March 17, 2023

‘Break Their Teeth, Lord!’

God can and will do so much more for us when we refuse to take the credit.

Saying I was upset would be an understatement. Lynne and I were sitting down to dinner after I had received a performance review from my superior earlier in the day. We had butted heads on several occasions about my open Christian witness. Given his antagonism toward my faith, I should not have been surprised.

There was nothing bad in the review, but at the same time there was nothing good in it. I was the Inspector Instructor of a Marine Reserve unit — the active-duty overseer, if you will. The unit had performed exemplary in every annual training drill. Over the period of two years, we had brought in some exemplary Marine officers and SNCOs (staff non-commissioned officers), and we let them do their thing. I chose to be their advisor rather than a director, a different approach than my superior.

Reading my evaluation, I knew that any promotion had just gone out the window.

Still fuming when I got home, I reached for the “Bread of Life” on the kitchen table, a little plastic bread loaf with Scripture verses. I wanted the verse that said, “Break the teeth of the ungodly in their mouth” (my translation of Psalm 58:6). Instead, I pulled out Colossians 3:12-13: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).

I couldn’t believe they got all of that on one little card. We had our home Bible study that night, and I was still whining when this sweet little grandma told me that I should thank my boss for pointing my shortcomings out to me. I’m like, Say what? He didn’t point anything out to me.

The next morning as I started my quiet time, I opted out of reading my Bible, given it hadn’t gone well for me the previous evening. I picked up A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. Chapter 9 is titled “Meekness and Rest.” I was totally God-smacked, body slammed, down for the count.

The burden borne by mankind is a heavy and a crushing thing. The word Jesus used means “a load carried, or toil borne to the point of exhaustion.” Rest is simply release from that burden. It is not something we do; it is what comes to us when we cease to do. His own meekness, that is the rest. Let us examine our burden. It is altogether an interior one. It attacks the heart and the mind and reaches the body only from within. First, there is the burden of pride. The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol.

Boom! My boss had offered an “affront to my idol”! Tozer went on to describe how the proud are “challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.” As I smarted under that rebuke, the Lord gently whispered, Who really did all of that? I responded, You did, Lord. His reply was, Why then do you want credit for it? Boom — totally busted!

I’d like to tell you that I immediately called my superior, but it took me about a week. The next time we met I thanked him (heartfelt, but slightly prodded) for his input and asked him to let me know if at any time he felt I was not meeting his expectations. He was surprised (I was surprised those words came out of my mouth) and at a loss for words.

As Christians, God is our fortress, our strong tower, and our deliverer! He delights in showing Himself strong on our behalf if we will allow Him. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6, ESV).

Not too long after this, my boss’s superior called me and told me that he had overridden his evaluation and had rated me above every other officer in the regiment. I was speechless. I was promoted shortly after that. God can and will do so much more for us when we refuse to take the credit.

What say ye, Man of Valor?

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