W. H. Auden, the British-American poet, once labeled the day in which we live “The Age of Anxiety.” The word anxiety literally means “to be pulled apart.” It would be difficult to find a more accurate description of what worry and anxiety does to a person – it pulls us apart.

Dr. Charles Mayo, one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said: “Worry affects circulation, the heart, the glands, and the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but I have known many who died from worry.” According to Joe Graedon, author of The Aspirin Handbook, “Americans pop 80 million aspirin tablets every single day – 29 billion per year – a figure that works out to 117 aspirin tablets annually for every man, woman, and child in the country.”

What do we worry about? You name it, and we worry about it. Big things, middle-sized things, little things, even non-existent things. We worry about things that happened yesterday. We worry about things that may never happen. You cannot improve the quality of your life by worrying, but you can foul it up big time. Worry will not change your grade in school or make you more beautiful or handsome. You cannot change what is already an established fact.

Anxiety is a universal problem, but some people seem to enjoy the experience. They are miserable and want everyone around them to be miserable also. The end result of worrying is that we can guarantee the end result that we fear may happen – insomnia, fatigue, neurosis, and eventually an emotional breakdown. Earl Riney, in Church Management, expressed the same thoughts in a humorous way: “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime, and too sleepy to worry at night.” It is not wise to take tomorrow to bed with you when you retire at night.

It has been said that two out of every three persons have emotional problems. Any time you are with two other people, evaluate them. If they seem totally normal to you, guess which one of the three has emotional problems.

We should never worry about the past, for it cannot be changed. Nor should we borrow trouble from our tomorrows. Thomas Carlyle was right when he said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the future, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” An old idiom expresses it this way: “Life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s a cinch.”

The right way to deal with worry and anxiety is to have a deep, vibrant, and growing faith in God. Jesus said that we should start by setting productive priorities. Decide what is important, what is most important, and what is unimportant. Meaningful living does not have to consist of an overabundance of things. Live one day at a time.

You may ask, “But how can I do that?” Just follow the recommendations found in I Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Charles F. Deems, in Epigram, beautifully expresses the truth found in these two verses:

            “The world is wide

            In time and tide,

            And God is guide.

            Then do not hurry.

            That man is blest

            Who does his best

            And leaves the rest,

            Then do not worry.”

One of the most important and useful items of furniture in any office or home is the wastepaper basket – better known as “the circular file.” Advertisements take up a sizable percentage of what arrives in mailboxes today. Many of them are trying to sell things for which you have little or no need and in which you have no interest. It doesn’t take long for most of them to land in the circular file.

Imagine how junk-filled offices and homes would be if you did not have a circular file. We could not do our work in home, school, factory or office without constantly selecting what we think we should keep and rejecting what we are certain should be thrown away.

Circular files are necessary and needful, but they can also be dangerous – not because we could trip over them, but because we might discard something that is valuable. Did you know that the little gem of music, “To A Wild Rose,” was found in manuscript form at the bottom of a wastepaper basket? The composer thought it was worthless! So also was Rudyard Kippling’s famous poem entitled “Recessional” with its recurring refrain:

            “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

            Lest we forget, lest we forget.”

Kippling sent it to the editor of the London Times. The editor was busy. He glanced at the poem and threw it in the wastepaper basket. Fortunately, he did a double take, went back to his circular file and fished it out. The things we do not need we usually thrown away. But there are many worthy things that have great value which our nation to a large degree has thoughtlessly and foolishly discarded and need to be taken out of the circular file.

Take, for example, the habit of a significant percentage of Christians who do not find their way to the church of which they are a member each Sunday to worship God. Church attendance in recent years compared with three or four decades ago has declined. Churches that boldly proclaim the truth found in God’s Word are still alive and well. However, there is an increasing tendency in our culture for families to involve themselves in personal concerns on the weekend and forget the importance of worship.

Another discard we might rescue from the circular file is respect for law and order and for that which underlies law and order – justice impartially administered. Organized violence in some of our nation’s largest cities has included the burning of important buildings and the robbing of stores. These occasions were even described as “peaceful protests.” The effort to defund those involved with enforcing law and order is being given strong support. This gives absolutely no thought to what would happen if this goal was achieved.

Another discard in America’s circular file is having respect for the opinion of others. Americans have never agreed on all things, but we have since 1776 been able to respect one another. By working together and respecting those who have a different opinion we have been able to find solutions to move forward. Both the desire and the ability to respect one another should be rescued from the wastebasket and put into motion again. It must happen if our nation is to continue to be the greatest nation in the world.

Heavenly Father, guide both our leaders and our citizens to realize the truth found in Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” And, while You are at it, keep us humble enough to stoop down to recover from the circular file the ideas and actions we have lost which made our nation great. Amen.

Thomas Gattis’ book The Birdman of Alcatraz is a biography of the convicted murderer, Robert Stroud, who spent most of his 70 years behind bars in solitary confinement. For the first 20 years of his confinement, Stroud became increasingly withdrawn, bitter and harder to handle. In prison parlance, he was a maximum risk.

But a sparrow, fallen from its nest in a storm, changed all that. Stroud found the sparrow in the prison courtyard during his exercise period. His first impulse was to snuff out its life just as he had snuffed out human life. But he didn’t. Instead, he carried it to his cell and nursed it back to health. His interest was aroused, and he read everything he could find on the subject of birds. Other prisoners began sending their ill canaries to him. When encountering diseases that had no known cure, he would experiment and often find a cure.

Before long, Robert Stroud, the incorrigible convict became a quiet, serious, respected authority on birds. He asked his guard, a man with whom he previously had refused to speak, for the orange crate on which he sat so that he might make a cage for the sparrow. The guard answered in words that amounted to, “Why should I give you this crate, Stroud? For twenty years I’ve tried to get through to you and be nice to you, but you have never even given me the time of day.”

After a few minutes of silence, however, the guard had a change of heart and slipped the orange crate into the cell. When Stroud noticed it, he mumbled, for the first time in 20 years, the words, “Thank you.” Only then did he begin to understand himself. He realized that he wasn’t the isolated, self-sufficient, independent, incorrigible character that he had for so long pretended to be.

In the same way today, it is only when you and I can say “Thank you” – and mean it – that we begin to understand ourselves for who and what we are: creatures rather than creators, receivers rather than givers.  Paul Tillich said it well: “A man who is able to give thanks seriously accepts that he is a creature and acknowledges his finitude. Only those who truly know themselves are aware of the fact that they are dependent upon others in countless ways.”

When we forget to say, “Thank you,” or refuse to, we forget who we are – creatures of the living God and dependent upon Him for our very being. And this is why we need Thanksgiving Day on the calendar – to remind ourselves who we are and to whom we belong. I believe this is demonstrated by the story found in Luke’s gospel of the 10 lepers whom Jesus healed. Only one of the 10 came back to Jesus to say, “Thank you.” He recognized that he had received something he had not merited, and for which he had not worked.

Consider, in terms of our personal experience, how many things we receive for which we never asked, and for which we cannot pay. They are part of what the New Testament calls “grace” – blessings we receive, but neither earned nor deserved. Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others. The worst possible moment for an atheist is when he or she feels grateful and has no one to thank.

Robert Stroud’s life was totally transformed when he learned how to say, “Thank you!” The difficulty that many people have in learning how to live with joy is that they have never learned how to use those two words. If they were to sit down to write out a list of the things they daily receive from God, they would be surprised.

One of our most favorite attitudes should be gratitude. There is a sense in which no gift is ours until we have learned how to thank the giver. That is especially true of the countless blessings we receive from God.

The moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord he or she is guaranteed to have eternal life (Romans 9:1). But that is just the beginning of the story. It is God’s will that spiritual growth begin to take place at that point and continue throughout life. Spiritual growth can only happen in our lives if we regularly study and appropriate the truth found in the Bible.

Reading and studying God’s Word is important because it generates life, provides spiritual nourishment, creates faith, produces change, opposes Satan, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, delivers joy, overcomes adversity, conquers temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our mind, makes positive things happen and guarantees our future forever.

There are more Bibles in print today than at any time in history, but a Bible on the shelf is useless. Millions of self-described Christians are plagued by spiritual anorexia and are starving to death by spiritual malnutrition. Spiritual growth can only take place if the study of God’s Word is given priority. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). Spiritual growth involves three things:

The Bible’s authority must be accepted. It must be the authoritative standard for your life, the compass on which you rely for direction, the counsel which influences your decisions and the benchmark you use for evaluating everything. We get into difficulty when we base our choices and actions on unreliable authorities: culture (“everyone is doing it”), tradition, reason (“It seemed logical”) or emotion (“It just felt right”).

No one will ever make a mistake who bases what he or she thinks, says and does on the truth found in God’s Word. It is always wise to first ask, “What does the Bible say?” The most desirable time to read God’s Word is as often as possible. If you keep your Bible open you will never find the door of heaven shut.

The Bible’s truth must be assimilated. That is, you must accept its truth with an open, receptive attitude. Daily Bible reading will keep you in range of God’s voice and direction. This is why He instructed the kings of Israel to always keep a copy of His Word nearby (Deuteronomy 17:19a). Spiritual growth cannot take place in your life if you do not regularly read, absorb and apply the truth found in God’s Word. The reason some people don’t read and study the Bible is that it cramps their style.

The difference between just reading and genuinely studying the Bible involves two additional activities: asking questions of the text and writing down your insights. Also, there are enormous benefits to memorizing Bible verses. This will help you to resist temptation, make wise decisions, reduce stress, build confidence, offer good advice and share your faith with others.

The Bible’s principles must be applied. Receiving, reading, researching, remembering and reflecting on truths taught by God’s Word are all useless if we fail to put them into practice. Putting the principles taught in the Bible into action is the hardest step of all, because Satan doesn’t want you to either focus upon them or to apply them to your life. He doesn’t mind for you to attend Bible studies as long as you don’t put into practice what is taught. The value of attending Bible study groups and applying what you learn cannot be overestimated. We would also benefit from the fellowship with other Christians who attend.

One Bible known is worth more than a dozen Bibles owned. That could possibly be why a bumper sticker on a car in Tyler, Texas, several years ago said: “Read your Bible – it will scare the hell out of you.”

Don McCullough, in Discipleship Journal, tells the story of the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball which he lost in the glare of the sun – until it bounced off his forehead. The third one was a hard, line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye.

The manager ran furiously back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by his uniform, and shouted, “You idiot! You’ve got the center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”

Blaming others is a game that has been played by humans since the dawn of creation when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. It is a game we still play. Blaming others for our faults and failures is a feeble attempt to take the focus off ourselves, to absolve ourselves of responsibility.

It is much easier to point our finger at someone else for our shortcomings than it is to say, “I have failed,” or “It is my fault.”  If we say, “I am an alcoholic because my father was or is an alcoholic,” we do not have to say, “I alone am responsible for the decisions I have made and how they have affected my life.”  Politicians seldom ever admit responsibility or failure for the things that go wrong in their administrations if they can blame everything that has gone wrong on a previous administration.

While it is true that “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12-15), the old “blame Adam” gimmick to explain away some fault or failure in our makeup is sheer nonsense. Even though God’s Word teaches that we inherited our sin nature from history’s first parents, we also choose to be disobedient.

Pride is at the root of all sin – Adam and Eve’s sin, or our own. It is, in essence, casting our God-Creator off the throne in our hearts and enthroning and enshrining self-will as god and master. It is this rebellious act that separated the first humans from God, and also separates us from God. We were created to do God’s will, but we said, “No thanks, God, we want to do everything our way.”

We should never attempt to blame Adam for our tendency to sin against God and others. We are sinners with or without the contributions of our ancestors, for “there is no one righteous, not even one . . . there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away” (Romans 3:9, 12 NIV).

Even though this is true, we still find ways to avoid saying, “I made a mistake! I am at fault! I have sinned!” It is much easier to make excuses by blaming someone else for our wrong decisions and actions.  Saying things like, “I was raised in a dysfunctional home,” or “I got with the wrong crowd,” or “Everybody is doing it,” etc., will not pass muster with God on the day when we all shall stand before Him to give an account of ourselves.

Someone has said of history’s first couple: “Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. And the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on.” And when we try to blame others for our faults and failures and sins, neither do we.

God has provided the means for our redemption. God’s Word tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

In other words, although we were sinners, because we were sinners, God sent His Son into the world to take our penalty for sin, which is death, upon Himself. How great is the grace of God! It is sufficient to cover all the sins of the entire human race – including yours and mine.

To receive the gift of everlasting life, all anyone must do is bow before God and sincerely say, “I have sinned. I don’t blame Adam or anyone else. I alone am responsible. Forgive and cleanse my life, I pray.”

You will be surprised at how much difference it will make in your life.

Would it surprise you to know that anger is mentioned 455 times in the Old Testament? It is true! And 375 of those times refer to God’s anger. Several times in the Old Testament the phrase appears, “the anger of the Lord….” The holy anger of God is part of His judgment against sin. This is what we see illustrated in the anger Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple. It was God’s will that the temple be a house of prayer, but it had been turned it into a den of thieves where commercialism took precedence over prayer.

The Bible often speaks of anger “being kindled.” This seems to indicate that anger can be compared to fire. Sometimes a person’s anger smolders, and this we call malice; the same anger can burst forth and destroy, and this we call wrath. It is difficult for humans to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation because our emotions are tainted by the fact that we are sinners. We generally want things our way, not God’s way. We do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters.

In the New Testament, six different words are used for anger. The one most quoted by Christians is probably Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The word in this verse that refers to anger is accompanied by irritation, exasperation and embitterment. It can be easily expressed in your attitude, speech and behavior. It leads to a spirit of resentment and revenge which seeks to get back at another person.

“Anyone can become angry,” wrote Aristotle, “but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.” Aristotle’s statement does not conflict at all with the New Testament principle that there is a right kind of anger – to be angry at sin but to demonstrate love toward people.

Dr. S.I. McMillen’s book, None of These Diseases, tells the story of Dale Carnegie’s visit to Yellowstone National Park. While observing the grizzly bears feeding, a guide told him that the grizzly bear could whip any animal in the West except for the buffalo and the Kodiak bear. That night as the people sat watching a grizzly eat, they noticed that there was only one animal that he would allow to eat with him – a skunk. He could have beaten the skunk in any fight very quickly. But he didn’t attack the skunk. Why? He knew the skunk had a secret weapon.

Many of us have not learned what both Aristotle and the bear knew: express anger wisely. We spend long days and longer nights dwelling on our resentments and even plotting ways to strike back, to our own detriment. To be dominated by anger is like taking a dose of poison and waiting for the person who is the object of our rage to die. There is a price to pay for the wrong kind of anger. It not only can lead to severed relationships with God and other people, but can also cause strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, hypertension, colitis, ulcers and other health problems.

Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking, Transformed by Thorns, gives one of the finest definitions of anger outside the New Testament: “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Resolve to be filled with love and wisdom, giving serious thought to the situation when you are prone to be controlled by anger. The emptier the pot, the quicker it will boil – watch your temper!

“Lord, give me patience . . . and I need it now . . . if not sooner!” Have you ever prayed that prayer? Or needed to? Patience – like love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the traits of a person who has a godly character. It closely resembles joy and peace in its effect upon our lives. The English word “patience” actually stands for several different Greek words in the New Testament.

The unknown author of the following brief poem was probably a woman whose husband was not known for being patient:

            “Patience is a virtue,

            Possess it if you can.

            Found seldom in a woman,

            And never in a man.”

One aspect of patience involves enduring abuse. The biblical response to suffering at the hands of others is called “long-suffering” in the King James Version. It describes the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter. Mistreatment by others can include ridicule, scorn, insults and undeserved rebukes, as well as outright persecution. God calls upon every Christian to react to these things with long-suffering. Without God’s help, this is somewhere between very difficult and impossible.

How can Christians react to abuse with long-suffering? First, we must look at the way Jesus responded to mistreatment. When insults were hurled at Him, He did not retaliate. To develop patience when we are mistreated, we should entrust ourselves to God’s justice and commit ourselves to His faithfulness. God will deal not only in justice (and we pray, in mercy) with our tormentor, but also by being faithful to us.

Thus, to respond to provocation with patience is to emulate God Himself. God describes Himself as “slow to anger . . . forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). The key to having patience when mistreatment by others causes us suffering is to seek to develop in our own lives God’s trait of being “slow to anger.” We begin by confessing our impatience to God in prayer. We must also not be discouraged when we fail. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us: “No matter how often an honest man fails, he always gets up again . . .

One of the times when most of us find it easy to become impatient is when we are confronted with the faults and failures of others. It may be a driver in front of us driving far too slowly, or a friend who is late to an appointment or a neighbor who is inconsiderate in a particular way. Impatience with the shortcomings of others often has its roots in pride. John Sanderson observes, “Hardly a day passes but one hears sneering remarks about the stupidity, the awkwardness and the ineptitude of others.” Such remarks stem from a feeling that those who say them believe they are smarter or more capable than those with whom they are impatient.

The Bible associates forbearance or tolerance with love, the unity of the believers and the forgiveness of Christ (see Ephesians 4:2-3). Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to bear with one another to preserve the “unity of the Spirit,” and that “the members of the body of Christ belong to each other” (Romans 12:5). The fruit of patience in all its aspects – long-suffering, forbearance, endurance and perseverance – is the result of genuine devotion to God.

Who among us does not need to be more patient? I know that I do. Patience is what gives you the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. It is one of God’s greatest gifts because it will strengthen your spirit, sweeten your temper, stifle your anger, subdue your pride, bridle your tongue and glorify God.

Life is full of questions. Some of them are large and others are small. Some are very important, and others are trivial. Some are passing curiosities that we ponder once and never give any more thought to, but others are important enough that they have provided the themes of our lives. These enduring questions are at the core of everything that happens to us, within us and through us. In many ways, the questions that we ask of ourselves, of others and of society have defined who we have become.

There is one question that every human being will sooner or later have to answer. I call it the Jesus question. Jesus was talking one day with His disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi when He asked them two questions. The first question was, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-20).

The second question Jesus asked was, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the Jesus question that every person will one day have to answer. I can imagine that the disciples, after all the time they had spent with Jesus, wondered why He would ask them this question. Was it a trick question? I can even imagine them playfully saying, “You take this one, Peter.” Recognizing the importance of the moment, Peter replied to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God!

If Jesus were to show up in person at your church this coming Sunday and stood in the pulpit and said, “Who do you say that I am?” what would you tell Him? Jesus is not a figment of Christian imagination. He lived in a specific place and at a specific time. He walked on the earth 2,000 years ago as you and I do today. The historical evidence of Jesus is irrefutable. Christian records and writings are more comprehensive than other ancient texts. Both Jewish and secular historians have clearly established Jesus within the framework of human history.

John 3:16, which in my mind is the greatest verse of scripture in the Bible, tells us exactly who Jesus was and is: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The truth found in this verse, often called “the gospel in a nutshell,” is supported by what Jesus claimed about Himself: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life” (John 10:27-28). Those who believe in Him are not only given a richer, fuller and more meaningful life here on the earth, but they are also guaranteed to have eternal life.

The truth in these verses demonstrates just how important it is for every person to answer life’s most important question, “Who do you say that I am?” Have you found the answer to life’s most important question?  If not, there is no better time than today to do that. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I suggest that you pray this prayer: “Loving Father, here I am. I accept Jesus Christ, your uniquely born Son, as my Savior and Lord. I trust that You have an incredible plan for my life. Transform me. Shape my life by the power of your love. I place everything I am and have on the table. Take what You want to take, and give me what You want me to have and be. Transform me into the person You originally created me to be, so I can live the life You envision for me. I hold absolutely nothing back; I am 100% available. In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.”

Have you ever had a day when you felt like throwing in the towel? You know the kind of day I am talking about – a day when it seems that you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, a day that leaves you totally exhausted, crushed and devastated.

Even the Apostle Paul had days like that, for he wrote to the Corinthian church these words: “We do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, for that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

 Perhaps you have experienced that kind of weariness caused by individuals where you work, at church, in your neighborhood or even in your own family. When you are faced with opposition from others over a period of time, your defenses and resolve can disappear so totally that you believe you are left to face the onslaught alone. Paul, of course, was not the only person mentioned in the Bible who faced such an hour.

One naturally and immediately thinks of Job, the man who lost everything that was important to him in one day. He faced one devastating crisis after another. Everything that was important to him was suddenly taken from him – his family, his possessions, his wealth and even his health. He began asking the kind of questions that we find easy to ask when the bottom has dropped out from under us. In fact, Job used the word “Why?” 16 times in his conversations with God. “Why didn’t I die at birth?” “Why can’t I die now?” “Why has God allowed so many things to happen to me all at once?” In the end, however, Job’s faith came through.

David, King of Israel, was another man who faced days when it would have been easy for him to throw in the towel. His own son, Absalom, literally “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” to become king (2 Samuel 15:6). David had to evacuate his home, his throne and even the city he had built. Then a distant relative of King Saul, his predecessor, came by and proceeded to attack, curse and stone him. That was like rubbing salt into David’s wound. He was bone weary when his men arrived at their destination: “The king and all his men were worn out when they reached the Jordan and they rested” (2 Samuel 16:14).

God does not explain all suffering that we may have to face in the world, or the meaning of each crisis that occurs. What He allows us to experience is for our growth. Some days bring sunshine, and some days bring storms. Both are necessary. He knows how much pressure we can handle. He tells us that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13). But He does let us be tempted and experience pain. This helps us to grow.

So, what should we do when we are tempted to throw in the towel? May I suggest the following three things to put into practice – think of them as the Three “R”s:

REMEMBER: You are not alone, for Jesus Christ promises to be with you every mile of the way.

REST: There is no substitute for allowing your body and mind to heal. You will find it easier to rest if you will look to the One who gives you rest.            

RESOLVE: When your strength is back, as much as is possible (1) to try to resolve the differences between you and those who have opposed you or have created problems for you; and (2) knowing that God will supply the strength you need to be an overcomer, you will pick the towel up, grit your teeth in resolve and head on down the road.

What power the written or spoken word has! Nations have risen and others have fallen as a result of the power of the tongue. Individual lives have been elevated and others have been deeply damaged because of human speech. The human tongue is small, but it is a powerful instrument.

James, the brother of Jesus, understood this as well as any person in history, and through the use of graphic analogies he has given us the most penetrating exposition of the tongue anywhere in literature, sacred or secular: In his small New Testament epistle, he says, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts” (James 3:3-5).

Having grabbed our imagination with his graphic language, James adds this final touch by describing the tongue as being “set on fire by hell.” It is not possible to miss the point he makes. The uncontrolled tongue has a direct pipeline to hell. Fueled by hell, it burns our lives with its filthy fires. The tongue’s destructive power in gossip leads the list of the destructive ways it is used. As Solomon wisely observed, “The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down into man’s inmost parts” (Proverbs18:8).

Gossip veils itself in acceptable conventions such as “Have you heard . . . ?” or “Did you know . . .?” or “They tell me . . . ” or “Keep this to yourself, but . . . ” or “I wouldn’t tell you, except that I know it will go no further . . .” Of course the most infamous such rationalization in Christian circles is “I’m telling you this so you can pray.” This sounds pious, but the heart that shares evil reports will leave flaming fires in its wake.

Another damaging use of the tongue is to indulge in flattery. Gossip involves saying things behind the back of someone that you would never say to his or her face. Flattery involves saying things to a person’s face that you would never say behind his or her back. “A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin” (Proverbs 26:28).

Still another damaging use for a person’s tongue is to needlessly criticize others. Once while John Wesley was preaching, he noticed a lady in the congregation who was known for her critical attitude. He noticed that all through the service she sat and stared at his new tie. When the meeting ended, she came up to him and said very sharply, “Rev. Wesley, the strings on your tie are too long. It is an offence to me!” Wesley asked if any of the ladies present had a pair of scissors in their purse. When a lady handed him a pair of scissors, he gave them to his critic and asked her to trim the streamers of his tie to her liking.

After she had trimmed the streamers on his tie, Wesley said, “Let me have those shears a moment, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I also gave you a bit of correction. I must tell you, madam, that your tongue is an offense to me – it is too long!  Please stick it out. I would like to cut some of it off.” Of course Wesley’s reply wasn’t what she expected. You don’t get an opportunity to reply to unjustified and demeaning criticism that often. The critic who begins by criticizing himself will be too busy to take on outside contracts.

Offered to God on the altar, the tongue has awesome power for good. For example, it can proclaim the life-changing message of salvation to those who are lost. The apostle Paul makes this indelibly clear in Romans 10:14-15: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”