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Compare and contrast: you can use these two writing tools to connect a reader to your devotional’s point.
And as they say, how you do it is all in the details.
Your illustration makes the connection to your devotional point. It is the details in your illustration that help you compare (show a similarity) and contrast (show a difference.) Those details connect your reader to the devotional’s spiritual truth.
A devotional idea came to me as I sat on my screened porch late on a beautiful autumn afternoon and noticed how the leaves had turned colors. A breeze ruffled past, caressing my cheeks and rippling through the leaves, creating a kaleidoscope of different colors of gold. Then a huge gust caught the branches, whipping them up and over and around, showing the leaves’ undersides of brown and green. Though I could not see the wind, its two different kinds of movement called to mind the movement of the Holy Spirit, described by Jesus in John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I thought of two family members — both Christ-followers — who had been gifted to respond differently during a family upheaval. Each approach had strengths. As I studied the trees, I was able to draw the parallel to the Holy Spirit. I could see the effect of the Holy Spirit through people as they reflect God’s strengths. He reveals Himself as He chooses by reflecting His beauty and strength in different ways.
Notice the details. My observation of the wind moving in the trees was not enough to illustrate the movement of the Holy Spirit. Instead, I focused on how the movement of the wind revealed the leaves’ different colors. One family member showed her colors the best when God pressed into her gently. The other responded well in the gusts of crisis. That is similar to how the Holy Spirit moves differently in people.
I once wrote a devotional about a friend who had a hard time believing in God’s presence because she couldn’t see Him with her eyes and touch Him with her hands. I compared our contemporary limitations to faith with Rahab. Today we have scripture, the internet, churches, and other believers, yet sometimes that isn’t “enough” for us. In contrast, all Rahab had to go on were stories of God’s faithfulness that she had heard from travelers, yet she risked her life to help Hebrew spies escape (Joshua 2.)
Notice the details: I offered a list of faith-building tools that are available to us today. I compared those with the few details we know about Rahab’s exposure to the truth. Her choice to believe, based on the available evidence, is an inspiring contrast to the proof we require today.
I used contrasting details to make the point: each generation has limitations to belief, but you can respond in faith using the means God gives you.
And note what I left out. I could have addressed my friend’s stumbling block in more detail and used it as an object lesson to faith. I could have pulled out a quote about risk and compared it to the risks the Hebrew spies undertook in faith. I could have used the conversation between Rahab and the spies as a basis for trust between believers.
Those details would have taken me off my main point.
Choose the details in your illustration help you compare and contrast – and make your point.
And choose wisely.
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