The Power of Three

Three FingersWant to persuade someone? Give them three reasons for your beliefs. Want to entertain someone? Tell a rousing story with threes (three characters, three conflicts, etc). Want the audience to remember the point? List three points of information.

Why? Studies have shown people remember things that come in threes. Slip in a fourth and we lose them altogether. Many stories present information in threes:  The Three Little Pigs, The Three Musketeers, The Three Stooges, and even three ghosts of Ebenezer Scrooge. Photography follows the Rule of Thirds. There are three medals awarded during Olympic competitions.

The power of three’s is so prevalent we often don’t even notice it, but God knew the power of three long before advertising companies or story-tellers could identify and define it. After all, He presented us with the Trinity, Three Wise Men, three rooster crows, three days in a whale’s belly, and three days in a tomb.

While these are all easily identifiable, I discovered another three tucked into the book of Joshua. Chapter 1 repeats “be strong and courageous” three times within the span of a few verses.  God  knew the power of his words in three’s would be enough to get Joshua through the next 20 years of battle.

The first time God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, He gives him his job: “You are the one who will lead my people to possess the land I promised to give them. The second time he repeats the phrase, he informs Joshua how to complete the task: “follow the instructions Moses gave you . . . study the Word. . . obey the Word.” The final time God repeats the phrase, He tells Joshua why he can be strong and courageous: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

By the time God was finished with his “talk” with Joshua, I’m sure Joshua felt the power of those three encouragements. He stood ready to do all that God had commanded.

Aside from the power of three God uses strategically with Joshua, I find it interesting that he uses two words that seem much like synonyms: strong and courageous.  Looking a little closer,however,  I realize those words are synonyms at all.  Courage speaks to taking up the task while strength focuses on staying with the task. When God gives us a directive — that can be a million different things for each of us –, we must find the courage to take the first step toward that directive. And after that first step, we need strength to continue on the path to which He has called us. Sometimes it’s easier to take the first step on an exciting new journey with God, but the perseverance to stay the course is DIFFICULT. Other times, it’s daunting and seemingly impossible to take that step of obedience into something new because we cannot see how it will turn out or it’s too hard to let go of the old and move into the new.

Either way, we can take heart in the same words that God spoke to Joshua. Be strong and courageous! Take that step that God has been calling you to. Continue to walk in the path God has placed your feet upon. Always knowing that He will be with you wherever you go. He designed the past, guides today, and knows the future. That’s a “power of three” that can give each of us courage and strength to do whatever He commands.

What journey has God called you to take that needs Joshua’s reminder to be strong and courageous?

 

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Winter’s Worth

A hint of autumn finds the tree outside my window

A hint of autumn finds the tree outside my window

Hints of fall fill the landscape here in East Tennessee. Quietly, the leaves on the tree out my window have begun to exchange their verdant color for showier hues: a smidgen of burgundy, a whisper of gold, and a dash of orange.

The roots and trunk below already know that change is coming. Cooler winds dance across their branches. Soft morning dew now sits chilled on its leaves. Soon the entire tree will be ablaze with radiant colors, and we will marvel at autumn’s beauty and drives miles to take in landscapes scenes.

This is how change occurs in our lives as well. One day our lives are brilliantly green with joy of daily life; the next day few leaves have colored into the hints of a new venture. Suddenly, we are no longer happy with constant green. We must have our entire live in vibrant colors. My, how we revel in the beauty  and forget that autumn always leads to winter — death of something beautiful.

When God begins a new thing in our hearts, we must accept the death of another part of life. Little by little, people and places, moments and memories lose their luster, and our hearts long for that new notion God has planted. These ventures come in various forms: a new job or friendship, a cross country or across the ocean move, even a new hope to pursue a lifelong dream. No matter the “new,” we must be willing to open our hands to let go of the old — just as the tree lets each leaf fall.

Once winter fully sweeps into our lives in regards to changes, we are miserable on many levels. The pain of lost relationships, unfamiliar surroundings, missed comfort of old routines can prove to be daunting, if not traumatic. We trudge through days, walking out the plan God has given, yet wish for the old times, the old friends, the old routines.

It’s true what they say about hindsight. During autumn of a life changing event, I revel in the colors and excitement of a new adventure. Later when the winter winds blow strong and skies turn gray, I  view the change as a punishment forced on me by God. I feel abandoned and frustrated. After much toil that involves tears and complaints, spring finally arrives. Life and days are green again, comfortable and routine. Looking back over painful changes that sent me to new places with new faces, I easily realize God did His greatest work in me during those times.

In spring, we look back and find value in the autumn and winter of life changes. Most times, we blush at the anger, frustration, and pain we poured out towards God, and others, during this transition time. Instead of cursing the pain, we suddenly see the value of a winter moment, the suffering brought about through changing pains.

Today, I’m challenged to face my suffering — the autumn and winter moments — with contentment as they occur not just when they are over. While the green of Spring comforts, it is the cold of winter where God does the greatest work in our lives. May we commit to value winter not just when it departs, but when it blows in hard and mean, for it is on those frozen days where we truly find God.