Backing Off, Part Two

As we’ve been discussing, there are certain times when it’s necessary to keep quiet, to relax, to back off. Intensity often leads to futility. Like the little boy who plants the seed and then nervously digs it up every day to see if it is growing. Waiting is as necessary as planting and fertilizing. When the fish aren’t biting, banging on the water with an oar won’t help. You can’t get sap out of a hoe handle.

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Apprehension

The scene is familiar: a hospital lobby with all the trimmings . . . soft sofas and folded newspapers . . . matching carpets and drapes illumined by eerie lighting . . . a uniformed lady at the desk, weary from answering the same questions . . . strange smells . . . and lots of people. Everywhere there are people. A steady stream pours in and out, the faces marked by hurry and worry.

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE a little ahead of schedule, it’s not too early to give some things away this Christmas. Not just on Christmas Day, but during the days leading up to December 25. We could call these daily gifts “our Christmas projects.” Maybe one per day from now ’til then. Mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion. Hug someone tightly and whisper, “I love you.”

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For Assurance of Salvation

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27–28) Gracious Father, loving Lord, the beauty of the natural world and its elements that never rebel remind us that we’re serving a living Savior. These things tell us that You are very much alive and in full control.

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Commitment

People of excellence are those who see through the clutching greed of our times—people who have declared their undivided allegiance to Christ’s message, people who have humbled themselves to Christ’s sovereign authority. If you are greatly gifted, you may be able to do marvelous things that would cause the public to be swept up in your skills and in your abilities.

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For Facing Our Own Death

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25–26) Our Father, this is a sacred moment because we all must answer the question, “Am I ready to die?” And not until we’re ready to die are we truly ready to live.

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Guarding against Legalism

Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” . . . The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

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For Relief from Shame

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.

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For Daily Doubts

He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27–28) Our Father, encourage us—especially we who often doubt and feel ashamed of our doubt.

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Self-Praise

“Self-praise,” says an ancient adage, “smells bad.” In other words, it stinks up the works. Regardless of how we prepare it, garnish it with little extras, slice and serve it up on our finest silver piece, the odor remains. No amount of seasoning can eliminate the offensive smell. Unlike a good wife, age only makes it worse. It is much like the poisoned rat in the wall—if it isn’t removed the stench becomes increasingly unbearable.

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