For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 1 Corinthians 14:20-21

Have you ever heard of a Chinese finger trap? You may know it by another name, but it is a simple woven tube that tightens around whatever is stuck into each end when pulled apart. It is a gag toy that carries vivid memories for me. When I was a little girl, my sisters and I frequently stayed with our grandparents. I was particularly close to my aunt, several years older than me. She had a great sense of humor, and we loved to laugh together. On one visit, I remember standing in the backyard when she told me to give her toy a try by sticking my index fingers in each end. You guessed it. I was the young and gullible child who played along. The laughter began when I told her I didn’t get it and tried to take my fingers out. Her laughter. Not mine. The harder I pulled, the tighter it got, and my panic grew! After she’d enjoyed my predicament for a bit, she showed me how to get free by just relaxing and bringing my fingers together to loosen the tube. 

That childhood memory is just what came to mind when I thought of Paul’s questions in verse 21, “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” If only I had known that my freedom from the finger trap depended on my cooperating with its design. Instead, I fought against it. The longer I pulled and strained, the greater my discomfort and distress. 

Often in my life, I have fallen into the trap of trying to manage the temptations and challenges of life on my own. If I am honest, I have too often wanted to design my own growth plan. Instead of cooperating with the Spirit’s work in my life, I have resisted, revealing my need to trust him more. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:29-30 NLT) Rather than fighting against the perfectly fitting “yoke” that God has designed for us, let’s ask the Lord to teach us his ways and to give us the grace to walk in them. 

Nicole Jiles
Director of Children’s Ministry

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