In 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence, Italy, escaped an attack on his life. His countrymen sparked a war when they tried to retaliate for the attack on their leader. As the situation worsened, the cruel King Ferrante I of Naples became Lorenzo’s enemy, but a courageous act by Lorenzo changed everything. He visited the king unarmed and alone. This bravery, paired with his charm and brilliance, won Ferrante’s admiration and ended the war.
Daniel also helped a king experience a change of heart. No one in Babylon could describe or interpret a troubling dream King Nebuchadnezzar had. This made him so angry that he decided to execute all his advisors—including Daniel and his friends. But Daniel asked to visit the king who wanted him dead (Daniel 2:24).
Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel gave God all the credit for revealing the mystery of the dream (v. 28). When the prophet described and deciphered it, Nebuchadnezzar honored the “God of gods and the Lord of kings” (v. 47). Daniel’s uncommon courage, which was born of his faith in God, helped him, his friends, and the other advisors avoid death that day.
In our lives, there are times when bravery and boldness are needed to communicate important messages. May God guide our words and give us the wisdom to know what to say and the ability to say it well.
A little girl waded in a shallow creek while her father watched. Her rubber boots reached her knees. As she sloshed downstream, the water deepened until it flowed over the top of her waders. When she couldn’t take another step, she yelled, “Daddy, I’m stuck!” In three strides, her father was at her side, pulling her to the grassy bank. She yanked her boots off and laughed as water poured onto the ground.
After God rescued the psalmist David from his enemies, he took a moment to sit down, “pull off his boots,” and allow the relief to flood his soul. He wrote a song to express his feelings. “I called to the
Maybe today you feel opposition around you. Maybe you’re stuck in sin that makes it hard to advance spiritually. Reflect on how God has helped you in the past—praise Him and ask Him to do it again! And thank Him especially for rescuing you by bringing you into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
Catherine and I were good friends in high school. When we weren’t talking on the phone, we were passing notes in class to plan our next sleepover. Sometimes we rode horses together and partnered on school projects.
One Sunday afternoon, I started to think about Catherine. My pastor had spoken that morning about how to have eternal life, and I knew my friend didn’t believe the Bible’s teachings the way I did. I felt pressed to call her and explain how she could have a relationship with Jesus. I hesitated, though, because I was afraid she would reject what I said and distance herself from me.
I think this fear keeps a lot of us quiet. Even the apostle Paul had to ask people to pray that he would “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). There’s no getting around the risk involved with sharing the good news, yet Paul said he was an ambassador—someone speaking on behalf of God (v.20). We are too. If people reject our message, they’re also rejecting the One who sent the message. God feels the sting along with us.
So what compels us to speak up? We care about people, like God does (2 Peter 3:9). That’s what led me to dial my friend’s number. Amazingly, Catherine didn’t shut me down. She listened. She asked questions. She asked Jesus to forgive her sin and decided to live for Him. The risk was worth the reward.
During a summer study program, my son read a book about a boy who wanted to climb an Alpine mountain in Switzerland. Practicing for this goal occupied most of his time. When he finally set off for the summit, things didn’t go as planned. Partway up the slope, a teammate became sick and the boy decided to stay behind to help instead of achieving his goal.
In the classroom, my son’s teacher asked, “Was the main character a failure because he didn’t climb the mountain?” One student said, “Yes, because it was in his DNA to fail.” But another child disagreed. He reasoned that the boy was not a failure, because he gave up something important to help someone else.
When we set aside our plans and care for others instead, we’re acting like Jesus. Jesus sacrificed having a home, reliable income, and social acceptance to travel and share God’s truth. Ultimately, He gave up His life to free us from sin and show us God’s love (1 John 3:16).
Earthly success is much different from success in God’s eyes. He values the compassion that moves us to rescue disadvantaged and hurting people (v.17). He approves of decisions that protect people. With God’s help, we can align our values with His and devote ourselves to loving Him and others, which is the most significant achievement there is.
When I stopped to browse through a box of books marked “C.S. Lewis” at a used bookshop, the store owner appeared. As we chatted about the available titles, I wondered if he might be interested in the faith that inspired much of Lewis’s writing. I prayed silently for guidance. Information from a biography came to mind, and we began to discuss how C. S. Lewis’s character pointed to God. In the end, I was thankful that a quick prayer had reoriented our conversation to spiritual matters.
Nehemiah paused to pray before a pivotal moment in a conversation with King Artaxerxes in Persia. The king had asked how he could help Nehemiah who was distraught over Jerusalem’s destruction. Nehemiah was the king’s servant and therefore in no position to ask for favors, but he needed one—a big one. He wanted to restore Jerusalem. So, he “prayed to the God of heaven” before asking to leave his job so he could reestablish the city (Nehemiah 2:4–5). The king consented and even agreed to help Nehemiah make travel arrangements and procure timber for the project.
The Bible encourages us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). This includes moments when we need courage, self-control, or sensitivity. Praying before we speak helps us give God control of our attitude and our words.
How might He want to direct your words today? Ask Him and find out!
“I don’t get it!” My daughter slapped her pencil down on the desk. She was working on a math assignment, and I’d just begun my “job” as a homeschooling mom/teacher. We were in trouble. I couldn’t recall what I’d learned thirty-five years ago about changing decimals into fractions. I couldn’t teach her something I didn’t already know, so we watched an online teacher explain the skill.
As human beings, we’ll struggle at times with things we don’t know or understand. But not God; He’s the all-knowing One—the omniscient One. Isaiah wrote, “Who can . . . instruct the
Humans have intelligence because God created us in His own image. Still, our intelligence is just an inkling of His. Our knowledge relies on what others have learned before us, but God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future (Psalm 147:5). Our knowledge is increasing today with the aid of technology, but we still get things wrong. Jesus, however, knows all things “immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly,” as one theologian put it.
No matter how much humans advance in knowledge, we’ll never surpass Christ’s all-knowing status. We’ll always need Him to bless our understanding and to teach us what’s good and true.
In the city of Mysore, India, there’s a school made of two refurbished train cars connected end-to-end. Local educators teamed up with the South Western Railways Company to buy and remodel the discarded coaches. The units were essentially large metal boxes, unusable until workers installed stairways, fans, lights, and desks. Workers also painted the walls and added colorful murals inside and out. Now, sixty students attend classes there because of the amazing transformation that took place.
Something even more amazing takes place when we follow the apostle Paul’s command to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As we allow the Holy Spirit to uncouple us from the world and its ways, our thoughts and attitudes begin to change. We become more loving, more hopeful, and filled with inner peace (8:6).
Something else happens too. Although this transformation process is ongoing, and often has more stops and starts than a train ride, the process helps us understand what God wants for our lives. It takes us to a place where we “will learn to know God’s will” (12:2
Nali Kali, the name of the transformed school in India, means “joyful learning” in English. How is God’s transforming power leading you to the joyful learning of His will?
When a medical treatment began to provide relief for a family member’s severe food allergies, I became so excited that I talked about it all the time. I described the intense process and extolled the doctor who had created the program. Finally, some friends commented, “We think God should always get the credit for healing.” Their statement made me pause. Had I taken my eyes off of the Ultimate Healer and made the healing into an idol?
The nation of Israel fell into a similar trap when they began to burn incense to a bronze snake which God had used to heal them. They’d been performing this act of worship until Hezekiah identified it as idolatry and “broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made” (2 Kings 18:4).
Several centuries earlier, a group of venomous snakes had invaded the Israelite camp. The snakes bit the people and many died (Numbers 21:6). Although spiritual rebellion had caused the problem, the people cried out to God for help. Showing mercy, He directed Moses to sculpt a bronze snake, fasten it to a pole, and hold it up for everyone to see. When the people looked at it, they were healed (vv. 4–9).
Think of God’s gifts to you. Have any of them become objects of praise instead of evidence of His mercy and grace? Only our holy God—the source of every good gift (James 1:17)—is worthy of worship.