I didn’t notice him at first.
I’d come down for breakfast at my hotel. Everything in the dining room was clean. The buffet table was filled. The refrigerator was stocked, the utensil container packed tight. Everything was perfect.
Then I saw him. An unassuming man refilled this, wiped that. He didn’t draw attention to himself. But the longer I sat, the more I was amazed. The man was working very fast, noticing everything, and refilling everything before anyone might need something. As a food service veteran, I noticed his constant attention to detail. Everything was perfect because this man was working faithfully—even if few noticed.
Watching this man work so meticulously, I recalled Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12). Paul understood how a faithful worker might win others’ respect—offering a quiet testimony to how the gospel can infuse even seemingly small acts of service for others with dignity and purpose.
I don’t know if the man I saw that day was a believer in Jesus. But I’m grateful his quiet diligence reminded me to rely on God to live out a quiet faithfulness that reflects His faithful ways.
I set my phone down, weary of the constant bombardment of images, ideas, and notifications that the little screen broadcasted. Then, I picked it up and turned it on again. Why?
In his 2013 book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr describes how the internet has shaped our relationship with stillness: “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
Living life on a mental jet ski doesn’t sound healthy. But how do we begin to slow down, to dive deeply into still spiritual waters?
In Psalm 131, David writes, “I have calmed and quieted myself” (v. 2). David’s words remind me that I have responsibility. Changing habits starts with my choice to be still—even if I must make that choice over and over again. Slowly, though, we experience God’s satisfying goodness. Like a little child, we rest in contentment, remembering that He alone offers hope (v. 3), soul-satisfaction that no smartphone app can touch and no social media site can deliver.
I never saw the ice. But I felt it. The back end of the pickup I was driving—my grandfather’s—fishtailed. One swerve, two, three—and I was airborne, flying off a fifteen-foot embankment. I remember thinking, This would be awesome if I wasn’t going to die. A moment later, the truck crunched into the steep slope and rolled to the bottom. I crawled out of the crushed cab, unscathed.
The truck was utterly totaled that December morning in 1992. God had spared me. But what about my grandfather? What would he say? In fact, he never said a single word about the truck. Not one. There was no scolding, no repayment plan, nothing. Just forgiveness. And a grandfather’s smile that I was okay.
My grandfather’s grace reminds me of God’s grace in Jeremiah 31. There, despite their tremendous failings, God promises a restored relationship with His people, saying, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will remember their sins no more” (v. 34).
I’m sure my grandfather never forgot that I’d wrecked his truck. But he acted just like God does here, not remembering it, not shaming me, not making me work to repay the debt I rightfully owed. Just as God says He’ll do, my grandfather chose to remember it no more, as if the destructive thing I’d done had never happened.
The morning commenced like a track meet. I practically jumped out of bed, launching into the teeth of the day’s deadlines. Get the kids to school. Check. Get to work. Check. I blasted full throttle into writing my “To Do” list, in which personal and professional tasks tumbled together in an avalanche-like litany:
“ . . . 13. Edit article. 14. Clean office. 15. Strategic team planning. 16. Write tech blog. 17. Clean basement. 18. Pray.”
By the time I got to number eighteen, I’d remembered that I needed God’s help. But I’d gotten that far before it even occurred to me that I was going at it alone, trying to manufacture my own momentum.
Jesus knew. He knew our days would crash one into another, a sea of ceaseless urgency. So He instructs, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
It’s natural to hear Jesus’ words as a command. And they are. But there’s more here—an invitation. In Matthew 6, Jesus invites us to exchange the world’s frantic anxiety (vv. 25–32) for a life of trust, day by day. God, by His grace, helps us all of our days—even when we get to number eighteen on our list before we remember to see life from His perspective.
How can we turn to God first each day? On stressful days, what helps you trust Jesus with things demanding your immediate attention?
Competition in the internet age has become fierce. Increasingly, companies are developing creative ways to attract customers. Take Subaru, for instance. Subaru owners are famously loyal, so the company has invited “Subbie superfans” to become “brand ambassadors” of the vehicles.
The company’s website says, “Subaru Ambassadors are an exclusive group of energetic individuals who volunteer their passion and enthusiasm to spread the word about Subaru and help shape the future of the brand.” The company wants Subaru ownership to become a part of people’s very identity—something they’re so passionate about that they can’t help but share.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes a different “ambassador” program, one of inviting others to follow Jesus. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others” (v. 11). Paul then adds, “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (vv. 19–20).
Many products promise to meet deep needs, to give us a sense of happiness, wholeness and purpose. But only one message—the message of reconciliation entrusted to us as believers in Jesus—is truly good news. And we have the privilege of delivering that message to a desperate world.
Winston knows he’s not supposed to chew them. So he’s adopted a sly strategy. We call it slow-walking. If Winston spies a discarded, unguarded shoe, he’ll casually meander in that direction, grab it, and just keep walking. Slowly. Nothing to see here. Right out the door if no one notices. “Uh, Mom, Winston just slow-walked your shoe out the door.”
It’s apparent that sometimes we think we can “slow-walk” our sin past God. We’re tempted to think that He won’t notice. It’s no big deal, we rationalize—whatever “it” is. But like Winston, we know better. We know those choices don’t please God.
Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we may try to hide due to the shame of our sin (Genesis 3:10) or pretend like it didn’t happen. But Scripture invites us to do something very different: to run to God’s mercy and forgiveness. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
We don’t have to try to slow-walk our sin and hope no one notices. When we tell the truth about our choices—to ourselves, to God, to a trusted friend—we can find freedom from the guilt and shame of carrying secret sin (1 John 1:9).
Recently, I found myself someplace I’d seen in movies and on TV more times that I could count: Hollywood, California. There, in the foothills of Los Angeles, those enormous white letters marched proudly across that famous hillside as I viewed them from my hotel window.
Then I noticed something else: down to the left was a prominent cross. I’d never seen that in a movie. And the moment I left my hotel room, some students from a local church began to share Jesus with me.
We might sometimes think of Hollywood as only the epicenter of worldliness, in utter contrast with God’s kingdom. Yet clearly Christ was at work there, catching me by surprise by His presence.
The Pharisees were consistently surprised by where Jesus turned up. He didn’t hang out with the people they expected. Instead, Mark 2:13–17 tells us He spent time with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 15), people whose lives practically screamed “Unclean!” Yet there Jesus was, among those who needed Him most (v. 17).
More than 2,000 years later, Jesus continues to plant His message of hope and salvation in unexpected places, among the most unexpected of people. And He’s called and equipped us to be a part of that mission.
“ARRRGGGHHHH!” I yelled as the repair truck cut in front of me.
That’s when I saw the message: “How’s My Driving?” And a phone number. I picked up my phone and dialed. A woman asked me why I was calling, and I vented my frustration. She took down the truck’s number. Then she said, wearily, “You know, you can always call to report someone who’s driving nicely.”
Oh. Her tired words instantly punctured my smug self-righteousness. Embarrassment flooded me. In my zeal for “justice,” I hadn’t paused to consider how my rage-filled tone could affect this woman in her difficult job. The disconnect between my faith and my fruitfulness—in that moment—was devastating.
The gap between our actions and our convictions is what the book of James focuses on. The author challenges us to consider the relationship between our faith and how we live. In James 1:19, we read, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Later, he adds, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v. 22).
None of us is perfect. Sometimes our “driving” in life needs help, the kind that starts with confession and asks for God’s help—trusting Him to keep filing the rough edges areas of our character.
This spring, weeds attacked our backyard like something out of Jurassic Park. One got so big that when I tried to pull it, I feared I might injure myself. Before I could find a machete or spade to whack it down, I noticed that my daughter was actually pouring water on it. “Why are you watering the weeds?!” I exclaimed. “I want to see how big it will get!” she replied with an impish grin.
Weeds aren’t something we intentionally nourish—which my daughter knows. But as I thought about it, I realized that sometimes we do water the “weeds” in our spiritual lives, feeding desires that strangle our growth.
Paul writes about this in Galatians 5:13–26, where he contrasts living by the flesh with living by the Spirit. He says trying to follow the rules alone won’t establish the kind of “weed-free” life we long for. Instead, to avoid watering the weeds, he instructs us to “walk by the Spirit.” He adds that being in regular step with God’s leading is what frees us from the impulse to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16).
It’s a lifelong process to understand fully what Paul is teaching here. But I love the simplicity of his guidance: instead of growing something unwanted by nourishing our own self-focused desires, when we’re cultivating our relationship with God, we grow fruit and reap the harvest of a godly life (vv. 22–25).