I don’t know which was the bigger miracle—my question or his answer.
Miracles Never Cease
The first title of this post was “Miracles Never Cease: How The Phone Stayed Home.”
It was an amazing, soaring short story about how a son who so loved his phone willingly agreed to leave it at home for a weekend youth retreat. The climax of the story was the part when the prone to over-control mom—after days and days of praying and pondering and asking her friends to ponder and pray— stunned herself.
How’s that? you wonder.
Believe it or not, it happened when she asked the son in a voice so open and gentle that it surprised her own ears,
So, what would you think of leaving your phone home this weekend?
That open-ended meek question was miracle #1. If you knew the Mom you’d marvel.
But then on the heels of #1 comes miracle #2.
That’d be okay.
That’s it. That’s what the son said without hesitation, protest or reservation. Two miracles right in a row. That would have been the post. It’s what I had written at 10 pm last Sunday night.
A JoyPrO about two amazing Spirit-controlled actions of a mother and son. Tied with a bow. Happily ever after. The end.
Then along came 11 pm.
How One Phone Stayed Home
When in a too-rare flurry of mother-son affection, the mother decided to sneak into the sleeping teen’s room to plant a kiss on his forehead. That was her plan.
So she stole in to where he lay—wide awake with earbuds in and spare phone in hand. And off came the bow.
Did you sneak this phone on the retreat?
Yes, he nodded. I did. But I hardly used it, he added, handing off the hot phone.
But there was more. Two words from this son the mother so hungers for,
It was late and he was caught red-handed. But this time, she believed him. Because little by little we grow. And little by little we change.
Because it’s little by little that we drive out the enemies of our soul.
Little By Little
Please stick with me. Because these couple of verses in an obscure chapter of Exodus have a lot to do with snuck phones and with how all Christians grow. With how I learn to ask not force, with how I learn to resist self-pity and give thanks, with how I train myself to get to bed before eleven. Little by little.
Here’s the background. The Israelites were fresh out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. But the Promised land was occupied—by the -ite peoples—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These were strong nations.
But not so strong that the God who’d just split the Red Sea and closed it on Pharaoh’s chariots could have destroyed them all at once.
But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. (Exodus 23:29-31, NIV)
Little by little I will drive them out. And you will drive them out too.
I Will, You Will
In a message on Exodus 23, Kevin DeYoung explains how those three little verses describe the whole of Christian life, of Christian growth. You drive them out, I drive them out. That is how we grow.
Did you see that? In verse 30, “I will drive them out.” In verse 31, “You will drive them out.” That’s how it is with sanctification, with the process of becoming more like Jesus. We work out our salvation, for God works in us to will and act. God is doing the work. At the same time, he tells us to get to get to work (Philippians 2:12-13).
DeYoung sums up Christian growth this way: Victory comes from God, victory takes work, and victory comes little by little.
God works in you, so you work. Growth happens little by little, change comes from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). Degrees. Little by little degrees. The son didn’t take his phone but he snuck another. The mom held her tongue two times, but not the third. By degree. Victory comes little by little, when we work because God is at work.
Perpetual Vigilance, Constant Dependence
Don’t despise the day of small things. I wrote about that with the same phone-sneaking son 6 years ago. Screen time and sneaking have been issues for a decade. And truth be told, overbearing and controlling have been too. And after those two miracles the night before the retreat, I was so hungry for growth. I was hungry for victory and freedom in his life— so hungry I could almost taste victory.
But more often, we see his work little by little. Transformation comes slowly. Today may not feel like a success, but over time we could see growth.
Little by little the Israelites would drive out their enemies. Bit by bit, rather than in an instant, would keep them from getting sluggish and overconfident. And it would keep the wild beasts from multiplying in the unpopulated land.
Thus too in our spiritual warfare, it is no doubt ordained for our highest good that our corruptions should be subdued, not all at once, but by little and little; that our old man should be crucified gradually. This keeps us in an attitude of perpetual vigilance, and reminds of our constant dependence upon God, who alone giveth us the victory. (G. Bush)
And when you think about it, what could be better this side of heaven than to fully rely on God?
Little By Little We Grow
Israel was promised a bountiful land, but we are promised an abundant life (John 10:10). Not easy life, but abundant life.
And as the LORD drove out their enemies and Israel drove out their enemies, so too we are called to fight the good fight of faith and to make every effort to grow. Knowing that while we prepare our horses and make our plans every victory comes from the Lord.
So I was going to end the first post, the happy bow post before I learned about the stolen phone, with Ephesians 3 verse 20. But then I scrapped it. Because that’s a powerful victory verse and we’d had a setback.
But as I think about it, to stay the course and drive out our enemies little by little takes massive power within us, too. And it’s at work in the son and me.
So I think I still will.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us…