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A Word with You - Nov. 11, 2009

  • 2009 Nov 11


The Sweet and Sour Strategy

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When you visit Amish country in Pennsylvania, you pass these buffet restaurants that advertise fare with "seven sweets and seven sours." I'm glad it's not all one or the other. I mean, the mix is good, as it is in one of my favorite salad dressings - sweet and sour dressing - another specialty in Amish country. Once again, I like that dressing because it's both. I don't want to think about a salad with just vinegar all over my lettuce and tomatoes. But then, a salad with just lots of sugar spread all over it doesn't do much for me either. But sweet and sour together, now that's an appealing combination!

When it comes to eating, sweet and sour can be great together. When it comes to the business of leading and shaping peoples' lives, it's that combination that can lead to some very positive results. It takes some sweet and it takes some sour to change people.

There is, in fact, sort of a sweet and sour strategy for shaping people in our word for today from the Word of God. And there is definitely some of each in this guidance from 2 Timothy 4:2. It says, "Correct, rebuke" (I guess those could be described as "sours," especially from the perspective of the person being corrected or being rebuked). Then it goes on to say, "and encourage (OK, there's the sweet!) with great patience and careful instruction."

God has placed many of us in a position where we're a leader in someone's life. You're a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, you're a supervisor, you're a friend, or you're a counselor or maybe a spiritual leader. Well, we have a responsibility before God to not leave people where we found them, but to challenge them and inspire them and equip them to become more of what God made them to be.

In this passage, He's given us three main tools in our people-leading, people-changing tool kit. First, you have to correct. The original Greek word here is about bringing things to light; showing people things that they may not be able to see without someone showing them. As a parent, as a leader, you have a God-given responsibility to show someone that they're swerving or drifting off the road, not just to let them go because you're afraid of confrontation.

Your second life-changing tool is to rebuke. This is more of a hammer that seriously warns people of the consequences of their wrong choices. Rebuking doesn't beat around the bush; it spells it all out plainly and strongly. It may feel like a "sour" to the person, but it's every bit as loving as a hug - maybe more so. You love them enough to take the risk of telling them the truth.

But you have to mix correcting and rebuking with the "sweet" of encouraging - telling them the great things that you see in them, leading with positive things before you present the negative, assuring them of your support and your unconditional love and your belief in them. And you do this all with "careful instruction." In other words, you explain things to them, you give reasons, you train them in how to do the right thing; you give a "how" with the "should." And you do it with great patience, bearing with them, giving them chances to change, and being willing to wait a while for the seed that you planted to grow.

So which part of this is going to mean growing and changing for you? Maybe you're naturally good at dropping the truth-bomb - the part that feels sour to the recipient. Or maybe you're good at the encouraging part - the sweet part. But one without the other is only half the story, and it leaves people either confronted but destroyed, or comforted but unchanged. Maybe you need the Lord to help you add some sweet to your sour - or some of the tough side to your sweet. He's both. He can make you both, so you can help the people you know become more than they have ever been before.

© (c) Ronald P. Hutchcraft
Distributed by Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc.

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