The Tractor or the Shovel?

1395401_18982625All day long Bob had struggled with digging this stupid ditch. As the sun baked his skin, beads of perspiration dripped down his face. He was sore and worn out. As he looked at his progress, Bob realized he had only trenched half of the distance the boss had told him to dig. Now it was quitting time, and the boss was going to return soon. How would Bob explain his lack of progress?

Bob would explain that the task was just too tough for a person to do alone. The sun was too hot, the trench was too long, the dirt was too hard. In fact, with so many things working against him, Bob began to feel angry with the boss. Who was this guy to stick Bob out in the hot sun, and ask to do a job that was impossible? It was the boss’s fault, not Bob’s. In fact, the boss wouldn’t have to fire him Bob was going to quit.

As Bob was getting good and riled up the boss drove up in his air conditioned pickup. The sight of the boss in his crisp, clean clothes made Bob even madder. “Hey, Bob,” said the boss good naturedly, “how’d you do today?”

Bob pointed at his few feet of trench and began to explain to the boss how hard the ground was, how hot it was, and how unreasonable it was for the boss to expect Bob to finish this impossibly ridiculous task.

The boss listened with a puzzled look on his face, then asked, “Did you dig this trench with a shovel?”

“You bet I did,” said Bob proudly. “Nobody could have dug more than me, either.”

The boss took a deep breath and asked Bob a very important question, “Why didn’t you use the tractor I provided for you?”

Before you judge Bob too harshly, think about your own life. God has asked us to live a Christian life, and let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. It is a life of joy, peace and grace, but it is also a life that requires us to do certain things, to live certain ways. And that is where it gets difficult.

And, like Bob, we can start telling God that he has given us an impossible task, one that nobody could do correctly on their own. And we would be right, you can’t live a good Christian life all on your own. You will crash and burn and leave a smoking hole in the ground where you land.

The thing is, we were never meant to live the Christian life on our own, or under our own power. God has provided us some amazing help in our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us guidance if we ask. God gives us wisdom if we ask. The key to it all is prayer.

Just like Bob using a shovel instead of a tractor, so many of us try to be good people without asking God for his help. We try to manage all of our troubles on our own, and get mad when we feel like we’re twisting in the wind. God gave us prayer to help us communicate with him, but also, and maybe more importantly, he gave us prayer so he could communicate with us. He gives us peace, wisdom, understanding and guidance through our prayers. Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue.

Philippians 4:6,7 says, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

If you’ve never prayed, it is very simply: talk to God. You don’t need specific words, motions or anything else. Just pour out your heart, God understands, and he’ll answer. He’s just been waiting on you.

Using a tractor, not a shovel… Jerry