The air smelled of leather and oats as we stood in the barn where my friend Michelle was teaching my daughter to ride a horse. Michelle’s white pony opened its mouth as she demonstrated how to place the metal bit behind its teeth. As she pulled the bridle over its ears, Michelle explained that the bit was important because it allowed the rider to slow the horse and steer it to the left or right.
A horse’s bit, like the human tongue, is small but important. Both have great influence over something big and powerful—for the bit, it’s the horse. For the tongue, it’s our words (James 3:3, 5).
Our words can run in different directions. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings” (v. 9). Unfortunately, the Bible warns that it’s very hard to control our speech because words spring from our hearts (Luke 6:45). Thankfully, God’s Spirit, Who indwells every believer, constantly helps us grow in patience, goodness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). As we cooperate with the Spirit, our hearts change and so do our words. Profanity turns to praise. Lying gives way to the power of truth. Criticism transforms into encouragement.
Taming the tongue isn’t just about training ourselves to say the right things at the right time. It’s about accepting the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as a horse responds to a bit, so that our words generate the kindness and encouragement our world needs.
After an unsuccessful surgery, Joan’s doctor said she’d need to undergo another operation in five weeks. As time passed, anxiety built. Joan and her husband were senior citizens, and their family lived far away. They’d need to drive to an unfamiliar city and navigate a complex hospital system, and they’d be working with a new specialist.
Although these circumstances seemed overwhelming, God took care of them. During the trip, their car’s navigation system broke down, but they arrived on time because they had a paper map. God supplied wisdom. At the hospital, a Christian pastor prayed with them and offered to help later that day. God provided support. After the operation, Joan received good news of a successful surgery.
While we won’t always experience healing or rescue, God is faithful and always close to vulnerable people—whether young, old, or otherwise disadvantaged. Centuries ago, when captivity in Babylonian had weakened the Israelites, Isaiah reminded them that God had upheld them from birth and would continue to care for them. Through the prophet, God said, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4).
God will not abandon us when we need Him the most. He can supply our needs and remind us He’s with us at every point in our lives. He’s the God of all our days.
Theologian Kenneth Bailey shares how he taught the Bible to students who’d been educated in a system that denied God. When he asked one student how she became a believer in Jesus, she told about reciting the Lord’s Prayer when attending a funeral as a child. The words captured her imagination; she wondered what they meant, where they came from, and to whom they were offered. When she finally could explore this prayer, she searched until she found its meaning and its Author. In doing so, she placed her trust in Jesus and committed to serving Him.
Jesus taught His friends how to pray through what’s become known as the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew’s gospel, it appears right in the center of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where He teaches the crowds how to live as His disciples. He says not to pray “like the hypocrites” who flaunt themselves on street corners (Matthew 6:5) but to approach His Father as their own (v. 6). Jesus welcomed them—and therefore us—to pray intimately to God. We can praise Him (vv. 9–10), ask for our daily needs (v. 11), and welcome His rule and reign in our lives (vv. 10–13).
When my son was nearly three, I needed an operation that would require a month or more of recovery. In the days leading up to the procedure, I imagined myself in bed while stacks of dirty dishes accumulated in the sink. I wasn’t sure how I’d take care of an active toddler and couldn’t picture myself standing in front of the stove to cook our meals. I dreaded the impact my weakness would have on the rhythm of our lives.
God intentionally weakened Gideon’s forces before his troops confronted the Midianites. First, those who were afraid were allowed to leave—22,000 men went home (Judges 7:3). Then, of the 10,000 who remained, only those who scooped water into their hands to drink could stay. Just three hundred men were left, but this disadvantage prevented the Israelites from relying on themselves (vv. 5–6). They couldn’t say, “My own strength has saved me” (v. 2).
Many of us experience times when we feel drained, powerless, or fragile. When this happened to me, I realized how much I needed God. He encouraged me inwardly through His Spirit, and outwardly through the helpfulness of friends and family. I had to let go of my independence for a while, but this taught me how to lean more fully on God. Because “[His] power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) we can have hope when we can’t meet our needs on our own.
I frowned at my cellphone and sighed. Worry wrinkled my brow. A friend and I had had a serious disagreement over an issue with our children, and I knew I needed to call her and apologize. I didn’t want to do it because our viewpoints were still in conflict, yet I knew I hadn’t been kind or humble the last time we discussed the matter.
Anticipating the phone call, I wondered, What if she doesn’t forgive me? What if she doesn’t want to continue our friendship? Just then, lyrics to a song came to mind and took me back to the moment when I confessed my sin in the situation to God. I felt relief because I knew God had forgiven me and released me from guilt.
We can’t control how people will respond to us when we try to work out relational problems. As long as we own up to our part, humbly ask for forgiveness, and make any changes needed, we can let God handle the healing. Even if we have to endure the pain of unresolved “people problems,” peace with God is always possible. His arms are open, and He is waiting to show us the grace and mercy we need. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The buzz in the room faded to a comfortable silence as the book club leader summarized the novel the group would discuss. My friend Joan listened closely but didn’t recognize the plot. Finally, she realized she had read a nonfiction book with a similar title to the work of fiction the others had read. Although she enjoyed reading the “wrong” book, she couldn’t join her friends as they discussed the “right” book.
The apostle Paul did not want the Corinthian Christians to believe in a “wrong” Jesus. He pointed out that false teachers had infiltrated the church and presented a different “Jesus” to the congregation (2 Corinthians 11:3–4). He also noted that the people swallowed the lies without much resistance.
Paul didn’t describe the heresy these phony teachers tried to pass off as truth. In his first letter to the church, however, he reviewed some facts about the Jesus of scripture. This Jesus was the Messiah who “died for our sins…was raised on the third day…[and then] appeared to the Twelve, and finally to Paul himself” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8). This Jesus had come to earth through a virgin named Mary and was named Immanuel (God with us) to affirm His divine nature (Matthew 1:20-23).
Does this sound like the Jesus you know? Understanding and accepting the truth written in the Bible about Jesus is important. It assures us that we are on the spiritual path that leads to heaven.
At a garage sale, I found a nativity set in a beat-up cardboard box. As I picked up the baby Jesus, I noticed the finely sculpted details of the infant’s body. This newborn wasn’t cocooned in a blanket with closed eyes—he was awake and partially unwrapped with outstretched arms, open hands, and fingers extended. “I’m here!” he seemed to say.
The figurine illustrated the miracle of Christmas—that God sent his Son to earth in a human body. As Jesus’s infant body matured, His little hands played with toys, eventually held the Torah, and then fashioned furniture before his ministry began. His feet, once plump and perfect at birth, grew to carry him from place to place to teach and heal. At the end of His life, these human hands and feet would be pierced with nails to hold His body on the cross.
“In that body, God ended sin’s control over us by giving us Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin,” Romans 8:3 (
Since age eight, Lisa had struggled with a stammer and became afraid of social situations that required her to talk with people. But later in life, after speech therapy helped her overcome her challenge, Lisa decided to use her voice to help others. She began volunteering as a counselor for an emotional distress telephone hotline.
Moses had to face his concerns about speaking to help lead the Israelites out of captivity. God asked him to communicate with Pharaoh, but Moses protested because he didn’t feel confident in his speaking ability (Exodus 4:10). God challenged him, “Who gave human beings their mouths?” Then He reassured Moses saying, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (vv. 11–12).
God’s response reminds us that He can work powerfully through us even in our limitations. But even when we know this in our hearts, it can be hard to live it out. Moses continued to struggle and begged God to send someone else (v. 13). So God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him (v. 14).
Each of us has a voice that can help others and change the world for the better. We may be afraid. We may not feel capable. We may feel we don’t have the right words.
God knows how we feel. He can provide the words and all we need to serve others and accomplish His work.
When my daughter received a pair of pet crabs as a gift, she filled a glass tank with sand so the creatures could climb and dig. She supplied water, protein, and vegetable scraps for their dining pleasure. They seemed happy, so it was shocking when they disappeared one day. We searched everywhere. Finally, we learned they were likely under the sand, and would be there for about two months as they shed their exoskeletons.
Two months passed, and then another month elapsed, and I had begun to worry that they’d died. The longer we waited, the more impatient I became. Then finally, we saw signs of life, and the crabs emerged from the sand.
I wonder if Israel doubted that God’s prophecy for them would be fulfilled when they lived as exiles in Babylon. Did they feel despair? Did they worry they would be there forever? Through Jeremiah, God had said, “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to [Jerusalem]” (v. 11). Sure enough, seventy years later, God caused the Persian king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1–4).
In seasons of waiting when it seems like nothing is happening, God hasn’t forgotten us. As the Holy Spirit helps us to develop patience, we can know that He’s the Hope-giver, the Promise Keeper, and the One who controls the future.