What do you call it when your dog has eight puppies? Octuplets? Ocpuplets? If you ask our Radio Production Manager, Curtis, he'd probably say you call it a handful. His dog Sister - no, she's not a relative - had eight puppies recently. And Curtis got to look after them until he could find homes for them. Eight can be a challenge. He told me about one day when he was just trying to get them back into their pen. He said, "I was doing all I could to push those puppies back in. I'd get two or three in - then while I was reaching for another one, one or two would wiggle back out." Well, after a lot of pushing and shoving, he finally gave up for a while. Curtis said, "Here's the funny part" - actually I though the picture of him losing to those puppies was the funny part - anyway, he said that within ten minutes, guess where those rambunctious puppies were - all of them were inside by the pen, without any pushing from him! They chose to do what he couldn't force them to do!
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You about "The Problem With Pushing."
Actually, pushing people doesn't work that well, either. They would rather choose something than be pushed into it. In fact, our instinct isn't all that different from those puppies - if someone's trying to make us do something, we try to wiggle out.
Which leads us to one of the world's greatest motivators - it's a little word call trust. Jesus taught us a principle that can be the foundation for getting people to choose what they ought to choose. Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Luke 16:10 - "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." Then He gave a negative example - "If you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"
Jesus said, "I'm going to trust you with some things and see how you handle that trust. If you show you can be trusted, I'll trust you with some more." Even God in His dealings with us doesn't push us to choose Him - He leads us, encourages us to - but He leaves us to choose.
We can learn a lot from Jesus in how to get people to do things. As parents, for example, we want so much for our kids to make right choices - so much that we tend to just push harder and harder when they don't seem to be doing it - or when we're afraid they won't. But like those rebellious puppies, sometimes our pushing only pushes them to go the other way. And it pushes a child away from us. It can work that same way with people you supervise, or someone you're trying to move toward Christ, a loved one you want to change. Strangely, pushing may actually delay the change we're pushing for - because it doesn't allow them the space to choose the right thing.
Jesus would recommend trust as a better motivator than pushing. When you give someone the reasons for choosing the right thing and then you say, "I'm trusting you" - well, there's something about trust that makes you want to live up to it! There's something about being pushed that makes you want to go the other direction! Not long ago, our son, who's in his 20s, said "Dad, you know one of the most important thing you guys did for us as parents?" "You trusted us." I can tell you that many times we were praying our knees off because trust is a scary risk. And they didn't always make the right choice in the short run - but they almost always did in the long run.
If there's someone you're trying to move in the right direction, try a little more trust. Give them bit-size chunks of it - ways to show they can be trusted. And if they handle it well, reward them with more trust. Gaining trust is a strong motivation to do the right thing, and losing trust is a strong motivation not to blow it.
Given a little space to choose, people - like those puppies - may very well end up choosing to be where your pushing could never get them to go.