A friend gave me a houseplant she had owned for more than forty years. The plant was equal to my height, and it produced large leaves from three separate spindly trunks. Over time, the weight of the leaves had caused all three of the main stalks to curve down toward the floor. To straighten them, I put a wedge under the plant’s pot and placed it near a window so the sunlight could draw the leaves upward and help cure its bad posture.
Shortly after receiving the plant, I saw one just like it in a waiting room at a local business. It also grew from three long skinny stalks, but they had been braided together to form a larger, more solid core. This plant stood upright without any help.
Any two people may stay in the same “pot” for years, yet grow apart and experience fewer of the benefits God wants them to enjoy. When their lives are woven together with God, however, there is a greater sense of stability and closeness. Their relationship will grow stronger. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Like houseplants, marriages and friendships require some nurturing. Tending to these relationships involves merging spiritually so that God is present at the center of each important bond. He is an endless supply of love and grace—the things we need most to stay happily united with each other.
A technology-consulting firm hired me after college although I couldn’t write a line of computer code and had very little business knowledge. During the interview process for my entry-level position, I learned that the company did not place high value on work experience. Instead, personal qualities such as the ability to solve problems creatively, exercise good judgment, and work well with a team were more important. The company assumed new workers could be taught the necessary skills as long as they were the kind of people the company was looking for.
Noah didn’t have the right resume for the job of constructing the ark—He wasn’t a boat builder or even a carpenter. Noah was a farmer, a man comfortable with dirt on his shirt and a plow in his hands. Yet as God decided how to deal with the evil in the world at that time, Noah stood out because “he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9). God valued the teachableness of Noah’s heart—the strength to resist the corruption around him, and to do what was right.
When opportunities to serve God come our way, we may not feel qualified for the work. Thankfully, God is not necessarily concerned with our skill set. He prizes our character, love for Him, and willingness to trust Him. When these qualities are being developed inside us by the Spirit, He can use us in big or small ways to accomplish His will on earth.
When we first saw the stream in our backyard, it was just a thin vein of water trickling through a bed of rocks in the heat of the summer. Heavy wooden planks served as a bridge we could easily cross. Months later, torrents of rain pounded our area for several days in a row. Our tame little creek swelled into a quick-moving river four feet deep and ten feet wide! The force of this water heaved the bridgeboards up and deposited them several feet away.
Rushing water has the potential to overwhelm almost anything that stands in its path. Yet, there is something that is indestructible in the face of a flood or other forces that might threaten to destroy it—love. “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away” (Song of Solomon 8:7). Love’s persistent strength and intensity is often present in romantic relationships, but it’s only fully expressed in the love God has for people through His Son, Jesus Christ.
When the things we consider to be sturdy and dependable are swept away, our disappointment can open the door to a new understanding of God’s love for us. His affection is higher and deeper and stronger and longer lasting that anything on earth. Whatever we face, we face with Him beside us—holding us up, helping us along, and reminding us that we’re beloved.
A manager at a company in Brazil requested a short written report from the custodians in her building. Each day she wanted to know who cleaned each room, which rooms were left untouched, and how much time employees spent in each room. The first “daily” report arrived a week later, partially completed.
When the manager looked into the matter, she discovered most of the cleaning employees could not read. She could have fired them, but instead she arranged for them to have literacy lessons. Within five months, everyone was reading at a basic level and continued in their jobs.
God often uses our struggles as opportunities to equip us to continue working for Him. Peter’s life was marked by inexperience and mistakes. His faith faltered as he tried to walk on water. He wasn’t sure if Jesus should pay the temple tax (Matthew 17:24–27). He even rejected Jesus’s prophecy about the crucifixion and resurrection (16:21–23). Through each issue Jesus taught Peter more about who He was—the promised Messiah (v. 16). Peter listened and learned what he needed to know to help found the early church (v. 18).
If you’re discouraged by some failure today, remember that Jesus may use it to teach you and lead you forward in your service for Him. Jesus continued to work with Peter despite his shortcomings, and He can use you and me to continue to build His kingdom until He returns.
When Jesus was on this earth, He set an example for us. No matter how busy He was in His ministry, no matter how many people needed Him, He always took time to retreat into the wilderness to spend time with the Father. He knew, as Isaiah did, that “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15…
My children were thrilled, but I felt uneasy. During a family vacation, we visited an aquarium where people were encouraged to pet small sharks kept in a special tank. When I asked the attendant if the creatures ever snapped at fingers in the water, she explained that the sharks had recently been fed and then given extra food. They wouldn’t bite because they weren’t hungry.
What I learned about shark petting makes sense according to a proverb in the Bible: “One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet” (Proverbs 27:7). Hunger—that sense of inner emptiness—can weaken our discernment as we make decisions. It convinces us that it’s okay to settle for anything that fills us up, even if it causes us to take a bite out of someone.
God wants more for us than a life lived at the mercy of our appetites. He wants us to be filled with Christ’s love so that everything we do flows from the peace and stability He provides. The constant awareness that we are unconditionally loved gives us confidence. It enables us to be selective as we consider the “sweet” things in life—achievements, possessions, and relationships.
Only a relationship with Jesus gives true satisfaction. May we grasp His incredible love for us so we can be “filled to the measure [with] all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19) for our sake—and the sake of others.
During a landscape painting class I took, the teacher, a highly experienced professional artist, assessed my first assignment. He stood silently in front of my painting, one hand cupping his chin. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to say it’s terrible.
But he didn’t.
He said he liked the color scheme and the feeling of openness. Then he mentioned that the trees in the distance could be lightened. A cluster of weeds needed softer edges. He had the authority to criticize my work based on the rules of perspective and color, yet his critique was truthful and kind.
Jesus, who was perfectly qualified to condemn people for their sin, didn’t use the Ten Commandments to crush a Samaritan woman He met at an ancient watering hole. He gently critiqued her life with just a handful of statements. The result was that she saw how her search for satisfaction had led her into sin. Building on this awareness, Jesus revealed Himself as the only source of eternal satisfaction (John 4:10-13).
The combination of grace and truth that Jesus used in this situation is what we experience in our relationship with Him (John 1:17). His grace prevents us from being overwhelmed by our sin, and His truth prevents us from thinking it isn’t a serious matter.
Will we invite Jesus to show us areas of our lives where we need to grow so we can become more like Him?