Every Monday through Thursday I write a daily devotional for the people of my church and my friends. You are invited to get in on what God is teaching me from the truth of His Word – the Bible.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Combining Encouragement with Challenge
As a young man I was very confused. Everything I did was an attempt to make people like me. Most of it failed miserably, and had exactly the opposite result. If you were to ask anyone from my high school graduating class what I was like, they would use the word “jerk” to describe me. I’m not making this up – it’s true. When I got to college, I was able to create a new persona and made it work for a while. But I was still not living out the life of Christ in me, but trying to earn the favor of people by adapting to whatever I thought they wanted me to be. I never believed I was worth much, which was pride in a most dangerous form.
In the Spring of my freshman year, I got a phone call from my brother Paul. He was planning on attending the same college I attended, and asked me if he could by my roommate for the coming year. I was overwhelmed. I think it was one of the best days of my life. My younger brother, whom I envied for his popularity and abilities, wanted to bunk with me. Of course I said yes. When we arrived at school that year, we immediately began making plans with the other guys on our dorm floor for our intramural football and basketball teams. Of course, my brother would be the quarterback, the position he played in high school. I never got to play high school football, but I played endless hours with my brother in the yard when I was younger. I knew him, and I discovered that he knew me. We became an unstoppable combination of touchdown passes. We also played pretty good pass defense. I believe we went undefeated for two years in a row.
Then basketball season came. I had played on the freshman team, but when my brother I decided to play intramural ball with him. At five foot eleven inches I was the tallest guy on our dorm floor, so I got appointed to play center, a position I had never played before. One of our first games was against the faculty, and the head basketball coach was on that team. He stood six foot ten and weighed at least 250. I was a mere 145 pounds. Of course, I was getting manhandled inside and we were losing the game. At halftime my brother looked at me and said, “John, we need you. You can do better. Take control of the inside and get us some rebounds.” I’ve honestly never had anyone tell me anything more personally significant in my life. I was needed. Someone believed in me. Someone trusted my abilities. It was a life-changing moment for me.
The second half was completely different. I discovered that the coach couldn’t jump very well, but I could. I discovered he was slow, and I was quick. I discovered I could exert some strength and actually move him around. I had the most fun of my life. We won the game, and went on to win a lot more as well. All because one person, my brother, saw past my failures and flaws, and combined encouragement with a challenge. He made a difference in my life.
Jesus did that for Peter, too. After denying Christ three times, and giving up hope of ever accomplishing anything of value, he had gone back to fishing. Jesus meets him where he was, and combines encouragement with challenge. He takes whatever level of love Peter is able to give Him, and provides him an opportunity to use it to do something great. It was Peter’s life-changing moment.
How many people do you know who need encouragement combined with challenge? They don’t need us to point out their flaws. They don’t need to be reminded of their dysfunctions. They need someone to believe in them. And how will they ever know that God does if God’s people don’t? Everyone is of value to God. He died for all. He wants to save all. So find one of them today, and tell them something that encourages them and gives them the courage to accept a challenge. Then, when they know you care, they will want to know why you care. That’s when you get to tell them about Jesus. It will change their life.