Ryder Trucks and the Holy Spirit. By Rick Lawrence
The other day I was driving Lucy, my 15-year-old daughter, home from youth group—she wanted to download some lingering questions from that night’s small-group discussion. The leaders in her group targeted Paul’s bold assertion that he’d “learned to be content in whatever circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).
The girls in her group all agreed they were rarely content—always comparing themselves to others and worrying about their performance in school and in sports. The message Lucy took away from the discussion that followed was so typical of the church’s default advice on growing in Christ:
“Try harder to be better.”
Lucy and her friends left youth group that night thinking their way forward was to re-double their determination to fix the things that were wrong with them and re-commit to overcoming sin in their life. I squirmed in my seat, then said: “Lucy, that’s not only a failed strategy, but it’s not biblically true.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. “I hear that answer all the time.”
“I know,” I said, “it’s a form of growth-by-management that uniquely appeals to people living in Western culture, where ‘pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps’ is the 11th Commandment.”
This mentality, I told her, is also what fuels our approach to sin. When we blow it, we vow to try harder the next time. And as Dr. Phil likes to ask: “How’s that working for you?” I’d bet a million dollars the honest answer is: “Not very well.” Jesus did not promote a “try harder to be better” approach to growth in Him, or as a response to sin. Instead, He urged us to “abide in Him,” so that the life that emanates from Him would flow through us.
Paul embraced this way of life down to his toes. I LOVE the ridiculously bold statement he makes in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”
Wow. Paul is saying he pays no attention to whether or not he’s sinning—he depends on the Spirit of God to let him know if he is. Why waste time managing yourself when a close relationship with Jesus will lead to a life that’s marked by the Spirit’s “nudges”—acquittal and conviction come from Jesus, not our own clouded perspective. Paul is offering clear evidence of a man committed to abiding in Jesus, not managing himself. He’s living his life with a “Ryder Box” embedded in his soul…
In 2007, the Ryder rental truck company launched something they called “RydeSmart technology.” Dennis Cooke, president of Ryder’s Global Fleet Management Solutions division, says, “It’s a little box and it basically sits inside the cab of the truck.” The box tracks the truck’s location, speed, and fuel efficiency. It can even read and report back on “check engine” lights.
Followers of Jesus who are, every day, leaning into an abiding relationship with Him can trust the Ryder Box inside, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit. The best use of our energies is not to try harder to be better, but to stay more closely connected to Jesus—the branch embedded in the Vine. That means we pay better attention to what He says and does and how others react to Him, simply to get to know Him more deeply. And in knowing Him we see Him better, and in seeing Him better we trust in Him more deeply, and in trusting Him more deeply we align ourselves with Him, and in aligning ourselves with Him we live our lives in an atmosphere of sensitivity to His Spirit.
In my book Sifted I wrote this truth: “Jesus’ invitation is not a call from the boss to up our production; it’s a call from our Lover, who wants us to come to bed. Our lives are really about drawing ever nearer to Jesus, the source of ‘living water’—not trying ever harder to be a better Christian.” Maybe it’s time to start trusting your Ryder Box, not your suspect ability to manage your growth or your sin. And maybe it’s past time for us to stop telling our kids to use a “try harder” strategy that has repeatedly failed us.