preps, everyone had left the grounds. I had to be the guard. It was about one o'clock in the morning and I woke up and I heard a noise like an ox wagon coming up the road. And then, as it got near the grounds there, I heard the motor cut off and I heard the sound of the vehicle enter in the grounds. We had a little alarm system, a bell to alert us when someone enters the grounds. I heard the ding, ding, ding. Somebody was on the grounds.  By that time, I was up and clothed; I got my flashlight and walked down. It wasn't an ox wagon; it was a Harley Davidson type bike. Walking across the grounds was one of the bikers. They usually belong to a Gang; they are people to be left alone. There was the temptation to turn around, but I walked up to him. He look like a giant, his hair pulled back, a huge man walking towards me. He said, "Are you one of the workers?" I said, "Yes, I am."  He said, "My name is Sheldon Burton. I used to come to Convention here." I remembered him. Things hadn't gone well and he had left. He told me a little of his story. He said, "I came by here as these were the best years of my life."  He said, "I have a photo that I want to show you." He sat there across from me and showed me the photo and he showed me different ones that cared for him, and he had tears in his eyes. There was something in him that was saying, "Recycle Me." I talked to him and encouraged him to come to Convention. He said, "I can't come." I begged for him to come. We walked down by the bike and there I saw something behind the bike. A little 9 year-old boy came out from behind the bike. It was his son. He had been divorced. He was bringing the boy to this place, this Convention. This was the only thing he had to show this boy that once meant so much to him. He came to the grounds but left before the meeting. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." I was anxious that the Lord would begin to work. He felt that his sins, and what he had done, was greater than the power of God. He believed that. As I tried to tell him differently, his faith was too weak to embrace that, and he went away. I received a letter just recently from my father where he said he saw in the obituary column Sheldon's name. There wasn't a second chance now. That disbelief had ruined everything. Today in eternity, I firmly believe that his greatest regret is not the terrible things that he committed. His greatest regret is turning his back on the provision that God made for his sins, that in the love of God, He forgave, and the mercy of God is so great that it would rid him of his terrible guilt that he lived with. Well tonight we look around us. Look on each and every one of us. We think of the power of forgiveness and the mercy of God. We were all at one time a dishonorable vessel, doing things that we shouldn't be doing. Because we had enough faith and accepted that provision, there was a change that came into each and every life that was responding, and when we began, we entered into a process whereby a change came, and we felt we are sitting among princes and princesses, the jewels of the earth. It wasn't always that way. It was the gospel that made a change. I think of my own experience. I don't think Sheldon ever intended to drift away as horribly as he did.  

I was remembering a time in my own life when I drifted. It was Convention time. I drifted so far that, well, I came to the Thursday of Convention and I was planning on going only Thursday and Friday, because Saturday and Sunday I would be elsewhere. I had made other plans, other things. I came on to the grounds and my heart was hard. The first meeting we sang a hymn; I was sitting at the back; it was just like I was in another room. I realized I am not even part of this. I never wanted to turn my back on this. I drifted to the place where I was completely outside, and a fear took hold of me because of the things I was partaking of.  I had a terrible feeling of hopelessness. I began to weep. I wept through the whole song, and it was like all these people were in another room and I was separated. I could not get hold of myself, but when we sang a hymn again, it was the same. By the time the meeting finished, I was weeping and sobbing and I went out to my car.  I had no hope, and now I felt I was outside the Kingdom of God. This hopeless feeling of not knowing what to do.I remember just opening my Bible.  I didn't know where to read.  I read Psalm 136, "Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever." I found it interesting that I had opened to a verse that spoke of the mercy of the Lord, and that it endures forever. I read the 2nd verse, "O give thanks unto God for His mercy endureth forever and ever." Every verse in that Psalm ends with that same thought. "For His mercy endureth forever!"  

There was a hope that came into my heart that the hand of God was reached out for me in mercy. I took that hand. I went back into the meeting changed, recycled in a sense; everything was changed. I still had these plans for Saturday and Sunday. I knew I could not go home and be a part of that. It would be like taking a vessel that was cleaned out and pouring something in that was unclean. I knew that this was forgiveness that I found that was extended to me. I just stayed there right to the end on the grounds. I made arrangements. As long as I kept my heart pure and filled with the right things, the Lord was faithful in keeping me. "His mercy endureth forever" and that is the reason that we are here tonight. It is not because we are worthy but because His mercy endureth forever. It is not because we are anything in ourselves. It is not that we are better than other people, but His mercy has been extended to us again and again, and we have found even if we have fallen, He has helped us to get up again. We have a new life in Christ; it is because He has helped us and kept us. We are just an example for others - if God can do this for me, He can do it for anyone. If God can help me, there is not one person in this audience that He can't help. This mercy and power that has worked in so many godly lives can work in an ungodly life and change it for the better and for eternity. He can take a vessel of dishonour throughout the process and change it to be a useful vessel, an honourable vessel, sanctified and prepared for every good work. He does have a future for us. It doesn't have to be what it was like in the past, if we will just allow the love of God to work in us. He wants to give us a different form and life through His spirit. May the Lord help us in these things to have faith to believe that if we submit, we can be changed.