Staring Down the First-time Jitters

Oh, those “first-time jitters”! We’ve all faced them, haven’t we? Do you remember trying to convince your childhood self to dive head-first into the water, or pleading with your teenage self to ask someone to dance? Did you lose any sleep over your first “real” job interview or your public speaking debut? Life is full of daunting “first’s.” What were some of yours?

Though we know him as one of the Bible’s larger-than-life figures, even Moses experienced anticipation angst. What was it that intimidated this legendary leader? Leadership! “Who am I, that I should go?” replied Moses to God in wavering self-doubt. When God promised to go with Moses, the man doubled down, asking, in essence, Who are you? Moses didn’t stop there, either, demurring three more times before heeding God’s call to lead.

Then how did this reluctant octogenarian mature from “Who, me?” to “Let’s go!” and become the “Moses!” we know today? In a word, “trust.” God called Moses to do some pretty bold things, so He calmed his doubts with some pretty bold signs, just enough to give Moses enough confidence to engage the leaders of Israel and confront the Pharaoh of Egypt. As Moses took these first steps in faith, God did as He promised, engendering even more faith. And so it went—Moses’ obedience following God’s promises, and God’s faithfulness solidifying Moses’ trust.

Though none of us are commanded to call down plagues or bid the sea to part before us, God does lead us to our share of “first’s.” In a sense, each day brings us new sets of circumstances and challenges, the outcome of which we do not know. We are tempted then to avoid them or to confront them our way, but God calls us to know His ways and to trust in them. Like Moses, we’ve seen enough of God’s presence in our yesterdays that we can trust Him to guide us through all of our todays. For His faithfulness is ever-new and never-changing.

Lord God, you wield all power in great love. I choose to lay aside my fears today and place my trust in you. Lead on. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture, Exodus 3:14-18.]

The Right Tool for the Job

“It always helps to have the right tool for the job,” my father-in-law used to say. Even if his point weren’t so intuitive, who could argue with a man who built his own house? Helping him with projects over the years, I got better at using familiar tools and learned to use some I never knew existed—not only tools that build up, but also those that tear apart, for there is a time when dislodging or disassembling existing structures is our essential next step. Nothing more happens until we clear obstacles of any size, whether applying the sledge hammer to the concrete, the crowbar to the wallboard, or even a needle to the splinter.

Physical impediments are usually in plain view, and our solutions are clear. Obstructions of the soul—rebellion, deception, or self-centeredness, for instance—are much less conspicuous, even though many have been hard-wired or firmly cemented since childhood. Too often we reach for the wrong tool or apply the wrong solution. Sometimes we just open up the flow and go with it: “Whatever feels good,” we say, or “Everyone for himself,” though deep inside we don’t believe our own bromides. Other times we clamp down on our sinful nature with a list of “do’s and don’ts” a mile long, but they cannot change our heart.

So what is the right tool for detaching ourselves from our old sinful nature—that self-willed part of us that wants to live life on our terms and not God’s? The apostle Paul urges us to reach into the Father’s toolbox and get a firm grip on grace, for there is something about His unconditional love that pries us away from our ways and bonds us instead to His. Grace is God’s power tool, “the right tool for the job.”

Father, so fill me with the joy of your Spirit today that I eagerly leave my old ways behind me. May I trust in your grace and thrive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Titus 3:3-8.]

The Employee Handbook in Your Library

When my son was a teenager, I used to tell him, “Do the right thing, and people will follow. It may be many, a few, or just one person, but there are people who really want to do the right thing but in the pressure of the moment lack the confidence or strength to do so. If you do the right thing, someone will take courage and follow.” This is as true for adults as for those in school; it is as true in the workplace as it is at leisure.

If there were one manual to guide the transition from campus to career, I think Proverbs 16 might be it, for it opens our eyes to the impact around us when we embrace the wisdom of God and apply it in our jobs. Whether we lead formally by position or informally through influence, this chapter provides indispensable insight for living faithfully and effectively at work.

How critical is it, for instance to eschew the paths to dishonest gain and set one’s career on a trajectory of honesty, justness, and right behavior?1 What boss wouldn’t favor and rely on the employee who “gives heed to instruction”?2 What advice could be sounder than to discreetly filter our thoughts and give voice only to those that build up our team and its members?3 How highly must leaders esteem those with the courage to speak truth and the tact to do so in respectful, constructive ways!4 How rare, how valued, and how powerful the one in whom the Spirit has produced self-control!5 Moreover, Proverbs 16 reminds us of God’s sovereignty over even our best thinking,6 even as it warns us against the dangers of pride, which sadly but predictably topples even the mightiest of organizations.7

Do you know a recent college grad who is wide-eyed at the thought of entering “the real world”? Do you know anyone who’s stumbled out of the gate and would really welcome a do-over? Do you know anyone for whom things appear to be going smoothly, but are struggling inwardly to live his or her faith outwardly? If any of these people are in your life, then you have a great book-tip for them! Proverbs 16. And chances are, they already have a copy.

[Click here to read “the handbook,” Proverbs 16.]

Father, send your Spirit to incline my heart toward your truth and to inspire me to apply the life lessons He whispers inside. Amen.

1 Proverbs 16:8, 11
2 Proverbs 16:20
3 Proverbs 16:23, 24
4 Proverbs 16:13, 14
5 Proverbs 16:32
6 Proverbs 16:1, 9
7 Proverbs 16:5, 18, 19