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I can’t count how many times I’ve said “no” to my kids.
“No, you can’t wear your underwear outside. No, you can’t eat ice cream in bed. No, you can’t open your sister’s birthday presents. No, no, no, no.”
And, like clockwork, my answer ignites the fuse of the tantrum bomb. 3-2-1…KABOOM! And they are on the floor, kicking and pounding their fists as if I just told them I ate all their Halloween candy. In the safety of their own home, around loving parents who tolerate, guide and redirect, they know they are free to express themselves and grow from each “no.”
And so it is with us. As we move into the holiday season and pause to remember the grace of our Lord, we can’t forget to reflect inward. Are we growing in the grace He provides?
We teach our children to “use their words” instead of their hands. We guide them into heart-felt apologies or simple desires to play with a child or use their toy.
In his opening speech on the first day of school, Mr. Ben Fox gave an illustration with two boys and a box of Fruit Loops. As one boy first threw the cereal into the other boy’s mouth, no Fruit Loops were caught and nothing was accomplished. However, when a string was given to both of them, the cereal traveled down to the boy’s mouth and he was fed.
First John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” We must effectively communicate and serve others — to be Jesus’ hands and feet — to grow His grace in our lives.
In a world full of information overload and a spectrum of opinions, it is important to know what you believe. My dad used to always say, “You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
Decide to follow and place your roots deep in the truths of God. This will allow you to withstand wavering popular opinion. As the prophet compares in Jeremiah 17:13, a blessed man “will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And when your roots are firm, your branches can reach without hesitation to worship the Lord and bask in His grace.
When I was younger, I remember planting a grapefruit seed for the science fair. Each day I would inspect the seed to see if there was any sign of growth. Nothing. After a week of not seeing any progress, I claimed my project a failure. But that’s when, the next day, a tiny sprout appeared and hope returned.
The same is true of spiritual seeds. Seeds, when planted, don’t immediately grow into strong, mighty oaks. It takes time — months, years, decades. And we must remember, we all start out as little seeds with a purpose and plan set forth before us.
We can’t expect others to profess salvation and suddenly be without sin. Nor can we expect ourselves to grow from spiritual infants to mature manna-eating adults overnight.
Instead we must hang on the promise in Philippians 1:6, which states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” We must trust in his work in us, his timing and his plan and grow in the grace of this promise.
So when we make unrealistic demands on God and hear Him say “no,” we may feel ourselves spin into a tantrum of our own. This is where the Lord meets us, picks us up, pulls us in and says “my grace is sufficient.”
And in that, we must seek to remain and grow.